Try these five free ways of upgrading your skills and contacts. They cost nothing and will improve your job prospects.
1: Get business aware
All recruiters agree that graduates with technical skills and an awareness of how to use them to make a profit are like gold dust. Unless you did a sandwich course and spent a year in industry, however, it’s unlikely you’ll have had any serious exposure to business. An opportunity to get some quick hit insights into business’ requirement of IT is to attend a Business Link event. These free events are hosted up and down the country and are designed to help small and medium businesses understand what IT can do for them. Ideal, also, for the IT novice.
2: Meet practitioners
User groups are an ideal place to meet fellow IT professionals and to learn from more experienced members of the profession. Traditionally, user groups were places to meet and discuss technology problems and solutions related to specific product sets, and were funded or subsidised by the product manufacturer. Nowadays, user-research groups tend to be less vendor-focussed and may cohere instead around technologies such as messaging or cloud computing. Many, such as the Microsoft Messaging and Mobility User Group are free and welcome graduates. Others such as the Computer Measurement Group hold free open days with taster sessions such as ‘managing virtualized performance’ and ‘saving the planet and money with Green IT.’
3: Check out free training
Inner city regeneration areas such as the London Borough of Newham offer support and training to get young people into work. Courses on offer typically include training in dispute resolution, managing conflict and assertiveness training. All of these soft skills will prove invaluable in handling the politics and pressures of the IT department that bear down from within and without. They’ll give your CV an added dimension, too. Women in technology also offer free training events. Men are welcome though the content is naturally geared towards women.
4: Gain product knowledge
Attend freebie seminars and gain access to the latest products and technologies that coming to market. Microsoft is the most prolific purveyor of free events, all in the interest of getting its products into as many workplaces as possible, rather than any altruistic motive. However, these taster sessions are an excellent way of gaining some instruction and hands-on experience in products as varied as Azure, Sharepoint and Visual Studio. They’ll also provide an introduction to new computing models such as cloud computing, all useful stuff when it comes to discussing IT scenarios in the interview room.
5: Enter competitions
Cyber challenges and coding ‘jams’ or competitions are springing up and taking part will test your knowledge, throw you together with enthusiasts and open your eyes to career possibilities. A recent example is the security cyber challenge that has been set up to cultivate the next generation of security specialists. Forensic wannabes are invited to do a virtual treasure hunt and to defend a network against a group of veteran hackers who launch a series of attacks. The Google code jam is also underway with the grand slam scheduled for Dublin.
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