Despite the global financial crisis, Australia and New Zealand still face a shortage of key information technology skills. Many experts believe that shortage will be more acute three or four years from now when today’s school students finish tertiary education.

So if you’re looking for a solid career with long-term prospects, IT could be right for you.

Here are ten ways to improve your IT career prospects:

  1. Choose your undergraduate course carefully. In particular, look for university departments with close industry links and a culture or track record of high graduate employment levels. These are more important than an institution’s wider reputation. University admissions departments have this kind of information. If they are unwilling to answer questions on these subjects they probably do poorly in these areas.
  2. If you are still at school, choose courses that align with the entry requirements of the best undergraduate departments. Make sure you do plenty of relevant groundwork before University; this will help your grades later. Don’t neglect English or Commerce – both are highly valued by technology employers.
  3. Hone your communications skills. If possible take school or undergraduate courses in writing and verbal communications. Take out-of-school opportunities to improve public speaking and similar skills. Many junior IT jobs require you to work on help desks and in similar places where you are dealing with customers (who may be inside or outside of the organisation you work for).
  4. Learn to look professional. Develop an appropriate dress style. Know how to put on a tie and polish shoes. This doesn’t necessarily mean dark blue business suits. It does mean being presentable.
  5. Start thinking like a professional. Make a habit of being punctual and well-mannered. Take a pride in every thing you do. Employers say this is where most otherwise good candidates miss out. But none of this means you have to become old before your time.
  6. Maintain an interest in IT that goes beyond narrow specialty skills. Read trade publications and web sites. This will give you something to talk about at interviews and an early warning of employment trends.
  7. Once you are in the work force, keep your skills up-to-date. If your employer offers any training or refresher options take as many as you can manage. If necessary learn new skills in your own time.
  8. Think marketing. You need to sell yourself and sell your skills. Make sure your CV or resume puts you in the best possible light. But don’t overdo it.
  9. Network extensively with colleagues, friends in associated industries and keep in touch with employment consultants – not all job vacancies are formally advertised. Use social networking tools. Find ways to network that suit your personality without looking creepy or pushy.
  10. If possible consider finishing your degree and starting your career in the US or UK. Employers in those countries are more likely to hire fresh graduates and you’ll have no trouble finding work when you return to the antipodes.
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