How to Overcome the Catch-22 of Finding a Job with No Experience

I got an e-mail the other day about the tech job market. I’ll let it speak for itself:

How to Overcome the Catch-22 of Finding a Job without ExperienceI am unemployed, and the state of Nevada (15% unemployment!!!) sent me to school. I studied and passed my A+ certification, but have given up on ever passing the Network + test. You see, to the person WITHOUT actual job experience, there is no way to pass 25% of questions on the CompTIA test(s).

FURTHER MORE, there has not yet been so much as one job listing that welcomes people who have just passed their tests and want to break into the IT field. It sounds like a classic case of ‘catch 22’ to me. Any positive suggestions???

I ran this past MJ Shoer, the president of Jenaly Technology Group, a reseller and technical service company in Portsmouth, N.H. He’s also a former board member of CompTIA and the co-chair of the group’s Managed IT Services (MITS) Executive Forum. He came back with:

I empathize with your frustration, but you should know that there are many people working to break into the IT field who are taking and passing this test. While real world experience is always a plus, the CompTIA curriculum and exams are widely used to help educate workers looking to break in. (In fact, the CompTIA Educational Foundation helps train disadvantaged and returning military veterans to help them break into the IT field – and that includes taking and passing different CompTIA exams, including Network +.)  I would recommend you look for an entry level help desk position, to break into the field. 

These positions are often geared to people with no or a very few years of basic experience.  This is a front line position, often dealing with either e-mail or telephone generated help requests.  These positions quality, triage and when necessary, escalate to higher level engineers for resolution.  It¿s an excellent way to break into the business, gain more experience and expose yourself to more opportunities within the field.  Good luck and try not be discouraged.

So, my read: Is breaking in difficult? Yes. Is it possible? Again, yes. But you have to match your talents and experience to the right job, and keep at it. Remember, not everyone passes these exams the first time.

— Mark Feffer

14 Responses to “How to Overcome the Catch-22 of Finding a Job with No Experience”

  1. Like another has posted, help desk isn’t a ‘starter’ position. The first line help desk where I work is expected to CLOSE 18 tickets / shift (that’s nearly 1 every 15 minutes).

    If you have no job network, then the place you’re most likely to get experience is with a body shop looking to staff a large staff aug project. They won’t care that your co-workers are having to carrying your weight because they just want the billable bodies and are competing with other body shops for slots in the contract.

    Examples of body shops: Apex Systems, Almost anything with “man” in the title (e.g. Mantek) seems to be body shops… etc. The easiest way to find them is to go on and click “all jobs” by the same poster.

    Of the ones running 20 and 30 jobs at a clip, look for the ones with W2 w/out any benifits. These are body shops. They pay crap wages and could care less how good you are if you have what they need to check of a box on the req form. Generally they provide staff to well known big name vendors who are contracted to large firms.

  2. I agree with Dan. I have a Bachelors degree and an AAS degree. I recently passed the 701 and 702 to get my A+ cert. I also took the classes to get my CCNA cert. But I find it useless to take the cert exam for the CCNA when every job opening I come across asks for at least 3 years experience. I do have 3 years help desk experience. But It is really difficult to even get an interview for help desk positions. It seems like my choices are to join a branch of military as tech help and hope the recruiter does not lie and put me in a combat role. Or either go fill out an application at wal-mart so I can bag groceries. I specifically asked my guidance councilor if I worked towards and received these certs and degree what the job market was like for entry level without experience….her reply was oh yeah, you will not have any problem getting a job. You will start out around $42k per year!

  3. On the flip side, try having over 12 years of IT experience (helpdesk, software/hardware support, etc.) and they won’t even consider you because you don’t have some flipping piece of paper with A+ stamped across it.

  4. It’s hard to get started. And the only way to get in is to do everything. You have to network constantly, apply online constantly, and build experience on your own constantly. When you network, you don’t just ask “Know people hiring.”. Ask for conversations with industry professionals. Ask to job shadow or help with a big project. Emphasize you want to learn and need to learn. Be willing to work for free to prove yourself and build your experience. Internships and self-initiated work is lately the only way to prove yourself to get that job. IT is a very ambitious career to pursue. You have to have a lot of drive, love to constantly learn and never take a break.


