As a recent graduate who spent many years moving between lecture theatres and libraries, I understand the decision-making process that every graduate engages with once they receive their degree. The options seem boundless and a major challenge is simply knowing where to start.
After I graduate, which career path should I venture down? If I get into this element of an industry will there be a progressive career path? In 10 years’ time I would love to be a data centre manager, project manager, mobile developer or infrastructure engineer, but how do I start out on the correct path to get there?
These are the questions that we will be addressing here.
Your qualification is your first building block but, to gain entry to your chosen career path, you will need to marry this qualification with industry experience.
It may feel like the chicken and egg scenario – you cannot get your ideal job without experience, but you cannot get experience without a job. But there are ways to get around this.
Graduate and intern programmes
There are an increasing number of graduate programmes that organisations run to attract the top graduate talent to their company.
Graduate programmes offer the successful candidates a structured introduction to a particular career path and provide them with the scope and guidance to hone their skills. These programmes are much sought after, and the level of competition means that you must be open to other options in order to attain that much vaunted on-the-job experience.
An even greater amount of internships are available, which can give you the leverage to kickstart your career. You will get the opportunity to apply the skills you have acquired through your study in an industry setting, while also getting the opportunity to gain some new skills.
Many undergraduate and post-graduate degree programmes offer the option to undertake a placement to develop your skills, which not only develops your competencies but also gives you something other than college projects and modules to discuss in a job interview.
If your course does not offer a placement programme, try to seek internships that run during the summer months, with many organisations offering such opportunities with students and graduates in mind.
Avenues of employment
Within the IT industry, there are a number of exciting routes that a graduate can pursue.
Data analytics is a growing sector, with huge volumes of data just waiting to be harnessed by businesses. Many companies are investing heavily in data innovation centres and are always seeking talented graduates to join their teams.
A strong IT background is, obviously, a great help, but other qualifications – such as finance, physics, mathematics and statistics – can be the beginning of a career within data analytics.
Many people who work within data analytics have moved laterally from other functions within their organisation, getting involved in data projects and displaying their skills to managers within their current teams to show how analysis of data can improve business performance.
Many managers are not aware of the power of data in driving business growth, so graduates can feel free to be proactive in advocating its use.
Within infrastructure, a range of starting points exists, depending on your preferences. For example, if a graduate wishes to ultimately work as an infrastructure engineer, then starting his or her career off in desktop support is ideal.
‘Every project presents something different, so stay at the forefront of innovation’
– SHANE LYNOTT
Other entry-level roles available include network support and application support, either of which can help a graduate develop the skills and experience to propel their career forward.
Within front-end and back-end development, an internship or a junior development role can be the first taste of on-the-job experience. After the acquisition of experience and skills, a junior developer can then look to make the transition to senior developer after five years, depending on the size of the organisation and the skills of the developer.
Taking a junior developer role can get you experience that can be used within the mobile technologies area, such as within app development. This is a major growth area and one that is proving increasingly popular.
If you see yourself fitting into a project management role in the future, getting your start as a junior business analyst is a route taken by many. This gives you a strong insight into requirements gathering, and offers the stakeholder communication skills that will stand you in good stead.
Every project presents something different, so being at the forefront of each new innovation will offer some new experiences that will add value to what you can offer.
The graduate’s advantage
You have listened to the news, read the newspapers and hear that the job market is picking up, but how does this translate in reality?
Employers are increasingly on the lookout for quality graduates to add value to their business. From an employer’s perspective, there are not enough top quality graduates with the skills they are looking for. When a graduate with the desired skillset is available, they are not slow in making them part of their team.
The focus is on skills, so, if you have them, market them. Use the channels to employment that are available by always highlighting the skills you have acquired.
For many organisations, graduates have some real advantages over more experienced professionals. Businesses place a lot of value on new team members fitting into the culture and ethos of their organisation, and a graduate can be ideal as they are less likely to have preconceptions as to how workplace procedures should operate.
Additionally, many junior roles can be hybrids – such as a mix between back-end development and data analytics, for example – with graduates offering more flexibility in taking on new tasks than experienced professionals, who may wish to remain within one particular strand.
Whatever route within IT you as a graduate wish to take, it is qualifications merged with experience that will see you carve out an exciting and dynamic career.
Shane Lynott is an IT consultant with Hays Recruitment, specialising in data analytics and business intelligence. Having recently graduated from the University of Limerick with an MSc in Human Resource Management, Shane draws here on his own experience and knowledge of making the transition from being a graduate to joining the workforce.
Main image via Shutterstock