Quick background:

23 y/o, turn 24 in October
B.S. in IT
~1 year of experience in small computer repair shop
~1 year of experience at school district as a computer tech
~1 year+(present job) at a community college as a learning management system administrator(Blackboard).

I'm not going to lie, I'm seeing a woman much older than myself who is putting a lot of pressure on me to go on and succeed and climb the ladder. She's always telling me about the guys she used to know who were in IT who "had it made" or were "special people". And how her last boyfriend interviewed at Rice University and apparently clicked so well with the interviewee that they actually created a position for him even though he came in interviewing for a different job. I know it's kind of a sap story and I'm trying not to be hard on myself about not being able to live up to these experiences she sees for me as a young successful guy going on to make tons of money. I mean I would like that but I always thought I would find my own way and I don't know how to do it. She's always telling me to apply for jobs that she thinks I would be good at but when I go to look at the job positions I don't have the experience or credentials required and so when I tell her that, she just doesn't seem to "get it".

See, my current plan was to stay in my current position for 1-3 years. I had an interview a while back at an investment firm where the interviewer looked at my resume and basically gave me the advice that as a young guy I have the luxury of being able to get some leniency with job hopping but that I should also consider settling down somewhere for a while before looking elsewhere.

The problem with that is I believe I've already maxxed out what this job is capable of and I'm not sure it can really lead to further growth. And I don't know how to take myself further into IT and I can't really apply for any explicit "Network Admin" or "System Admin"(in a general Windows Server AD/Exchange/Sharepoint context) because I simply don't have knowledge or experience of doing those things in a professional environment. I don't know what it is I'm meant to do.

I do some C# coding and ASP.NET web form page building as part of my own initiative at the job to create scripts and forms to automate certain functions of Blackboard and to make other features of Blackboard more autonomous. I modify CSS and HTML often. But I'm not an expert at those things I just know how to research on the net to get what I need. The job is basically a "sys. admin" position but it's for a very specific application connected to a database. I write a lot of SQL scripts to retrieve data for co-workers and I incorporate that into my C# coding & scripting. So, those are basically the most technical things I do at my job aside from other things. But I don't know if that's enough to take me anywhere. Sometimes I envision myself being a C# or .NET coder but it's hard for me to really dive into a C# book from start to finish and really learn everything there is about programming.

During my last 2 years at school I did take many different classes like data structures, programming in VB, C, Java, a networking class, and other classes of the sort but I mean, I went to school to do the work and get the degree. I figured I'd learn more of what I actually needed to know on the job. Besides most of the classes were about algorithms and computer science, not IT, and I've always envisioned myself as a system administrator or "IT Professional".

So, what kind of guidance or advice can you guys provide? I need to figure out where to go so I can properly rebuild and re-tailor my resume.

  • 3
    Note that this isn't a direct duplicate, but you're wildly mistaken that she doesn't get it. It sounds strongly as though you don't get it...
    – Telastyn
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 14:22
  • 1
    Okay, so enlighten me? Yeah, you're right I don't get it which is why I'm asking for advice.
    – user19199
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 14:23
  • 1
    "During my last 2 years at school I did take many different classes like data structures, programming in VB, C, Java, a networking class, and other classes of the sort but I mean, I went to school to do the work and get the degree." So did ever other graduate. You have to decide what makes you different then those people.
    – Donald
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 15:07
  • 4
    Word to the wise, you should be doing this because you want to and finding a place that meets your needs, doing this for your girlfriend and her needs can very easily end in disaster.
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 15:34
  • 1
    You weren't asked what your talent is; you were asked what appealed to you.
    – Alnitak
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 9:01

4 Answers 4


While this site tries to avoid giving specific career advice on an individual basis, here are some general suggestions that may be helpful from someone with 25+ years in IT:

  1. It's important to choose a career path that appeals to you. If you enjoy development more than server administration, for example, focus on that. You will be happier and more effective doing something that you are truly interested in. Remember that your career path is a long-term thing, not a short-term one, especially in a field such as IT where continual skills improvement is not only desirable but critical.

