Career Coach: Validate Departing Co-workers; The Right Skills and Degrees

The coach comments on making a departing co-worker feel validated and breaking into IT with the right skills and degrees.

November 7, 2003

3 Min Read
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Dear Career Coach:
I've been trying to break into IT for several years, with little success. I have an associate's degree in computer networking from ITT Tech and I'm working on several MCSE certifications. What other degrees and skills should I pursue?
At a Loss

Dear Loss:

Despite signs of improvement, the IT job market remains tight, which means employers can hold out for candidates with both technical skills and industry-specific experience, according to Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology, a consultancy that places IT professionals. If you have experience in, say, the health-care market, you have a better shot at an IT job in that arena.

Lee also suggests concentrating on entry-level helpdesk, tech-support or telecom positions, which would familiarize you with a wide variety of technologies. And when you finish your MCSE certifications, consider specialized training in industries that are in demand, such as security (the ISC, at, offers info on security certifications).

Don't let your lack of field work stop you, either. Volunteer to do tech support at a local school, community or religious organization, where you'll get hands-on experience and begin building a network of IT professionals. Contact your local chapter of the Help Desk Institute ( or the Network Professional Association ( to make additional connections.

Dear Career Coach:
A co-worker in our tight-knit IT department has been told that her position is being eliminated as part of a broad restructuring. She's taking it well--she has updated her résumé and started answering help-wanted ads--but we feel terrible because we're all so fond of her. How can we make her last few weeks here comfortable?

A Concerned Colleague

Dear Concerned:

Who says geeks have no people skills? Your compassion is admirable.

Let your co-worker know you're there for her if she needs to talk, then take your cues from her. She may prefer to keep things as normal as possible. But by all means pass her any job leads, and encourage co-workers to do likewise. If you're willing to provide references, give her the appropriate contact information.A goodbye party may be less awkward for everyone if held offsite. And if you commonly take up collections for parting gifts, consider practical items, such as high-quality résumé paper and envelopes, stationery for thank-you notes and stamps, so she can bring hard-copy résumés to interviews and send personal notes afterward--two best practices in any job hunt.

Send your questions to [email protected]

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