Five Tips for Getting Hands-on Experience

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Getting the experience you need to elevate your IT career can be tricky. Luckily, we have some strategies to help you get the experience you need to land the job you’re chasing.

CBT Nuggets trainers weighed in the question of how IT pros (and aspiring IT pros!) can get the experience they need, and there were some clear themes in their responses.

5. Volunteer!
Nearly all of our trainers recommended that you find a local nonprofit, club, charity, or team that is in need of IT support and volunteer your time. Trainer Jeremy Cioara said, “Volunteer. Everyone loves ‘free labor!’ And you provide yourself with instant credibility for the future.”

5b. Volunteer — at work!
You gain valuable experience every day at work, but one of the best ways to gain new experience is to volunteer for new projects. Trainer Michael Watkins said, “One of the best ways to build your skills and experience is to volunteer for new projects or to learn new technologies.” Trainer Steve Caseley agreed, “Always ask the boss what else you can do, who you can job-shadow, if you can come in on weekends to ‘play,’ and leverage every opportunity to grow.”

4. Build a home lab!
Each of our trainers suggested building a home lab so you can practice what you learn through your training. Trainer Anthony Sequeira said, “The real question is how do [IT pros] gain experience if they cannot get a job without experience? Often, the answer lies in hands-on lab practice. Imagine taking a year or two to build a killer lab in your home that consists of many different vendors’ devices. Think of how impressive such a lab construction would look to a potential employer!” Get started with these CCNA or CCNP home labs!

3. Do what you love!
The CBT Nuggets CEO and founder Dan Charbonneau believes that if you are passionate about it, you can learn just about anything! Or, as trainer Simona Millham said, “Do what you love, learn about what interests you, and never stop learning!”

2. Break stuff!
Whether you’re using virtual labs or a home lab, take the time to break stuff! Trainer Garth Schulte said, “ Labs are a fantastic place to play, test out new features, learn, and even to try to break a few things so you can learn how to fix them.”

1. Train!
(No surprise there, with CBT Nuggets being a training company and all!) One of the best ways to get experience, especially on new technology or if you have yet to break into the IT industry, is to make the time to train! As Anthony Sequeira said, “[training] is experience! Describing your hands-on lab practice to truly master the material and how you earned certifications can make a powerful impression with interviewers.”