    SUE the STATE OF NEVADA!!! The problem is there is not that there are not jobs, but that everyone is a-holes and won’t give anyone else a chance. We need to sue these people and put an end to this in this country.

  6. That’s funny, even most help desk jobs from what I’ve seen require 3+ years of experience too. I feel the original email writers pain…I have A+ and CCNA along with a 3.5 gpa and being part of an honors society at my school and still can’t find anything. I’ve been looking for two years now. I already have a BA in a different field and now trying for my AS in technology. It’s just sad that education no longer means anything besides a large debt.

  7. It’s very frustrating these days for people with little or no experience to break into the IT field. Reason is, there are only a few job openings here and there and there are tons of people available for a single job position. Most of the times even before the job opening hits the jobs search sites the position is already filled via internal moves or some employee’s reference. These are the days of social networking and making connection. If you don’t have professional connections you’re just another person in the huge crowd – it doesn’t matter if you have a degree or work experience.

  8. I am one of the millions out of work with tons of programming and business analyst experience. I am currently going back to get a Duplicate AAS because I have a BBA. A Masters usually only focuses on theory, not new hands on technology that can put food on the table. Knowing I would have to start at the ground floor again (after making in the top 10% salary for a programmer), I have started tutoring at the college for minimum wage – reality check. But short of a traveling contract/project type of job, I see no other way to get my experience level back up. A contract/project job would be OK, if you could find one that you could do remote. I have a house payment and cannot just be off living in big city USA for 4 months, then little town USA for 8 months (breaking leases everywhere I go or living in hotels gets expensive). Any suggestions on how to find Remote Programming Jobs?

  9. To the one that thinks that joining the military to get some experience and hoping the recruiter doesn’t lie to you. Getting experience from the military is a great way to get experience. Just don’t be niave in believing you won’t go to Afgahnistan or something. Most will end up over there and that is where you will learn to do your job very well. If you don’t want to go to war don’t join the service, we have enough of those type in the service already.

    To the one who wants to sue Nevada, really? Can’t we take responsibility for our own actions? Oh right, that would mean that we would have to admit we made a mistake. My bad.

  10. Neither the article writer nor the “guest respondent” addressed the question writers issue here. The issue is exactly as stated – how does one get experience if they cannot get the job they need to get that experience. People forget that some people need the hands on to solidify the theory. Now, I do not have magic answer, but some suggestions after 16 years in IT and several as a manager. 1. Forget about non-profits as they are bombarded now with requests from people in the same boat. 2) Internships, internships, internships – these can found through any college’s nearby – this is also a factor when choosing a technical school – how many placements/internships. 3) If you are unemployed you can go to school for free – talk to your local technical college – they CAN help. 4) This one sounds awkward, but think about the industries you have worked in and target those companies near you who have an IT department and just send your resume. 5) Offer to work for free in exchange for the experience – you do it for most internships anyhow and if you are not employed then what else are you going to do with your time to get you towards your goal? 6) Use local bulletin boards, craigslist,, etc. to advertise yourself 7) Finally, have faith and keep going – it will work out. Trust me, even after 16 years in varied IT rolls it can be hard to find something to move to, but for those breaking in it is even harder. Managers need people with low ramp up in these competitive times, but that does not mean quantity trumps quality. Hang in there – something will come along.

  11. Riaz Hasan

    Gentlemen: Job hunting is all about marketing / selling your services. People get hired for their values which they bring to the table. A resume is your marketing flyer designed to trigger interviews. Foreigners do better in the U.S than natives who were born here. Besides solid education many foreigners know how to compete in the U.S job market. Based upon my personal experience, it¿s easier to get hired in the U.S than in other countries because of opportunities available in the U.S. One needs to identify either opportunities for employment or create one for you if it does not exist.