Exploring this Job
You can explore your interest in computers by getting involved with a computer users group or club in your community or school. If a computer trade show comes to your area, be sure to attend. You'll be able to see advances in technology and talk with others interested in this field. Search the Web for interesting Web sites, and look at their source code to see how they were developed. Increase your knowledge by experimenting and learning independently. Check out library books about computers and teach yourself some programming or Web site design skills. Mastering a Web page authoring program is a good introduction to Web design. Learn how to code so that you have a general understanding of programming. Visit Codeacademy (https://www.codecademy.com), edX (https://www.edx.org), Coursera (https://www.coursera.org), and Khan Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org), where you can learn take free or low-cost basic coding classes.
Offer to help people you know set up their home computer systems or do upgrades for them. Gain experience by volunteering to help seniors or others learn how to use computers at a community center. Try to get a summer or part-time job at a computer store. Large retailers, such as Best Buy, also have computer departments where you might find work. The business experience will be beneficial, even if you are not working directly on the Internet.
By simply accessing the Internet frequently and observing different Web site designs and the increasing number of e-commerce sites, you can gain an insight into how rapidly the information technology industry is changing. Contact computer consultants, Web site designers, or programmers in your area and set up information interviews with them. During these interviews you can ask them questions about their educational background, what they like about the work, how they market their business, what important skills someone wanting to enter the field should have, and any other things you are interested in knowing about this work.
The job of an Internet consultant can vary from day to day and project to projec, as well as based on the consultant's areas of expertise. For example, an Internet consultant specializing in creative work may design a Web site and help a company create a consistent visual message, while a consultant who is a "techie" may get involved with setting up the company's intranet or Internet connections. An entrepreneurial Internet consultant may help a business establish an online storefront and an online ordering and processing system. Some Internet consultants who have considerable business experience may work with CEOs or other company heads to analyze the company's current use of the Internet and determine what markets the company is reaching.
Some consultants work independently (running their own businesses) and are paid for their work by the hour; others may be paid by the project. Those who work for consulting firms may be salaried employees of the firm. Some businesses may require that the consultants be on-site; this means that they work on a particular project at the company's office for several days, weeks, or months. Many consultants work out of their home offices and only visit the company occasionally such as when meetings are necessary.
One of the first things a consultant does on a new project for a company is to meet with its key players. During the meeting the consultant gathers information on the business and finds out what the company hopes to do through the Internet, getting a feel for the company and its business. Consultants may work with a company to develop its Web presence, or they may be asked to provide advice to help it reach more customers. The consultant's work involves researching, analyzing information, and preparing reports based on his or her findings.
Internet consultants may also develop the entire Internet setup, including the hardware and software, for their client. The client may be a company that is upgrading its equipment or a company that has never had a presence on the Internet before. Some consultants also train company employees to monitor, maintain, and enhance their Web site.
Consultants who have business experience and business degrees, as well as some technical training, are in strongest demand. Good consultants need a working knowledge of the business world as well as computer and technological expertise. The consultant with an understanding of business is able to offer clients more thorough service than the consultant who is only a computer whiz. Many consultants can build a Web site for their clients, however, more companies are beginning to look for the consultant who can offer added value, such as business analysis, cybersecurity, or marketing skills that will enhance their business and its products and services.
Some people may use their computer skills to work as consultants in a sideline business or as a supplement to their part-time or full-time job.