The USA Today’s Snapshot for today indicated that the IT industry prefers to hire experience. 84% of those hired have previous IT experience, over just 16% of new college graduates. As an IT professional getting started I had the opportunity to start my career during college. Even though that really helped me overall, it took a while for me to understand what “experience” really meant.
The best career advice that I can give besides having a strong resume is to start working in the field of your choice before you graduate. While co-op programs are great, I believe you have to take your destiny into your own hands and try to get into a company doing the “grunt” work of your field while you go to college.
I still would like to stress that Education is the best way to get into the corporate world. That diploma is your passport into companies. However, experience is that elite club that will get you to the head of the line. I am careful not to say that without a diploma you cannot get into the IT business, I know a couple of people that made it in without one and are very successful, but it does make it easier to get a better pay from day one.
Speaking of pay, experience will get you better paid… but you might have to sacrifice pay while getting experience. Something that you should always keep in mind is to never step backwards in pay unless you are going to gain experience.
You might be asking yourself what is experience really? My simple answer is that it is the ability to deal with situations that someone without “real world” work experience cannot handle. A little more in depth answer is that it is the skill of being able to apply self tested solutions to problems.
Education makes you trainable, experience makes you valuable. People that go back to school to change careers later in life will tell you that most of the skills that made them great at one profession will count towards the experience in the new field. Human relationships are a huge part of experience. Learning how to deal with clients and peers are things that are hard to teach, they are things that someone just has to learn on their own.
Today when looking at someone that I would like to bring onto my team, their experience is a huge factor. However, I understand that new graduates still need an opportunity to gain that experience and I am trying to come up with ways to expedite that process. Technical knowledge can be “boot camped” however, I don’t know of a good way to cram experience into a class.
I tend to agree with the figures that USA TODAY presented. I with it was not the reality, but Education and Experience are not mutually exclusive. They complement each other well, but the most powerful candidates will always have a mixture. In the end Experience still wins.