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For entry-level tech jobs, hiring managers care about passion for IT more than a diploma

Fred O'Connor | May 15, 2014
Class of 2014 college graduates looking for their first IT jobs take note: your passion for and experience with technology may prove more helpful in your employment search than your diplomas.

To gain resume-boosting IT skills — and network for job leads — new workers can participate in hackathons, contribute code to open-source projects, attend boot camps or get involved with user groups.

"Recruiters are also swarming meet-ups these days," Goli said. "These are great ways to make connections with your peers and connect with the people that are hiring."

"College students shouldn't feel intimidated about going," O'Neill said. "They should be running to because entrepreneurs are so excited to talk to young, fresh emerging talent."

Even the venerable internship is viewed as a recruiting tool.

"Given that companies have such a short supply of technology professionals, there are a lot of companies that are entertaining internships ever more so," Goli said.

For Schwarz, an internship doesn't only include working at a standard IT company. Performing database administration for a professor's research project is equally valuable work experience.

"They need to relate a proof point of their ability to absorb technological knowledge," he said.

User communities always welcome new participants and current members often tap them to find talent when their company is hiring, Lowery said.  

"Making yourself visible and getting involved doesn't require you to be employed," he said.

Graduates who are especially interested in learning about trendy technologies and making "themselves more valuable, even if it's at an entry level" should remember that emerging technologies evolved from primary languages like Java,  C++ and SQL, Goli said.

"Knowing those basic technologies and knowing how those technologies map to the latest technologies can also help them figure out which one they can get training around."

A graduate who knows Java, for example, and wants to become a Hadoop developer could learn the popular large data processing software by taking a course offered by Cloudera, a Hadoop vendor.

Of course, having an online presence can help a graduate get noticed since "the world is digital now," O'Neill said. Companies use social-media platforms, open-source code repositories and other public data sources to identify applicants and review their credentials.

"We do look at Github and actively look at people," O'Neill said. "We try to see what their online street credibility is. That's usually a huge indication of the quality and the passion of their craftsmanship."

Goli encourages graduates to "pick relevant places, participate, be active and be noticed. Your publicly available data becomes your publicly accessible technology profile."

Job seekers will find a strong market, Goli said, especially for positions involving large-scale data analysis, security and mobile development. Entry-level employment prospects are much better compared to the hiring environment during the recession.

As for when to start their job search, college students who begin after graduation aren't necessarily at a disadvantage, although some employers don't wait until closer to commencement time to begin recruiting entry-level workers.


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