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How to improve your IT job prospects by volunteering

Sharon Florentine | Sept. 24, 2013
Unemployed? Don't sit at home and wait (and hope) for an opportunity. Volunteering your IT skills is a way to keep current and show potential employers your business and technical acumen, your character and your drive.

"Technology isn't as much about just sitting at a desk and coding for hours," Borre says. "You have to prove that you understand the larger business implications of whatever company you're looking to join."

Gain an IT Edge With Open Source
Sometimes, that 'big picture' view includes gaining experience with open source software tools that solutions companies are already using, says Bill Cava, Chief Technology Evangelist with Web content management solutions company Ektron.

When a friend approached Cava for advice on how to successfully transition to a career in IT, Cava suggested he bone up on his open source skills to gain an edge.

"A friend of mine was looking to change careers from finance to IT, after the 2008 economic crash, and he wanted to get into software quality assurance testing, for Web-based companies, specifically," Cava says. While he'd taken courses and acquired an enviable list of certifications, Cava says his friend still found it tough to land a job without any hands-on experience.

"I told him to check out some open source projects and tools, especially those that his 'dream employers' were already using," Cava says. I told him to focus on the area he wanted to be in, and that there are many open source projects out there that would benefit from someone with his expertise," he says.

While Cava's friend hasn't yet landed that dream job, he's moving more quickly in the right direction and gaining valuable experience, as well as a tangible product he can point to in job interviews, Cava says. And, as someone who's involved in interviewing and hiring decisions for his own firm, Cava says these kinds of skills are something he'd look for on a job-seeker's resume.

"I told him what I'd want to see on an applicant's resume-someone who's continuing to expand their skills and gain experience while also helping the greater IT community. I wish I could say that he's happily landed a job, but so far, he's still looking," Cava says. "But he's making lots of connections through this work, and networking, and he's much more hopeful about the job search process," Cava says.

Matt Brosseau, Instant Technology's director of recruiting, agrees with Cava that working on open source projects can be a differentiator for candidates.

"The benefit to working on these platforms is exposure. Products like OpenOffice [and] FileZilla, for instance; these aren't just novelty projects, these are stand-alone, standardized projects that are used every day in the corporate and IT world," Brosseau says.

"You're not just gaining real-world experience, you also gain a tangible product that you can showcase for employers," he says. "Your name will appear on the working group list for the most recent iterations of open source technology, for products that any IT professional will instantly recognize."


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