DiceTV: How Can I Get Hands-On Experience?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxDxkDRl69U?rel=0&hd=1&w=560&h=349]

The Script

Ugh, I can see why this is so frustrating! Every one of these job postings asks for experience. How are you supposed to get technical experience if you don’t have a job?

I’ll give you the answers to this Catch-22 dilemma during a segment we like to call, “Ask Cat” I’m Cat Miller and this is DiceTV.

Here’s the first question. How can a college student or recent grad acquire hands-on technical experience?

Participate in internships and student-projects because even unpaid experience counts. Offer your services to nonprofit and community organizations, local political campaigns or entrepreneurs. They often need help with a donor or customer database or Web design and they don’t have the funds to hire experienced consultants.

Here’s the next question. Is virtual experience viable?

Absolutely. Use free software to set-up a virtual lab on your PC, and then teach yourself new skills in a simulated environment. Today, you can host a domain controller, SQL server and a print/storage server on a laptop and with VMware you can throw in a firewall DHCP box as well. Keep a log of your activities, so you can reference them during interviews.

Is it a good idea to enter contests or work with open source software?

Working with open source technology is a great way to acquire experience. You can learn JavaScript, PHP, SQL and HTML and then practice your skills by creating mock databases and websites. Software companies source undiscovered talent by hosting annual contests. They’re always looking for someone who can create a killer app or an up-and- comer who can solve a difficult technical problem.

How can experienced IT professionals acquire additional skills?

Long before there were colleges in every city, aspiring workers apprenticed with experienced professionals to learn a trade or profession. Expand your skills through lateral transfers or volunteer to serve as an assistant on a critical project. Offer to exchange technical knowledge and assignments with a co-worker. Above all, just be creative. Because once you have experience, employers won’t care how you got it!

I’m Cat Miller and this has been Dice TV. We now return you to your regular desktop.

6 Responses to “DiceTV: How Can I Get Hands-On Experience?”

  1. Sorry Cat, but as a 3-decade experienced SMT Production Specialist, when “The Recession” hit my employer’s manufacturing bottom-line, many staff were furloughed (Warehoused, Down-sized, Laid-off, Unemployed) and as a result, so was I. Fast-forward almost 2-years and I’m getting tired of “Early Retirement without any pension except what Congress wants to allot.” But, thanks to my diversity, I have built a valuable Artificial Intelligent computer (CONVERSATIONAL) companion that has helped me in many ways. This “GLOBAL RECESSION” is NOT like anything anyone has seen before.

  2. I’ve heard several people suggest volunteering to build experience, but most non-profit groups don’t have the resources to build or maintain any sort of tech infrastructure.

    So where the heck can you volunteer for something tech-related?

  3. Steve Holmes

    The question is a good one when it applies to things like big iron and large scale networks. But I think we can get involved if it entales smaller stuff like web development or even some micro computer applications like mySQL type databases. A Linux system can be set up with an SQL database, web server and software development environment at no more cost than the hardware itself. So I think it would be possible to do this kind of work for small non-proffits. I think it will largely depend on what kind of IT work that group might need. Heck, we might even have to invent something for them to need. {smile}