With a sparkling new degree in hand and a well-deserved sense of accomplishment after four (or five or six) years of hard work, college graduates understandably feel excited to take on the challenges of building a career in the information technology sector. Most of 2017’s grads also probably feel that their alma mater has fully prepared them for joining today’s IT workforce, providing the skills and insights necessary for them to get their dream job.
Many of the people in charge of those dream jobs disagree.
The answer to the question in the title is a very clear cut "it depends,” which means we're going to have to look at it a little more closely. Let's discover why…
Directive 8570, issued by the Department of Defense (DoD), states that any person, entity, contractor, or business which desires to have business dealings with the DoD (or most branches of government), or wishes to be employed by same and conduct information assurance services, must have training & certification in the field of information security. That's quite a mouthful.
There are a number of reasons to choose one of these two options over the other. Much of it depends on your personal predilections such as variety vs. consistency; high temporary-income vs. lower consistent-income; stability vs. flexibility.
Although there are no absolutes, it's not hard to extrapolate that the contract consulting option might attract more "Type A" personalities, and the permanent positions might attract more "Type B.” But this is just a generalization, of course. Let's look at these two items in more detail.
It will only become easier…
Whether you're coming from another field, or IT has been your dream ever since you were five years old, people new to this industry start at the bottom and work their way up. There are very few exceptions.
If you're an autodidact that has been writing code since age 10, and have programmed an artificial intelligence program that can pass the Turing Test, you might be able to start at $150,000 per year or more. The reality, however, is that you ought to be prepared to start well under $50,000 and maybe as little as $20,000 per year on the Help Desk.
What's the difference?
The words sound similar but they possess significantly different meanings. Confusing one word for the other can make you look silly, or throw your boss into a panic, if you say you want to reskill instead of upskill.
"What? Do you want to change departments, or are you quitting?"
"No, nothing like that! I just want to take a night course in Network Management so you can promote me."
"Oh! You want to upskill, not leave and start a completely different career... That's a relief!"
Hopefully your boss isn't that literal-minded, and just thought you were a bit dimwitted, rather than that you were abandoning the department.
So have you recently graduated from college, completed a coding boot camp, or won a Raspberry Pi coding contest, and are completely self-taught? Do you lack a network to draw upon to get your foot in the door of your perfect career?
Maybe you're mid-career, thoroughly skilled, but looking to climb the corporate ladder? Are you seeking a place where your years of carefully acquired talent will be appreciated?
Are you an older more experienced worker who was downsized and now need something to keep you occupied for a few more years until you want to retire? You may have heard that there is a flood of candidates, but they lack one thing you have in abundance—experience.
The first cohort of Baby Boomers has already retired. The second cohort is just about to join them. Due to inadequate planning, many employers are now finding themselves in the unenviable position of losing all their best people simultaneously.
You should—and here's why…Interviewers will ask you about it
If you're currently on the hunt for a job you'll be encountering interviewers. What is one of their most traditional questions? "Where do you see yourself five years from now?"
Yes, granted, we all color our answers a little bit for the particular job, especially if we're interested in it. The difference is that the interviewer can tell if you're "making it up as you go along", or whether you have given it some legitimate, sustained thought.
Lies the Internet told us
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Some things simply aren't true
Maybe Dustin Hoffman as Rain Man could learn to program in that length of time, but certainly not ordinary citizens. It takes months to get a good grasp on programming in even the easiest languages, and years to become proficient. TANSTAAFL, as the expression goes.
Dallas IT staffing agencies easily acknowledge that programmers certainly deserve respect for investing the time and effort to learn such a complex skill. It takes a particular mind set—one that is very task-oriented—in order to be a great programmer. Often, however, it is that very skill that works to prevent you from advancing in your IT career.
So you graduated from college…Congratulations! Did you make it by the skin of your teeth, or were you granted magna cum laude?
It really doesn't matter because I've seen graduates who were the bane of their professor's existence become remarkable achievers. Conversely, we've all heard of so-called "Sheldon Coopers" that fell by the wayside because they were unable to cope with the real world outside of academia.
Back in the 12th century "engineer" referred to someone who "schemed", and it had a rather negative connotation, such as someone who would "engineer to overthrow the King". By the 14th century however it had garnered some respect as "someone who designed war machines, such as ballistae, catapults, and siege engines (e.g. battering rams with a cover to protect soldiers from arrows, rocks, boiling water/oil, or even molten lead).
It wasn't until the 15th century when it took on something closer to the modern meaning of "inventor, designer, or creator". Then it generally referred to civic works (aqueducts, sanitation, and public buildings), so we continue to distinguish between a civil engineer, and an engineer of every other stripe, to this very day.