If you could make a difference in this world, would you? Many of you have stated that employers want candidates with not only certifications, but also hands-on experience. As college graduates or those looking for a career change, it can be quite challenging to get that experience, but it’s NOT impossible.
As I’ve transitioned from roles in engineering, finance, IT, marketing, operations and sales; I’ve always found it useful to know what are your strengths, areas of development and the value-add you bring. You have options when it comes to working on those focus areas you know you could improve on. If you watched my “Create Your Career” Learning Series you’ll recall I mention 3Es towards developing yourself.
- Education – Instructor-led courses, self-paced learning (books, WBT, CBT), etc.
- Exposure – Learning though mentors, coaches or others.
- Experience – Doing the work as part of the job including OJE/OJT.
Today we’ll focus on “experience” because that’s what you’ve stated comes up most often in job searches. When it comes to gaining experience, I’ve found nothing better than doing the job. Even when it comes to learning, I’m sure you’d all agree that getting behind a terminal (or simulation) and entering commands into a router (or virtual router) is much better for memory retention than simply reading about it in a book.
So how do you get hands-on experience? Well, as I and others have mentioned in the forums you have some options. There’s job shadowing (formal and informal), job rotations or volunteer (pro bono) work with non-profits, for-profit or private customers.
Not every company might offer job shadowing or job rotations. When I was in high school, my dad dropped me at an architecture firm because that’s what I was led to believe I might want to do for a living. A day of shadowing taught me otherwise. J
In my career, I’ve been fortunate to gain experience through several means. I’ve shadowed teams in IT-AVVID, TAC and sales. I’ve volunteered with orgs like ZERO1 to learn DMS and to provide my wireless expertise. I’ve also volunteered with many local charities and organizations to learn other practical skills. I’ve had peers teach me things that I’ve needed or wanted to learn and I’ve requested hands-on exercises to have it sink in. I’ve helped friends with their IT needs to get them going. All of these examples have given me hands on experience and I’m certain that you could find similar opportunities to get you going.
If you look hard enough, you’ll find groups that need your help and places where you can apply your skills. I know that some of you will tell me it’s challenging to find a group and I can relate to that. Many of you know that I’m here in the Philippines volunteering to aid typhoon victims and I, myself, found it to be quite a challenge finding groups to volunteer with. The search did not come easy, even as I distributed search efforts to several of my colleagues, it was tough. Fortunately, I found a couple of groups though my Cisco colleagues in Manila and members of the organization I founded.
One of these groups was Bulig Isko. I am both impressed and moved by the efforts of this group because it’s run by young professionals, students and recent graduates from Tacloban. This group has gathered goods, consumables, basic necessities and gifts needed to support Tacloban and other town of Eastern Visayas. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to volunteer with them. The work that these young individuals are doing is truly remarkable and inspiring.
As technical professionals, you all have opportunities to make a difference. Whether it’s helping a friend, a neighbor, a local charity or a country; you have skills that can deliver impact and at the same time give you more hands on experience. I encourage those seeking opportunities to gain hands-on experience that you look at non-profits to see if you can contribute your expertise.
I’d like to acknowledge some key folks for their monetary contributions, involvement or connections – Charmaine Sia, Gabby Pontejos, Kat Tiopes, Roy Cook, Cris Jacinto and Haywood **.
What are some ways you can think of to gain hands-on experience? What has worked for you in your career? How can you apply your skills to make a difference in society by volunteering? I’m eager to hear your thoughts!