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I just graduated with two degrees in IT networking and security, I have a CCNA and a Security+, and I spent a few years working for my college to tutor other IT students, but every "entry level" job I see in either field has hard requirements for years of experience in those specific roles already. I've applied for over 40 of them where the experience requirements were on the lower end, because people have told me that those are often inflated. But whenever I've heard back from any of them, the feedback I keep getting is that I don't have the experience they're looking for.

I've run my resume and cover letter by a bunch of people who say it looks good, so I don't think that's it.

Some people have recommended headhunters, but as far as I can tell these days they're not much different from Monster or Glassdoor- they just take your information and spit out a bunch of related job postings and tell you to go for it. I also have a LinkedIn page that's completely filled out, but I'm just not really getting any offers except for a few low-level and low-paying help desk/tech support jobs.

So how does anyone actually get into any of these fields? I don't mind working at a help desk for a while, but my concern is that the track out of the help desk and into the networking or infosec departments is too long and I'm going to forget 75% of what I know during that time since I won't be using it, and also there's always a line of people ahead of me who want any openings in those departments as well so it seems like it will take forever (one interviewer told me, "Well, anything's possible" in regard to my chances of getting there within five years). So what am I missing here?

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    "every "entry level" job I see in either field has hard requirements for years of experience in those specific roles already" Those are by definition not entry level. You need to be looking for graduate roles which list 0 years of experience but of course this isn't the best time for that. What makes you think positions with 2+ years' experience requirements would be entry level? – Lilienthal May 29 at 20:30
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    If you admittedly do not have the necessary experience, why are you applying to positions that require experience? – sf02 May 29 at 20:41
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    "What makes you think positions with 2+ years' experience requirements would be entry level?" Because they describe them as "entry level" in the job description. And I agree, that's why I put it in quotes. – Grynn May 29 at 21:45
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    "You need to be looking for graduate roles which list 0 years of experience" "If you admittedly do not have the necessary experience, why are you applying to positions that require experience?" That's my point- there are no jobs that don't require experience in networking or security despite having the academic training for them. So how does anyone get into the field in the first place? – Grynn May 29 at 21:48
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    "Sometimes the job that does not pay as much as you think you should be paid is the way, and if your prospects do not change within that job, move on. You got the experience." This still doesn't address the point though- the networking and security jobs I've seen all require experience in those specific roles. Taking some other low-level job presumably wouldn't accomplish that since they're not specifically networking/security jobs. So how do you "get your foot in the door" if you can't get a job in those roles in the first place without the prior experience? – Grynn May 29 at 22:24
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I'm just not really getting any offers except for a few low-level and low-paying help desk/tech support jobs.

Those are the jobs you should be taking. That's how you get your foot in the door in the IT profession (and probably with any/every other professional career). Once you're in the door, you start building real world experience, skills, and knowledge. Then you work your way up the ladder, either at the same company or by applying for progressively more challenging and demanding positions at other companies.

You may have some training and education but nobody is going to hire you as a system or network administrator except at companies that aren't going to pay well for those positions and are looking for someone like you who will accept those positions and low pay because they know that's how they'll be able to break in.

I worked for a year as a help desk tech and then found a job posting for a company looking for a system/network administrator. The salary was half of what an experienced system/network administrator would normally earn. I took the job because I knew it was my opportunity to break into the position I really wanted. I worked at that company for 5 years, over which time I tripled my initial starting salary and earned the title Senior Systems/Network Administrator.

I haven't looked back since. 20 years on and I now work for myself, commanding an hourly rate commensurate with the best IT Consulting firms in my area.

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    But like I said, all of the job listings I've seen for network technicians/admins and for security jobs all require experience in those specific roles, not just any IT experience that could be fulfilled by a help desk job. – Grynn May 29 at 22:19
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    Let me see if I can clarify. 1. You are not getting offers for low level positions in networking and/or security. 2. You are getting offers for low level positions in help desk/tech support. If these statements are true then what I'm saying is that you should be taking those low level help desk/tech support jobs. Those will launch you into the IT career you really want. That's how it works. Every systems, network, or infosec engineer started on the help desk or in tech support. Nobody is going to hire you into those positions with no experience. – joeqwerty May 29 at 22:34
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    If you go to college to earn a degree in accounting you don't get a job as a company controller or CFO. You get a job as an accounts receivable/payable clerk. You work your way up from there. And so it goes in the IT field (and every other field). Take the help desk/tech support jobs and use them as your launching pad. – joeqwerty May 29 at 22:35
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    I'm saying that the help desk/tech support positions are where you're going to get the experience those other jobs are looking for. As a help desk/tech support role you're going to inevitably get involved in networking and security issues. Then you'll gain experience and knowledge in those areas. Then you'll get a promotion to a junior role in networking/security. Then you'll either get promoted higher or you'll get job offers for those positions at other companies. The bottom line is that you need to start somewhere, and help desk/tech support is where you'll start. – joeqwerty May 29 at 22:51
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    Of course it's different at every company, but in general, most companies are invested in and take an interest in the development and growth of their employees. If you show a desire and the aptitude to grow into ever more demanding roles, the company will usually work with you to help you achieve that. It's good for you and it's good for them. It's also usually cheaper for a company to promote from within then it is to hire externally. That's neither good nor bad, it's just what it is. – joeqwerty May 29 at 23:24
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So how does anyone actually get into any of these fields?

As with any field, you need to have the right background that an employer is seeking. And you need to get lucky.

I'm just not really getting any offers except for a few low-level and low-paying help desk/tech support jobs.

Sometimes you need to start in lower-level roles and work your way up to your desired position. When I was looking for lower-level workers for my teams, I often looked internally first. That often meant hiring someone from the Help Desk or Customer Support.

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I was in your position too early in my career 20 years ago. That "Catch 22" of needing experience right out of school killed me in a major-metropolitan area. I got the door slammed in my face countless times. I even had some internship experience I thought I could bank on, which unfortunately didn't help.

I talked to many headhunters, and while they seem helpful at first, you have to realize they are only sales people trying to sell you, and not actually capable of giving you a job.

Eventually I got desperate, and took a technical job in a smaller town that didn't have the candidate pool a larger city would have. I think we both were a little desperate. While I only worked at that job 2-years, the experience I learned has been instrumental in each job I landed since. Like the other answerer said, I can now command top dollar for my experience anywhere I choose.

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