Sunday, January 27, 2013

Strategies to Help Non-IT, Unemployed People Get IT Experience

If you are currently unemployed you can use your unemployment time to gain knowledge. Microsoft has a number of Virtual Labs you can go through to try products and see how they work. A virtual lab provides a way for you to perform tasks associated with relevant software. With a virtual lab you use the software installed on a virtual server. For example, let's say you want to assess functionality associated with Windows Server 2008. You can either download and install/configure the software on a computer you own (that meets the hardware requirements); or, you can log into a virtual lab that has Windows Server 2008 installed on it. The virtual lab include tutorials with step-by-step instructions on how to complete a specific task. A Windows Server 2008 lab might include an Introduction to SOA-Based Apps. A second lab would then convey how to Create SOA-based Apps from Start to Finish.

Microsoft has developed a number of virtual labs so professionals can assess or gain knowledge relevant to a specific Microsoft product. One of Microsoft's virtual labs is located at: The other is located at 

Microsoft isn't the only software company with popular tools. Unix is a popular operating system and Java is also a popular programming language in some areas. (Note: If you are interested in learning Java you can navigate to to download the Netbeans development environment. Select the applicable language and platform you are using (platform is the operating system your computer is running).  Click the download button under the Java EE column to download the product. You can then read and follow the installation instructions at: 

To determine whether .NET and Windows or Java and Unix is more popular in your area, you can assess the available jobs.

Assess Which IT Jobs are In Demand in Your Area

You can assess what IT jobs are most popular in your area by doing a search on or any other job search site. Do not enter any keywords in the Job Title field, as shown in the following picture. Do enter your city and state in the appropriate box, then click the Find Jobs or search button (whichever is applicable for the site you use for your search).

Next look at the results to see what IT jobs are most popular in your area. In the following picture Development has over 1900 jobs. Testing has nearly 1000 jobs. Training has over 700 jobs. (Note that if you are going to do gratis work, you can only target Testing if someone is already doing the development.) To learn more about technical training you can read my Technical Writing & Technical Training Materials blog article at:

Once you decide on the job you want to target, do your research and practice. It is usually easier to get gratis work than to get a paying job. Still, you will likely need at least a year of experience before you can expect to get paid. Getting gratis work at a large church is beneficial because there may be members in the congregation seeking IT professionals. If you prove your self to be very good and hard working, you may be able to get a paying job sooner rather than later. Or, if you pick up a gratis job with a small church, you may also be able to pick up a gratis job at a non-profit association to improve your skills more quickly. 

Once you start working your gratis job, be sure to add it to your resume and post your resume on job boards. If you do not get any calls, don't get discouraged. In an upcoming blog article (What an IT Resume Should and Should Not Include) I will provide insight on how to rewrite your resume to make yourself more marketable.

Remember, it is important that you understand how to do the job you accept as a gratis job. The gratis job will be the way you get your foot into the IT door. But, this approach only works if you take time to understand how to do the job properly.


If you take time to learn relevant IT products and concepts it will be easier for you to develop your skills and get an IT job. For example, you plan to get a trainer or testing job--research the tools and methodologies used for these jobs. If you decide to tackle development you might read tutorials on how to develop applications (using .NET or Java). Most tutorials will start with the basic "Hello World" application. When you're ready to practice what you've read, use a virtual lab or download and install a development environment that you can use. 

If you downloaded and installed a development environment, you can take screen captures of the applications you build to start your portfolio. If you've practiced writing technical training materials or user's guides, print out copies for your portfolio. You can then show your portfolio to a local church, nonprofit association or high school. Your portfolio proves you know how to do the job. And, if you get someone to give you gratis IT work, you are on your way to qualifying for a paid IT job. 

If you decided to learn server software such as Windows Server 2008 (as previously mentioned), you will need to talk your way into your job. Nearly everyone needs a System Administrator. If you learn how to use Windows Server 2008 and perform relevant tasks you might be able to volunteer for a local church, high school or association as a System Administrator.

Once you've started working gratis, use your gratis work to further build your portfolio. Do your best with everything that you do. You may find people admiring your work and asking the organization that hired you who they use. Best of all this is good experience you can add to your resume. It is better to list companies on your resume (even for gratis work) instead of listing unemployment dates with no skills or work added.

Most people associate unemployment time with job-hunting only. However, you can use your unemployment time to develop skills and increase your worth on the job market. If you use your available time to volunteer and do work for a nearby church, school or association that needs Information Technology (IT) help; you can build up a professional resume that will help you land an IT job sooner rather than later.

Knowledge really is the gateway to better opportunities. Use your unemployment downtime to increase your worth and marketability on the job market.


ochuko jobs said...

Hi, I have been reading your articles and I want to say thanks for all the tips and knowledge transfer. I am currently learning C# using Visual Studio, ive bought books n used msdn microsoft site but i still find it difficult to formulate a functional code. With your wealth of knowledge could u help me pls grasp? ochukojobs@outlookdotcom. Thanks a lot.

ochuko jobs said...

I forgot to add that I hold a Masters Degree in MIS.