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By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2002-08-28 Print this article Print

: Get Creative"> The fact that theyre now competing with IT professionals who have vastly more experience makes it imperative that students get creative about gaining experience—if not through an internship, then through other means, such as volunteering on technology projects at nonprofits, signing up to assist with faculty research projects, or scoring a job with a universitys help desk or computer lab (see chart, "Alternatives to internships"). One thing thats appealing about university or college technical positions is that they set the bar low when it comes to the technical skills students are expected to have. Kevin Baradet, network systems director at Cornell Universitys S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management and an eWeek Corporate Partner, said he doesnt even look at the skills of the students he hires to configure laptops, work as consultants in the computer lab or do development work on the schools systems.
At Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, students have ample opportunity to work on research projects before they graduate. Pradeep Khosla, a professor and head of the schools Electrical and Computer Engineering and Information Networking Institute, said employers covet Carnegie Mellon graduates because of the design experience they glean from both course work and research project work.
"In my lab, I have funded projects where masters and Ph.D. students are working, and we recruit undergrads to work side by side with them," Khosla said. "They even get a paper [published] before they graduate." Finally, hiring managers are deeply impressed with the initiative shown by students who volunteer their time to aid nonprofit groups. Microsoft Corp. Senior Technical Recruiter Colleen McCreary said one of the few students to get a coveted Microsoft internship—the company typically receives more than 100,000 résumés a year; in fiscal year 2002, 6,100 of those people were hired—did so in no small part because he decided to help Habitat for Humanity set up a membership database. "We love to see people whove gone above and beyond whats expected of them," said McCreary, in Charlotte, N.C. Related stories:
  • Lining Up for Jobs
  • For This Student, Persistence Pays Off
  • Enrollments Fall With the Times

    Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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