What should I do after graduation? Confused MIS major
December 6, 2013 1:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm graduating in the spring and have done well enough in my classes, but I don't feel like I really know how to *do* anything. Give me some direction?

I come from a blue collar background, and I have trouble visualizing what a tech (or management, for that matter) job "looks" like. I couldn't intern during college due to some extenuating circumstances, and I don't really have a handle on what recent MIS grads are supposed to be good for. (That said, my program has pretty good job placement numbers, so I don't think it's that the curriculum is super weak.) It's sort of like: I get that I'm supposed to wear heels and sit at a desk, but I don't really get why anyone would want me to.

It seems like a lot of my classmates are going into consulting, which doesn't seem right for me at all -- I mean, you just stand around in a suit and throw around a lot of meaningless sales buzzwords, right? (Nothing against people who are going that route.) I did like my web development class, but it was just one class, and so I feel kind of lost about what to do with that information. My parents are putting a lot of pressure on me to be the first person in the family to land a cushy office job; they offered to pay my undergrad rent as long as my major was something preprofessional.

What are my options like?
posted by revi to Education (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend you go over to your school's IT department and try to get a student job for a semester. People will be reluctant to hire you for that short a period, but explain exactly what you've written here, and you're likely to get some sympathy from folks who'd be delighted to talk about their jobs and help you out. Alternatively, start at the top and ask folks in management positions if you can just shadow them occasionally or meet to talk about the projects going on and get an idea of how their jobs work.

Either way, you'd ideally spend some time memorizing their org chart, observing or talking to folks on multiple teams there, and figuring out how ITIL categories map to their daily routines so you understand the whole of what they do as a system. You could wind up doing things quite different from what they do, but it's a good place to start with a well-mapped set of categories for comprehending all the work they have to get done.

But it might also work to just find friends there who have had tech industry jobs for a long time, so they can give you steady insight throughout your last semester.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:59 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I help to run university courses and it is pretty common for graduates not to know what they want to do. It is also fairly common for them not to believe they have saleable skills. This is one reason it can be useful to do work placements and such during your study, so something like M.Caution's advice above might be helpful. The reality is that if you have a degree from a decent institution then you will have the same sort of skills and a similar selection of interests to everyone else going into a job. You are unlikely to have something missing that makes you unemployable. Millions have found work from the same starting point as you.

Do some research to find out what is involved in the different jobs are that people you study with are going into. As someone who has done some consultancy and has employed consultants I can say consulting is a bit more than buzz words, but really, if someone will pay you for spraying buzzwords why not? Probably they won't and you will have to actually work though...

Your institution might have a careers department that can help you with finding out about different jobs and how to apply for them and what skills to emphasise and how to improve your chances, or you could ask online, talk to professional organisations or even ask here.

Most companies taking on grads know they will have to do some training and won't get full value from them immediately. they might push you pretty hard to learn but you will get some time to ramp up.
posted by biffa at 2:20 AM on December 6, 2013

Best answer: Hello,

I am an MIS consultant.
What I do involves almost no sales (and definitely never any buzzwords, If I ever used the word paradigm without explicitly referring to the works of Thomas Kuhn I would be in terrible trouble) and an awful lot of sitting around analying data and solving quite hard problems.

I get that I'm supposed to wear heels and sit at a desk, but I don't really get why anyone would want me to.

You would be surprised at what other people don't know or can't do. What seems obvious to you is terrifying dark magic to others. You have probably developed a lot of very good skills that you can intuitively apply without realising it.
So basically, go out and try some things and see what you enjoy. Maybe try putting together a small portfolio of websites, aim for ones with ambitious backend databases, which I would guess you know all about (or can learn relatively simply) with your MIS background. That gives you a big advantage over most web developers, who tend not to have such strong database skills.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:58 AM on December 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just this guy, above, has it 100% right re: consulting.

I'm a consultant and work full time for a niche consulting company. We don't throw around buzzwords because our clients are smart people and can see through that nonsense ten miles away. I rarely wear heels. I do well at my job because I listen and solve problems -- all sorts of problems -- for people who have different backgrounds and experiences than mine. I get to travel a bit, and my friends say my job is cushy, but I have some killer deadlines, too, which don't suit everyone.

Regardless of whether you're interested in consulting, ask yourself: What sorts of jobs interest you? And, most importantly, how can you apply your unique skills to offer a fresh perspective? One of my family members, for example, has a pretty good instinct for adapting expensive but unused proprietary MIS systems into workable tools that people actually use, helping companies recoup their investments. What do you do that's sellable, or the missing link?
posted by mochapickle at 4:32 AM on December 6, 2013

I mean, you just stand around in a suit and throw around a lot of meaningless sales buzzwords, right?

Your job is to help them pick the right IT and run it.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:45 AM on December 6, 2013

Best answer: Consulting is a good place to start. And no, it's not sales.

Do try for an internship directly after graduation. There are lots of paid gigs, and you'll see what it's like and have an opportunity to get a placement after your internship is over.