  2. Don't sell yourself short. You are learning skills that you can build upon - there's no need to minimize that! Of course you're not an expert - how could you be with only a few years of experience? As a hiring manager, I would be more worried if you thought you knew everything at age 23; a bit of self-awareness regarding just how much you have to learn is a positive, and hiring managers will see it that way if you're careful to bring it up in a positive way, e.g. by stressing that you are not very experienced yet but eager to learn.

  3. Your career decisions are ultimately your own. You need to understand your own motivations, skills and potential, and think about where you want to be in the long-term. Don't let someone else manage your career for you - manage it yourself, and let any regrets come from your own actions or inactions rather than the manipulation of others.


You'll see tons of "entry level" jobs requiring 3 - 5 years experience, skills, certs, etc. You should note these as things to pursue and familiarize yourself with, but these are NOT requirements.

There are only two things you need to be able to apply for a job:

  1. You need to be able to capable of doing the work the job demands. (In IT this means basic administration, trouble shooting, and if your position is a specialty such as Database Admin you need to be able to do that.)

  2. You need to be able to legally do this work. (Some specialty position have certs that are legally required, some types of business cannot hire convicted felons, some positions require you to have top secret access or be eligible for top secret access, etc. Unless you take a job in government this is probably a non issue this early in your career)

Apply anyway

Unless you do not fit both the two formentioned reasons, apply anyway. The worst thing they can do is say no. I've actually seen jobs remain vacant because no one applies because they see "3 years experience required" or they only know 19 of the 20 technologies listed. Yeah if you're the one and only applicant you get the job (unless I think you're completely incompetent or clearly going to be more trouble than you're worth.)

Get new skills

Often your employers won't constantly push the bleeding edge tech (there are exceptions but they are few and far in between.) As someone in IT it's your job to invest the time to learn new tech on your own time to open opportunities. I've found from my time working at community colleges they often offer to cover you expenses in taking classes (DO IT!!! free education is a no-brainer! get your CISCO certs those things are gold tickets in IT!)

Never stop learning

In IT you're doing one of two things getting ahead or falling behind. (that's not meant in your role in your current company or justification to swap jobs annually) I mean you're either learning more and developing more skills and therefore opening more opportunities for yourself, or you're not learning new skills and your opportunities are slowly decreasing as companies move to more modern technologies.

  • This advice rings quite soundly with how I've been advancing with my career. In the "entry level" IT business myself, got a job that advertises "5-7 years IT experience" with 2 years of call center work. Other career paths can open up quite similarly. Main point for me being that as long as you really push to get ahead, you're going to open up a lot more opportunities than you'd think.
    – user17163
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 0:55

The main point is that nobody has the required experience and credentials. The list of things on a job are not requirements as much as nice to haves. When companies review candidates, they balance these nice to haves with other implied ones like you being a good fit for the company, being cheap to employ, having a good work ethic, not being a drunk, and a boat load of others that will vary from company to company and interviewer to interviewer.

Passing an interview is less about making sure you have credientials, and more making people want to work with you - which is largely by making people like you.

So apply for jobs. All sorts of jobs. Pretty much anything in the direction you want to go that you even vaguely think that you could do (regardless of experience or credentials) with a little bit of time and research (and support from existing staff). Because you don't know what companies really want. Eventually you'll run into a company that really wants cheap labor that they can overwork (but can't advertise that). Or you'll run into a company with bad interviewers. Or you'll have the specific experience that half the job requires, and the other half is stuff you want to learn.

Also, meet people. Network with people. Like I said, people are a better approach to passing an interview than skills (though skills are a better way to succeed once you have the job). If you meet other professionals, you can chat with them. They can let you know what you need to know, and you can let them know you know how to do stuff. They can then put in a good word with their company and help that along.

If you only apply to jobs you can do, you'll never move up into things you haven't done yet.

  • The problem I see is that you will be quickly fired if you are not capable of doing the things you haven't done yet. Being fired will be a heavy red flag on your CV, at least here. Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:52
  • @JuhaUntinen - True, though that's a separate problem. And honestly, most places have such an onerous process to actually fire someone that you'll have plenty of time to learn before it kicks in.
    – Telastyn
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:55

There are three pieces to your question.

