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Design a career

It can’t hurt to learn both Web and print design.

Q: I have been taking some courses at school for Web design. I love to create and am very artistic. I have been considering graphic arts instead of Web design.

Every time I look at the help-wanted ads in the paper, I see ads for graphic-design artists, but I hardly ever see any for Web designers. I know the dot-com industry has taken a plunge.

Do you think the market holds more promise in the field of graphic arts than in Web design?

A: One reason why you aren’t seeing ads for Web designers is that there are so many different titles for Web designers, including a few that have a marketing ring to them. So make sure to skim the whole want ad section, including sections on marketing and product development.

To answer your question, though, the Web and printed materials will be around for decades to come, and many print designers are venturing into Web design.

They’re doing it to expand their skills and services, but they’re also doing it out of creative curiosity. I think there is plenty of room on the Web and in print for someone who is creative, skilled, and flexible.

To learn more about both types of design and the job markets, visit a few of the trade association Web sites: the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the Graphic Artists Guild, and the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.

Q: I have been going to my local community college to learn how to fix computers. I desperately want an IT career. What’s the best way for me to get into the field?

A: You need to get some experience doing what you’ve been learning how to do in school. You don’t have to get paid to gain that experience, but you do need to be able to demonstrate to a potential employer that you can do the job.

The next step for you is to get a volunteer or low-paying part-time job fixing computers. You wouldn’t have to do that for very long; even six months or so would help when applying for jobs.

Look around your area for some larger nonprofit organizations and ask your friends if they know any organizations looking for computer-related help. Make sure that whatever volunteer job you take on relates directly to what you’ve been learning in school.

In other words, a job fixing computers or installing networks is better than a job teaching someone how to use a software program.

You can also check on the Web for local and national organizations that match computer people with volunteer positions. For example, in the Boulder area, the BCN Technical Volunteer Matching organization matches volunteers up with nonprofits and educational institutions. The Volunteer Computer Corps (VCC) does the same on a national level.

Q: I am doing a career change to computer networking. There are so many options that confuse me. I’ve taken an introductory class on networking and I liked it. What can you tell me about my next step?

A: We traded a few e-mails back and forth and you eventually filled me in on your decades of experience managing hotels and restaurants, plus the fact that you have bachelors and master’s degrees related to hotel management. One of your main motives in moving into network technology is to get out of shift work and working holidays.

Don’t get out of a field you’ve devoted decades to without a lot of thought and research beforehand. The really tough thing that new network people face is getting the high-quality experience necessary to get any networking-related job.

Companies are looking for years of solid experience in candidates, and a certification alone won’t get you a networking job. It might land you a help-desk kind of job, but you’ll still have to put a few years in at that level and then work your way up.

It’s tough to find a 9-to-5 position anywhere in any industry in which you can make real money–especially these days, when companies want to keep staffing levels low.

Network folks often have to be on call. When the Web server is down, for example, someone has to get in there and fix it.

With your educational background and experience, you’d be better off working in some other area of the hotel and entertainment world. Or, you could try to combine hotel management and computers. More and more hotels are trying to computerize their management functions.

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