You can’t get a job without experience. But you can’t get experience without a job – the age-old conundrum at the heart of tech entry-level job opportunities.
We live in a time of excessive talent demand within the technical space, and, despite young adults leaving education as some of the most digitally-connected, savvy tech operators in the employee market, getting your first job in tech isn’t easy.
In fact, that difficulty is mirrored across reskilling older generations too, even as multi-skilled talent laterally move from non-technical roles into the tech space.
The trick to getting your first tech job is all about efficient representation – are your prospective employers able to find you, are they able to visualize your skills and are they able to see where you’ve worked and witness the experience you gained?
There is a myriad of tools you can use to improve your resume and skills visibility and gain those much-needed tech skills that will put you in contention for great jobs.
The below 6 key stages are steps every tech prospect should complete before they start job applications in earnest!
Step One – Build a head-turning resume
Before you step into a Bootcamp, ping off introductory emails to an employer or harry that startup for a job on their growing team, we urge you to take a step back and start your professional journey by crafting that most important of professional documents – the resume.
But we don’t mean craft a single 2-page resume and assume you’re set. Resumes have to be dynamic, living documents that reflect your passions, your experience, your plans, your ideas, your creativity, and your desire to learn across different platforms that show the variety of your skills.
Our advice is to look at the modern tech resume as more of a multi-channel advertisement for your skills.
Everyone needs a traditional resume, that much is clear.
But as we discuss below, you will also be expected to advertise your experience, skills, and certifications too via more tech-focused means, such as GitHub, LinkedIn, and hosting an online portfolio.
This is the true differentiator for the modern tech job seeker, as it combines visible proof of skills gained with multiple channels and means for employers to contact you.
Step Two – Engage your Network
There is no set way of building a professional network. You simply have to get out there and do it.
Speak to people. Attend online events. Connect with peers on LinkedIn. Your network is waiting for you, and it’s on you to make the first steps into it.
We advise you seek out a new connection as often as possible – as we discuss below, there are myriad ways to find potential work, but the quality and variety of the first handful of placements you’ll be on directly correlates to how wide and diverse your network is, and how far your own personal brand spreads within those networks.
Crucially, a professional network is where you will hear first about referral programs from peers in your arm of the tech industry, which as almost everyone in the recruitment world knows, is one of the most effective ways of connecting relevant talent with employers.
Focus GTS Top Tip
Focus GTS has one of the most well-respected and established tech staff referral schemes in the USA, which you can read all about here!
A network is so much more than potential working opportunities and a contact to swing a resume over to – it should be considered a constantly moving pool of learning, inspiration, friendships, ideas, challenges, and yes, potential, created by the people you know, admire and respect.
Step Three – Build certifications and market knowledge, then learn to communicate it
Getting your foot in the tech door requires more than a rudimentary knowledge of coding languages and a desire to learn – it requires the ability to clearly communicate what you’ve learned to prospective employers.
One of the most popular and diverse methods of building up tech skills is by joining community projects, open source projects, or boot camps.
These are the best and fastest ways to grow a bank of reference points, real-life experience, and mentor and leadership advice needed to open the door to more secure employment within the tech sector.
- Join open source projects – often they need more than simply coders. They need marketers, business developers, writers, and social media experts, so this is a great chance to expand your repertoire. Start with documentation (in theory, but starting with Git is your best bet!) then go from there.
- Volunteer your skills at nonprofits or charities – often charities don’t have the resources to spend vast amounts on tech teams. Often, they rely on people like you to plug their digital gaps and help develop their offerings.
- Self Learning – utilizing online courses to upskill from providers such as Coursera is both affordable and scalable depending on need.
- Bootcamps – Bootcamp and coding programs offer the chance for young people and reskilling professionals a chance to learn a variety of coding skills and developer skills in the presence of mentors and fellow learners. Bootcamp programs are hands-on, contemporary, and super supportive to young learners.
Communicating what you’ve learned, how you learned it, and critically how this learning will benefit an employer is the next stage, and for that, you have to craft a game-changing resume.
We urge any young coders to build a GitHub profile and a LinkedIn profile as quickly as possible, to take advantage of the network opportunities both platforms offer.
Focus GTS Top Tip
We make a point of providing objective advice about the best sorts of certifications to get as part of our candidate handling services – for example, our resident AWS expert Jon King wrote this piece on whether an AWS certificate is worth it (the short answer is absolutely!)
Step Four – Seek out company purpose
Above all else when it comes to finding your first job, consider the impact of company purpose on your choices.
Company purpose is the why that sits behind an organization’s day-to-day business operations – it’s their purpose for being, their brand mission, and the reason they exist at all.
Here at Focus GTS, we know that younger workers – the digitally native Gen Z talent – regard company purpose as a vitally important quality in an employer. But we also know that the companies that communicate those brand values clearly and make a point of aligning themselves with values outside of simply making money take a much more active role in the well-being, and working environment, of their people.
So make sure you find the company that speaks most confidently and loudly about their company purpose, and they’ll value you!
Step Five – Don’t be afraid to ask for help
This is a hugely important one, one many people learn late in their career – learn to ask for help often, regularly, and listen to the advice of your peers.
It may seem that prospective employer will respect hard, self-started solitary graft over being part of a peer group of ideas-sharing young talent. We can assure you that you will learn more, be part of a wider network of professionals, and be exposed to a more diverse creative tech community if you look to others for inspiration.
Simply put, the more you reach into your network and ask for support, the more people you meet. The more people you meet, the higher your chance of getting that great first job.
The community you build helps you find jobs, they encourage you when you hit a coding snag, they lift you up when your job search is going poorly, and they share best practices so everyone learns together.
No one works in tech alone – the work you do touches so many people, in so many other professions, that isolating yourself from making connections is the manifestation of completely shutting yourself off from opportunity.
You owe it to yourself to be supported, and to support others in turn!
Step 6 – Follow your passion
The tech world is a growing, innovative, fast-paced environment to work in, and there are never enough ideas-people, driving change and building the businesses of the future.
But working in tech can also be exhausting, draining, incredibly hard work, high-pressure and, for some especially in the startup sector, high risk, low reward.
To avoid stagnating in the early days of your tech career our advice is to follow your passion.
Tech – and the skills needed to guarantee working tech – has permeated into almost every industry, from sports performance analysis to engineering, from aviation to hospitality. We can assure you the raw software development, coding, and language skills learnt from bootcamps, courses, youtube tutorials and formal education will provide you with a foundation of knowledge that almost guarantees a door will open in any industry.
So when you consider where to apply your skills, don’t hesitate to follow your passion, and apply for a company in an industry you love – because when you love what you do, even the hardest, longest working day feels like a privilege.
For our young and reskilling readership, below are some of the best Florida-based resources available for students and non-students alike to hone your tech skills.
Miami Dade College – MDC Tech are one of the leading lights in providing targeted tech training for young people and professionals alike.
Florida International University eCampus – the FIU’s eCampus is one of the most well respected and broad online IT learning center.
University of Florida UFIT and the University of Florida Center for Instructional Technology and Training – practical training by one of the States best providers of digital upskilling.
Need help developing your tech skills? Speak with one of our specialized recruiters today.