Brandon Heslop’s story begins like many others – trapped in a job he knew wasn’t working for him anymore – but not knowing the next step he needed to take.

“As far as technology and my career, honestly, I feel like I’ve been closely related to technology my entire life,” he reflects. Despite his interest, as time passed, Brandon’s aspirations of breaking into tech felt more and more like a pipe dream.

Like 53 million other Americans stuck in low-wage work, Brandon found his options for career advancement limited due to his busy schedule as a driver. Few online tech training programs and college alternatives existed without sacrificing job security or a large paycheck to start the journey.

I came from a point in my life where I was going through a dark tunnel … not knowing if I was going to make it, if I was going to be able to pay my rent.”

Through a stroke of luck, Brandon stumbled upon an email from Merit America. “Something told me to click on it and read it. I applied to Merit America, and here we are.”

Brandon faced initial doubts and challenges, recognizing that ‘there’s a lot of work you have to put in,’ but he found that the right learning environment can make all the difference. The combination of flexible online learning and career coaching was the game-changer for Brandon, providing him with guidance on interviewing, resume building, personal branding, and networking with both employers and peers.

Completing the program, Brandon leveraged his transferable skills from previous customer-facing roles and received job placement support to achieve his goal—earning his Google IT Support Certificate and landing a remote job in IT support that he’s passionate about.

Now, Brandon works as a Service Desk Supervisor at Aerojet Rocketdyne, providing technical support as part of a project team handling incident reports, hardware requests, and technical support. “We’re the technical backbone of this company,” he says. “This work is very exciting, and there’s never a dull moment.”

Watch Brandon’s journey here!

Alumni Advice:
10 Tips On Navigating A Career Change

For some Merit America alumni, getting that first job offer can be difficult, and Brandon is no exception. So what exactly helped Brandon launch his IT Support career? Like many program alumni, he’s reaching back to share his advice on a career change: 

  1. Look for key phrases. “A lot of job postings have phrases like tech support or help desk. As you apply more and more you’ll see the job descriptions are pretty much the same. Tweak your resume toward those keywords to make it more technical in the area you’re interested in, like cybersecurity or software development.”

  2. Prepare for the interview. “Be prepared for technical questions but also pay attention to behavioral questions, which are just as important.” 

  3. Don’t get discouraged. “Surround yourself with positive people, have a basic level of customer service, and don’t get flustered if you don’t know a technical answer. Always say you’re willing to learn, which is the core principle of IT – troubleshooting until you find the answer. Anything can be taught, so never stop learning.”

  4. Once you get a job offer, it’s time to negotiate. “Base salary when you’re first starting out of Merit America is important. Companies trying to manage costs might try to lowball you. Know your worth and negotiate for a high salary, at least $40-$50K. Let them know you have the skills, aside from technical skills, the basic customer service skills matter a lot.

  5. Watch out for imposter syndrome. “Remember that it’s impossible to know everything about IT, and there will be technical questions that will stump you or make you question whether you belong in this field,” Brandon says. “Just remember that, yes, you did the work; yes, you deserve to be here. It’s more important to say you know where to go to find an answer than to know all the answers.”

  6. Use LinkedIn to your advantage. “There’s a ton of IT groups there for support, including Merit America alumni and job recruiters for different companies. Be interactive, and you’ll see your network grow.”

  7. Keep scouting online. “Take advantage of the unlimited pool of online resources for improving skills and networking,” he says. “Find mentors who are willing to help teach you more ways to help build your career.”

  8. Keep earning certifications. “Google IT support, Cisco training, Microsoft courses, AWS, or CompTIA+, carry a lot of weight. Even things like building a home lab can go on your resume and LinkedIn profile,” says Brandon.

  9. Project management is key to achieving work/life balance “It’s very important,” he says. “I was dealing with a lot of family issues and traveling from state to state. I try to incorporate time management and prioritizing when work has to get done, it has to get done, however, if there’s something urgent in your personal life that has to get done, it’s okay to go to your supervisor or boss and ask to move a task to a different time. I use Google Calendar for scheduling work-related and personal tasks.”

  10. Continue thinking about the next steps in your career path. “I’m not sure what I’ll do yet,” Brandon says. “I want to expand my intellect and knowledge of IT. I also want to help other learners, like Merit America learners, and anyone in my network space. I want to be someone who helps others find the right niche, the right path.”

A conference room full of people talking.

Ready For A Career Change, Like Brandon?

Even among plates full of responsibility—whether as caretakers, drivers, teachers, warehouse workers, or full-time and part-time employees—thousands of alumni, like Brandon, are making the switch to tech and never looking back.

Now is the perfect time. Discover the tech career that suits you best, all without needing a four-year degree, with our ‘Which Program Is Right For Me?’ quiz. Need more time to prepare before applying? Check out Merit America’s blog on ‘How To Get A Job in IT: Entry-Level IT Jobs with Training.’

Read what alumni think about their experiences with Merit America!