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10 Steps to a Tech Career

10 Steps to a Tech Career

"Where do I start?" That's an obvious question when you're considering a technology career. Should you get a technical certification? Learn a programming language? You'll hear a seemingly endless variety of answers, largely because the technology field is so vast, with numerous career paths ranging from database administrator to network engineer.

For those just starting to consider a technology career, it's best to avoid the temptation to jump into a potentially expensive, time-intensive training program unless you know it's the right program and career path for you. Instead, explore the field by picking and choosing from this list of 10 mix-and-match steps to get a sense of the technology job world and what you're likely to find fulfilling.

Attend an Industry Organization Meeting

Techies working in the industry's trenches can provide lots of guidance to those just getting started. They can also serve as mentors to assist you as you embark on a tech career. Where can you find these mentors? At industry groups, many of them with college chapters and mentoring programs. Be up front with your need for advice, and ask lots of questions.

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 Explore Tech Job Roles

Too many would-be techies blast into the field without thinking through the myriad job roles available. Why commit to studying networks when programming may be right for you? The TechCareer Compass, a resource from industry group CompTIA, will help you sort through the possibilities with its still-evolving taxonomy of technology job roles.

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Learn HTML

Programmers, technical writers, information architects and many other techies are now expected to know HTML, the language used to display Web pages. Learning HTML is a first step in moving beyond browsing to delve into the Internet's innards.

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Read Computer Books

Visit your local library or bookstore, and head to the computer books section. If it's a megastore, you'll find hundreds of books, many with obscure titles and topics. Simply perusing books about the industry, as well as specific topics like programming and networking, will help you explore the variety of jobs in the field.

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Write a Program

Programming is an essential skill for technology pros. Scores of languages exist, such as C++, Java, C#, Visual Basic and more. Learning JavaScript is one relatively quick way to get started in programming. You'll need nothing more than a Web browser, a text-editing program and the help of an online tutorial.

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Install Linux

If you install and run the Linux operating system, you'll accomplish several things at once. You'll learn about the open source software movement, and you'll also get a quick course on an OS other than Windows.

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Volunteer Your Services

You may be a newbie, but don't stay that way. Find someone -- even an older relative -- who needs computer assistance. This will test your ability to communicate clearly about technology, an essential skill for tech professionals. Nonprofits, religious organizations and other community groups may also be in need of individuals with computer expertise, however newly acquired.

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Contribute to an Open Source Project

Just because you're not a pro with PHP or MySQL doesn't mean you're not ready to contribute to an open source project. The open source movement needs people to help stamp out bugs, write documentation and lend a hand in other ways. Any contribution will help you make contacts and learn about the techie life.

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 Enroll in a Course or Workshop

Community colleges, universities and technology training centers often offer weekend or evening workshops with entry-level instruction in programming, Web development and networking. Online courses also provide a relatively fast, cost-effective way to gain insight into the field.

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Build a Web Site

Forget about those automated homepage building tools. Instead, use your knowledge of HTML and JavaScript to display your prowess with Web technologies. Experiment, have fun and focus on useful tools rather than glitzy graphics.

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