  • First, it sounds like you are still narrowing down what you want to do.
  • Second, you want to push the boundaries of your limited experience.
  • Third, you want advice on how to get ahead (related to the first two parts)

As for what sort of job you want to do, it seems like you are bright enough to pick up the tools you need, which is excellent. As a professional C# developer (who is moving more toward engineering) I can say that it only takes a year learning to become very marketable. You have a choice in what sort of job you want to go into, if you want to use a variety of skills from programming to IT to business analysis you may want to consider applying to startups and small companies in the tech sector. Everyone needs to cultivate a lot of skills and you have visibility to the people at the top of the organization. The bad news is that you are high up in a small company, and unless the company grows you will always be the last hire. Once you get a few years under your belt and get a sense of how things work you may even want to strike out and start your own company, either contracting yourself or hiring other. It is a risk but you are literally the boss.

Covering the second point you may want to look at the link in the comments on applying to jobs you don't meet the experience requirement for. I would add that there are numerous free online classes that provide both stepping stones to learning and a certificate upon completion, these can pad out a short resume and take a couple months to complete. The biggest thing to consider is what skills are in demand and short supply, a lot of times you can be hired specifically to grow into a position where more senior practitioners are rare or over budget.

Summing up the advice and providing a couple more ideas. Figure out where you want you niche to be and go get the skills and experience, make your determination based on where you see the industry going. Lifelong education! Books, online courses, coding challenges, college, anything you can get your hands on. Speaking of college, find out if your employer reimburses for education and explore graduate programs in your area. There are usually good programs which are held nights or weekends, and some of them only take a year (of hell... seriously, hell) to complete. They can be a great way to get ahead faster, especially for a young upstart.

These are some last thoughts that deserve mention.

Pick people's brains. Your coworkers, classmates, bosses... random people on the street have skills you want. Learn from them wherever you can.

Find whatever professional organizations exist in your area. There is a city an hour away and I am on the tech group's mailing list, pretty much 80% of my last batch of interviews came from responding to job postings there. Also at the last annual tech meetup I had a blast, met a new friend, and made some important business contacts (I ended up connecting the CEO at this company to my professors in my program and now our capstone project will be with his company).

Speaking of which, remember people and remember opportunities and play matchmaker. See an job posting you can't take? Pass it on to one of your coworkers who owns a business on the side. Went to a company for a meet and greet? Find out who shared their ideals and mention them. It will pay off in spades.

Last. Look at your personal life, what are you trying to achieve? Are you driven because of your romantic relationship or your own inner drive? Is anyone pushing you, supporting you, or holding you back? I can't answer that, but if you direct your career because of what someone else thinks you won't be happy. Weigh the risks and rewards of entering different fields with care because you are most likely be spending more time at work than with your significant other. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but the best relationships are the ones where you can tell them your hopes and dreams and the only judgment is on the cost of getting you there.

  • All great answers...I guess I'm just feeling a little pressured by my girlfriend to live up to the standards of her upper class peers from her past. As I said she is older than me, much older, and was attractive when she was younger so naturally garnered the attention of pretty much every male from upper classes working in Houston. I want to do well for myself and achieve things I couldn't have imagined but I feel like I'm doing okay right now and am trying to focus more on financial stability than career advancement before I job hop, she doesn't understand that.
    – user19199
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:08
  • Thank you, hope it helps. I rarely give personal advice, it seems like you have a good grasp on how you are feeling about your relationship and how it affecting your outlook towards your work.
    – kleineg
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:22
  • I'll say that the times I have been gung-ho to get ahead were the times I stopped doing the things that were helping me succeed. After a large raise and bonus at my first job out of college I got hungry for more, and became more upward focused then focusing on coworkers at my level or lower. If I had instead been a better mentor and knocked out the day to day work as it came rather than focusing on the horizon I would have furthered my career rather than causing tensions.
    – kleineg
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:27
  • I still have a long term goal, and I work towards it every day, but I have learned to be patient and not try to force things.
    – kleineg
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:28

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