As you continue along your academic pathway to a career in IT, taking the courses you’ll need to get into the college program (degree) of your choice, also consider taking other steps to gain hands-on experience in various IT-related positions.
Internships are one (usually more long-term, and sometimes unpaid) way to get a sneak peek as well as experiencing what really goes on in the world of IT. Part-time jobs are another way (and, you can actually earn some money!).
Popular high-school jobs exist in retail, food service, and babysitting, but you’ll want to look into some other options to get that extra edge that admissions counselors and employers look for. The links below will take you to some helpful sites:
- SummerJobs+ (Department of Labor website): This site contains lots of information about your rights as a younger worker and has a search option to look for jobs in your geographic location.
- About.com Job Searching: This page contains some helpful basics about searching for and landing your first job.
Although volunteer opportunities are, by definition, unpaid, they have many advantages. They typically have more flexible entry-requirements and time-commitments. If you’re having trouble finding a part-time job related to IT, look for a volunteer opportunity. You’ll be able to build skills and contribute to your community. Check out the links below to start your search.
- Serve.gov: This government site allows you to search by “your interests” and “location.”
- VolunteerMatch: Use this site to learn more about non-profits in your area, and to search by keyword.
- Idealist: This popular resource site for non-profits has many volunteer opportunities posted (as well as internships and jobs).
Job shadowing can be a great, and relatively easy, way of finding out if the IT profession is for you. See if your high school has a Job Shadow Program with local companies. It’s also worth exploring internships with high profile companies that might even pay for you to re-locate for the summer. Figure out now what they are looking for in order to prepare for that premier experience.
Job Shadowing can also be a more informal activity. Identify people in professions you’d like to learn more about. Ask extended family, neighbors, friends, and teachers if they might have a connection to a person in an organization you’d like to target.
During a Job Shadow (which typically lasts one day), you’ll spend time with an employee at a company you’re interested in and learn:
- What they do in a typical work day
- The challenges they face
- Skills a successful person in their position would need
- The company culture and how the workplace functions
Get started! Look for a part-time job, volunteer opportunity, or set up a job shadow experience. You’ll strengthen the technical knowledge and skills you’ll need in the future. You will also find a rewarding, challenging, and enjoyable way to begin finding out why so many people are employed as IT professionals.