Tips for students preparing for a career in IT

The UK’s largest IT graduate employer, FDM Group, offers students advice on careers in IT in the UK after graduation.

As the world wakes up to the realisation that the IT sector underpins the production of every other industry, a career within the field is becoming more and more desirable.

Importantly, graduates are also in demand and, according to High Fliers’ investigations into graduate opportunities in 2011, the most common graduate vacancies will be for IT and finance roles. However, despite these encouraging statistics, breaking into the IT sector without industry-specific experience and robust skills can often be a losing battle for IT graduates.

To ensure that you leave university with a CV that will help you stand out from the crowd, follow FDM’s tips for IT students:

Understand the nature and role of ITMost university degrees don’t provide graduates with enough exposure to the full product development life cycle and how this relates to the business world.

To break into the field of IT you will need to appreciate the context of the industry - IT exists to enable business. IT professionals are employed to solve business problems and improve processes or efficiencies.

Studying in a field

“Most university degrees don’t provide graduates with enough exposure to the full product development life cycle and how this relates to the business world”

Due to the nature of IT roles, optimum communication and interpersonal skills are also essential for IT professionals today, so try to develop these skills whilst you are still studying. Join societies, take on a part-time customer-facing role and generally socialise with a range of different people – this shouldn’t prove to difficult at university!

Develop your practical skills outside of universityWhilst studying for your degree, develop the skills you are learning by practising your technical skills. Start building websites or small home networks and developing phone applications for example.

If your coursework allows, try to take on assignments with a real-world value. You can do this by approaching organisations to get some examples and you may even end up getting paid if it’s relevant to the business.

Take on work experienceWork experience is crucial in the IT sector. Whilst studying, approach charities and companies with low budgets. Larger organisations often don’t have the time to take on interns and manage them. Smaller organisations will be in need of your skills and will allow you to get involved in the full life cycle of the project, providing invaluable experience. Working for charities also shows employers that you are willing to give something back.

Show a passion for the industryDue to the ever-evolving nature of the IT industry, future graduates will need to stay one step ahead of the game at all times. Keep up-to-date with industry news and technology forums and make sure you have an opinion on emerging technologies.

Studying IT from a very young age

“If your coursework allows, try to take on assignments with a real-world value”

Start preparing for interviewsEmployers will often be interested in your final year project and you need to be able to describe how and why you did the assignment and, most importantly, how you know you did it well.

You also need to be able to remain calm under pressure, as practical tests may be sprung on you. Get prepared to build code on demand and offer a presentation on how you built this code.

Apply earlyIf you would like to join a graduate programme such as FDM’s, start thinking about which area you would like to train in and apply well in advance.

To find out more about the FDM Academy and apply for its two-year graduate scheme visit - www.fdmacademy.com

Provided by FDM Group (2011)

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