Most of us who are IT pros, specialize in a particular thing. I was a Salesforce.com Administrator, but now I'm working on a smaller CRM. I am a Data Analyst, so knowing Excel is paramount to my ability to do my job.

Consulting is a fun gig if you enjoy people and processes. You evaluate what the customer currently has, you identify gaps and you recommend improvements and processes that will help them be more productive. You may also work with the customer through implementation. There is something really satisfying about starting at point A and arriving at point Z.

For now, get some generic skills. Learn SQL, Become a guru on Excel. Shit, learn SharePoint. These are ALL great things to have on a resume and you can watch a metric butt-ton of tutorials on You Tube.

Check out your university's career placement center for some ideas of where internships will be, or even recruiting on campus.

NOW is the time to put the wheels in motion.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:15 AM on December 6, 2013


I graduated with an MIS degree and faced the same thing. Basically, what people keyed on was that I knew some IT but it was mainly that I could "speak business instead of just computer" that got me a job. I'm now a financial analyst with some Sharepoint duties. MIS grads are seen as a bit of 'jack/jill of all trades' in my line of work, so while you may not immediately hit the high paying line, keep your options open and be ready to learn something new at all points.

The more you know SQL and database relations, the better. Everything now is run off a database and everyone wants a customized report.
posted by skittlekicks at 6:04 AM on December 6, 2013

Hi, working class now-professional here. I have so, so much sympathy for this situation. The thing that I understand about it now that I didn't in your place is that almost everyone who you've met wants to help you. You're a bright young driven rudderless pre-professional, and who doesn't want to be the one who sets you on a great path? (They all want you to owe them one in 10 years.)

A few starting points:

-Career services office, which I don't see mentioned anywhere in your question. If the placement numbers are good, they're probably good too. They usually have a shelf full of books that talk about what real jobs are really like and may have many contacts in your field.

-Alumni. If you have any casual acquaintances from your major who have graduated within the last few years, contact them. Ask them what they do, what they like, what they don't, what a typical day is like, what classes from school have been most useful in their day-to-day. If their answers are interesting, ask if you could shadow them for a day.

-Professors. Find your favorite professors and tell them what you just wrote here. They'll know your strengths and can direct you. They'll have contacts from outside the university who may be able to help with things like getting some informational interviews.

-Apply for jobs. If someone is hiring you right out of college, they do not expect you to know everything. Your first job does not need to be the thing you do for the rest of your life, it doesn't need to give your life meaning any more than your parents' jobs give them meaning. You may not know exactly what you're going to be doing but I can guarantee that it'll be better than food service.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:20 AM on December 6, 2013

revi: "What are my options like?"

Three common options:

Consulting. You would think this would be the exclusive domain of people with 20 years experience, but there are a number of firms that essentially hire their 'experts' right out of college, give them some rudimentary training on Salesforce or Drupal or Puppet or whatnot (and access to an internal support network), and ship them off to clients in dire need of help. It works because nobody has 20 years worth of experience in brand new technologies, and tech knowledge has a short half-life. For new graduates, it can be a good way to get experience in a particular niche. If there's any technology in particular you like, and you don't mind travelling, its worth looking around for consulting firms specializing in that.

Salaried Employment. Companies do need individual employees to manage IT, and respond to business needs beyond contracts as written. There are a variety of positions you might fit into. You shouldn't necessarily focus on big name brands you're familiar with, look for places that are growing rapidly, as they tend to do a lot of hiring, and will have to lower their standards of experience etc to fill positions. This is also something of a numbers game. You might imagine the sales funnel like so:

* 40-50 recruiter screenings
* 8-10 phone screens
* 2-3 interviews minimum
* 1 position to fill

Assuming you are an average candidate, and distinguishing at steps in the interview process is an equally random a coin flip, you'll need 40-50 applications to get a job. Fortunately, these assumptions are mostly pessimistic; different people are better suited to different jobs, for example, so if you target openings that are more amenable to your skill set, your work is reduced.

Grad School. If you don't like your options (or don't have any), you might be able to get hired on as a GTA/GRA at a university. Professors tend to manage hands off, which means you'll be given wide latitude to accomplish tasks as you see fit, and be assigned a variety of tasks.
posted by pwnguin at 2:19 PM on December 6, 2013

Other options for MIS students who aren't already well versed in a specific technology:
Business Analysis: gathering requirements and translating into technical specifications
Systems Analysis: (in my company at least) mapping the technical specifications to data elements, defining technical requirements, writing pseudo code for programmers
Project Management: there are graduate certificate programs you could do to get a jump start in this area, or look into PMI certifications.
Data analytics: if you are statistics oriented at all this is a GREAT field to get into right now. SQL, SAS (or any other statistical programming language) skills will help here, along with good Excel and Access skills. There is an abundance of jobs in this area currently. Again, there are some graduate certificate options in this are if you don't want to do a whole graduate program.
posted by smalls at 4:57 PM on December 6, 2013

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