There’s never been a better time to join the tech industry.
The technology sector is experiencing a boom unlike any since the dot-com era of the late 1990s. The pandemic has been driving an upsurge in tech usage and the development of new products. With offices around the globe adopting remote and/or hybrid work policies, the need for productivity software and video conferencing and collaboration tools exploded. At the same time, our reliance on e-commerce soared. And, being stuck at home, many people turned to tech for leisure purposes, increasing their usage of social media platforms, entertainment tech, and video games.
This boom has only compounded an issue that the tech industry has long faced: incredibly low unemployment. Tech companies have long scrambled to fill available positions. With more tech jobs being created every day, employers are pulling out all the stops to lure talent to their companies. While the balance of power between employers and employees has shifted across all industries as a result of the pandemic, that’s especially apparent in the tech sector.
The LA Times reports that “Good and experienced tech workers are being treated like celebrities – hounded by recruiters, courted by managers, and bestowed a bevy of options … [including] flexible hours, sign-on bonuses and permanent remote work.”
While experienced tech workers are in high demand, it’s not difficult to enter the tech field with no past experience at all. With some credentials that you can earn in your spare time and a little preparation, you’ll be set to start a very promising career.
An entry-level certification is a terrific way to launch your IT career.
According to Robert Half, certifications are often the first thing that tech recruiters and hiring managers look at on a resume. Certifications demonstrate not only that you have the skills required for the position but that you invested time and effort to learn those skills.
There are lots of entry-level certifications that can be pursued without a degree, hands-on experience, or demonstrable background knowledge. Fifteen of the best ones are listed in this blog at CIO, including:
- Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) for work as a help desk professional;
- Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) to validate your skills using Scrum, which is useful for those interested in pursuing a career as a software engineer, business analyst, or project manager;
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) for those seeking work as entry-level network engineers, help desk technicians, network administrators, or network support technicians;
- CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+) is specifically designed for people interested in beginning a career in IT and covers essential IT skills; and
As you advance through your IT career, certifications will remain an important part of your professional development.
Attend A Bootcamp
Bootcamps are intensive, short-term training programs for people without any experience in the tech industry. Some are designed to teach complete beginners all the skills they need to get job-ready. Others are designed for those with some background knowledge in tech. While many focus on coding, others teach areas such as UX/UI design, cybersecurity, data analytics, or even digital marketing.
Bootcamps can be a terrific way to add value to your resume and get the hands-on experience that the tech field values. However, there are a number of things to consider before signing up. First, they’re intensive and often require about four months of full-time study. Second, they are very subject specific. If you’re fairly new to learning tech, it might be best to take some courses and/or earn some certifications before committing to a bootcamp, in order to explore the different areas of specialization. Finally, bootcamps can be expensive; the average cost for a full-time coding bootcamp is $13,584. That said, they are definitely less expensive and less time-consuming than obtaining a computer science degree.
There is a lot to consider when you’re thinking about joining a bootcamp. They’re not for everyone, but they can be a great way to jumpstart a new career within the tech industry.
Build A Project
Completing a project is one of the best ways to demonstrate your tech skills to potential employers. Before you launch your job search, you should create an online portfolio that includes your bio and several examples of the projects that you’ve worked on. These can be projects that you’ve completed in a bootcamp or course or that you’ve created on your own time. You can also contribute to open source projects.
If you’re unsure of what kind of project to build, a blog by Laurence Bradford suggests that you think about products that you’ve always wished existed and that you would want to use yourself. It can help when your projects reflect your own interests, so that your passion for creating the products shines through. Specific examples that Bradford gives are an online Christmas wishlist creator and a weather app that includes flying sheep and raining cats and dogs.
Become An Intern
Internships can be a valuable way to gain the skills and experience that many tech recruiters and hiring managers are looking for. As well, they can provide a terrific opportunity to network and find leads for future job opportunities.
While internships are typically part of a formalized post-secondary education program, there are some that are available to everyone. If you’re interested in pursuing an internship try looking for them:
- On job boards;
- Via networking;
- Through your alma mater; and
- At professional associations for your area of specialization.
If you’re unsure whether to consider an internship as a stepping stone into the tech industry, keep in mind that many companies tap interns who perform strongly to fill their open positions. If the company you intern with doesn’t have an open role that suits you once your internship is up, they may still keep you in mind for positions that become available in the future.
Build Your Network
As with most career paths, networking is one of the most successful ways to find a new job in the tech industry.
Not sure where to begin building your network? Some places, like professional organizations or your school’s alma mater are obvious. But sometimes, networking happens serendipitously, when you realize that someone in your neighborhood’s Facebook group works in your chosen field or when someone sits down next to you in a waiting room or on an airplane and you start chatting. Also consider building your network through:
- Networking events and meetups;
- Career fairs;
- Social media groups and connections on LinkedIn;
- Instructors and classmates; and
- Past managers and colleagues.
Although it can be hard to reach out, essentially asking for help, a strong network can offer support throughout your career and not just when you’re looking for a job. As Bradford points out in her blog, the tech industry moves fast and it’s constantly changing. Your network can be a valuable resource as you try different areas of specialization or learn new skills.
Because your connections can support you through different times in your career, your initial conversations don’t always have to be about job leads. Instead, you can ask for advice and insights regarding your area of specialization, improving your existing skills, or looking for work in general.
Polish Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is widely used by recruiters to find both active and passive candidates. The platform holds a lot of promise in terms of kickstarting and advancing your career. But, since the site has over 760 million users, your profile needs to stand out so that it’s easy for recruiters to find you.
We have a fairly comprehensive blog on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile and increase your visibility on the site. But, in brief, we encourage you to:
- Use a professional profile photo;
- Use your cover image as a way to attract attention;
- Optimize your headline;
- Use your “About” section to tell your story;
- Tailor your “Experience” section so that it’s relevant to your new career;
- Complete all the sections (LinkedIn’s algorithm will favor you);
- Adjust your settings to indicate that you’re open to new work;
- Create a custom URL for your profile; and
- Create and grow your network.
Showcase Your Soft Skills
While having the technical knowledge to competently complete tasks is important, many recruiters and hiring managers value soft skills very highly as well.
Soft skills are your non-technical abilities and they influence how you interact with the people around you and your environment. A blog piece about soft skills defines them as:
a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, career attributes, social intelligence, and emotional intelligence quotients that enable employees to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.
Because 92% of recruiters and hiring managers consider soft skills to be equally or more important than hard skills, it’s a good idea to showcase your soft skills on your resume and your LinkedIn profile, and be prepared to talk about them during interviews. If you’re unsure what your soft skills are, think about things you’ve been praised for at work. Are you a valued team player? Are you highly dependable and punctual? Do you have a positive attitude at work? Do you encourage or motivate others? These are the kinds of skills that can help you get hired.
Prepare For Interviews
While you should prepare in advance for any job interview, it’s particularly important in the tech industry. When it comes to tech interviews, candidates may be asked to solve a coding problem, take an algorithmic test, or analyze a marketing case to demonstrate their skills and knowledge.
Practicing for these types of tests can help you ace the interview and land the job. For samples to practice with, Jeremy Schifeling suggests these sites:
- CareerCup for technical-based jobs; and
- The PM Interview for questions that might be asked of marketers, strategists, and those in business development.
As companies struggle to attract qualified workers and fill open positions, some are reportedly waiving these traditional testing requirements. But it never hurts to be prepared and ready to put your best foot forward.