If you want to get into tech as a software engineer, you have probably seen your fair share of job boards. There are many jobs that are not labeled as “software engineer” but will still be interested in you depending on your skill set and tech stack.
We’ve been on both sides of the interview table and this post is written to clear out some misconceptions about getting your first software engineering job.
We’ll go over both general tips for landing your first tech jobs, as well as list seven entry-level jobs to consider as starting points for your career in tech.
How to land your first tech job – the general tips
Work on your portfolio.
Most entry level job applicants struggle with a portfolio, because they have little to no work experience. That is totally natural – and the interviewers understand that.
In fact, no one is expecting you to have real expensive and sizable projects under your belt while interviewing you for an entry-level job. Your tech interviewer will be interested in observing your thought process, not how much money you made with coding.
What people expect to see from you is a certain level of activity. Have you taken part in charity, fun, or open source projects? Anything like a community website for a barbecue, a student club, a web app that scrapes funny classified apps? None of these are too small for a portfolio, because these projects show you’re active, curious, like to challenge yourself and solve problems.
A brilliant professional that has absolutely no public project to his or her name – that never happens. Make sure to be active on GitHub, StackExchange, and other communities. It’s also a good idea to have a personal website.
If you want to create an app specifically for your portfolio, keep in mind that apps with a working frontend and a clean interface always make a better impression.
Prepare for a technical interview
A technical interview is going to make sure you know the basics. Make sure you study the job description of the position you are applying for, and have an idea about the stack used at the company.
Be ready to explain your ideas and thought process (including algorithms) verbally, or using a whiteboard. A lot of entry level software engineering candidates get lost without a computer, but testing your abstract thinking is exactly what your interviewer will be interested in.
Another thing – be ready to discuss your portfolio (you have one, right?). Expect questions on why you’ve done things a certain way, whether you now think there could’ve been a better way, and so on.
Network, especially with recruiters
Going around and applying for open positions may not be the most efficient way to land an entry level software engineering job. Instead, focus on getting into as many recruiters’ candidate lists as possible. Make sure you let them know your tech stack and job preferences.
Most recruiters are not too tech-savvy so be specific with names.
Know what you want
Nothing puts off the interviewer more than candidates that just want to get in and do not care what exact job they will be offered. Prepare yourself for the specific position and mean only that.
Evaluate the company as well
Please remember that your interview is also for you to decide whether you want to work for the company or not. If you sense a toxic environment or rigid culture, ask more questions. Sacrificing your long-term comfort and happiness for an entry level coding job is a bad trade. There will be more offers and interviews after this one.
Top entry level jobs in tech – from software engineering to data science
As you are looking for your first tech job, don’t just limit yourself to “software engineer” in the job description. Several reasons for that: the company may be calling their roles differently; the actual projects matter more than the role names; you may not know exactly what you want at the start.
That is why we recommend to pay attention to the following entry-level jobs:
Technical support specialist
Technical support specialists exist in any industry, vertical, and any software type. If you get hired as a tech support you can expect to resolve problems for users and report bugs. Most tech support professionals operate within strict guidelines and established processes, that’s why skill levels are negotiable. Make sure you display attention to detail and strong communication skills.
These job listings may refer to iOS and Android, or web apps development, so pay attention to the languages and technologies mentioned in the listing. App development is booming and may dominate all other software engineering jobs, so a career in app development is not something to write off.
At an entry-level app development job you can expect to maintain existing apps, fix bugs, and address customer support issues.
Business analyst and systems analyst
Although not a software engineering job per se, the role of a BA fits many people that have both hard and soft skills but can’t commit to abstractions only. For these jobs, demonstrate clear thinking and practicality of your thinking rather than coding skills.
Web development is an extremely diverse field. If the job listing says “entry level web development” or “junior web developer” – pay attention to the stack requirements and go for it if you find a match. Some of the web development technologies are relatively easy to learn which makes web dev jobs great entry level tech positions for non-techies.
Network administrator and system administrator
Administrators Install and maintain all kinds of networks, ensure connectivity and efficiency of offices and enterprises. Entry-level network administrator jobs will usually place you under a more experienced supervisor which makes it a great opportunity to gain experience.
Large companies have clear workflows and rules so what matters here is your accuracy and attention to detail rather than work experience.
Database administrators create, manage, and maintain databases for all types of purposes. To apply you’d need to know SQL, be able to work with Unix, Linux, Microsoft access, and other similar tools. This job could be a good trampoline for transition into data science.
Data scientist – data engineer, machine learning, data analyst
Contrary to the popular beliefs of data science being “advanced” and “elite”, there are entry-level data science jobs as well. Pay attention to the industry of the company you apply to. Industry-specific experience is extremely valuable, so it makes sense to get started in the industry that’s appealing in the long term for you.
Most common skills required for entry level data science jobs are Python and R. Having a data-based project in your portfolio helps immensely.