How to get back into the IT workplace after a break

I have 17 years' experience in IT, but have been out of work since my last contract ended. I am currently taking an MCSD course...

I have 17 years' experience in IT, but have been out of work since my last contract ended. I am currently taking an MCSD course in VB 6.0 and SQL Server 7.0, with a view to obtaining Microsoft certification. As I do not yet have the required two years' experience of these programs, how should I approach employers for work? Target key decision makers Jonathan Watts Manager of permanent recruitment, Computer Futures Bristol

Playing to your strengths is going to be key in successfully finding yourself a permanent position and I feel the most productive method is going to be approaching companies directly.

Firstly, I would suggest you get a copy of the Computer Users Year Book from your local library. It lists companies from all over the UK, what technologies they use, their main areas of business and, probably the most important thing, contact names and numbers of decision makers within each organisation.

What this will enable you to do is identify organisations whose business technology is most relevant to your 17 years' experience, thus enabling you to target key decision makers highlighting what value you can add to their IT departments.

Alternatively, aim your sights at the consultancy market. Many of the larger IT consultancy companies are finding it difficult at the moment to attract solid IT professionals with demonstrable career paths. If you couple your experience with the "people" skills gained from contracting you should prove to be an attractive option for most organisations.

Remember to be fully prepared for any interview. Get as much information on the company as you possibly can. Visit Web sites, ask for company brochures to be sent to you and find out what the interview process is. Also, take examples of your work with you, be aware of your weaknesses but build on your achievements and successes. Be aware that the majority of employers hire people because of factors other than their technical excellence.

The panel: Apex, MBS International, Best International Group, Computer Futures, Computer People, Elan, ITNTO, Monarch Recruitment, Reed Computing

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