March 3, 2021 - 1:52 pm
To-Do List for Landing an Entry-Level Job in Tech
Some of the most in-demand careers are in tech: software development, website design, cybersecurity, digital marketing, UI/UX, and more. Despite this high demand, like many professions it can still be difficult to break into the field and land an entry-level job.
The challenge occurs because employers often prefer to hire professionals with a work history and proven accomplishments. These candidates are viewed as lower-risk and require less time-intensive training.
However, there are steps that new tech professionals can take that will instill confidence for hiring managers. 20Fathoms team members Erich Wuhrman, Head of Talent Acquisition, and Keith E. Kelly, tccodes and tccyber Program Manager, regularly work with tech professionals at all stages of their careers. They shared the following insights to help you successfully land your first job in tech and get your career moving.
First and foremost, study the basics of your field, the core competency on which to base all further learning. Next, apply your education through project work. Then, evaluate your work, iterate, and keep layering on additional topics and skills.
Thankfully, acquiring knowledge has never been easier thanks to today’s high-quality, web-based resources.
- Find and enroll in a program to help you learn basic skills and the vocabulary of tech. This could be a university program, certificate course, community class, or a self-guided online program.
- If you’re a Northern Michigan resident, take advantage of courses for software developers and cybersecurity professionals through 20Fathoms’ tccodes and tccyber programs.
Coursework is a critical first step, but you need real-world experience to apply and deepen your expertise. This will prove to potential employers that you not only have the necessary knowledge, but that you can effectively create solutions in a professional environment.
- Gain real-world experience by volunteering for a nonprofit organization, helping a small business, or working as an intern.
Show Your Work
Develop a portfolio that highlights your best work and hyperlink it on your resume. This helps potential employers gain trust in your abilities and see the type of work that you’re capable of creating. Your portfolio should demonstrate your problem-solving abilities, experience developing solutions for real-world projects, and show your passion for tech development.
- Developers: Create a GitHub account for your repository of code.
- Other tech professionals: Create your own website or PDF portfolio.
Demonstrate the Soft Skills
You may know how to code an app, build a website, or identify a security threat, but employers equally want to know that you can successfully work as a member of their professional team.
Soft skills include written and verbal communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, responsibility, problem solving, and time management. Also, creativity is an important component of many tech professions including development, so if you have creative endeavors like art, music, or writing, consider highlighting this too.
- Consider how you have effectively used soft skills in the past and be prepared to give examples during interviews. Examples could be from previous jobs, volunteer experiences, or activities like sports or club involvement.
Network in Person and Online
Personal connections can help you rise above the pack as employers are reviewing candidates. Who you know can make a big difference during your job search.
- Identify networking opportunities and get out there, start meeting people, and make connections.
- Tune up your LinkedIn page and connect with people you know. Once you’ve identified a job that you’d like to apply for, check LinkedIn for first- or second-degree connections to the company and ask for an introduction.
- In Traverse City, be sure to check out tccodes, tccyber, and TCNewTech. These groups offer great opportunities to meet others in the local tech community.
Apply and Follow Up
Submitting your resume is only the first step when you apply for a job. It’s important that you follow up in order to stay top-of-mind with hiring managers and the recruiting team. They could be reviewing hundreds of applicants, so it helps when you pop up at the top of the list again. It’s more worthwhile to focus your energy on applying for 20 of the most promising positions and following up, rather than applying for 50 jobs with no additional outreach.
- Create a spreadsheet of the jobs you’ve applied for and document a cadence for following up on your application.
- Don’t be annoying but do stay in touch. It’s smart to remind employers that you’re still interested and ready to add value to the organization in this role.
Keep at It
You will receive rejections. Everyone does. To a certain degree, landing a job is a numbers game.
It also takes some luck to connect with the right employer at the right time. Putting in the effort to develop the knowledge, experience, portfolio, soft skills, network, and follow-up plan ensures that you’re in a position to take advantage of a stroke of good luck.