If you want to be part of a growing industry fueled by creativity and innovation, you are probably looking for a job in tech. There is an abundance of opportunities available for anyone who wants to make a career in the tech field.
The key to landing one of these jobs is demonstrating that you have the necessary skills required to get the job done. You don’t necessarily need a tech-related degree or experience at a major tech company to get a job. In fact, in many cases, coming into a tech position with minimal experience can be seen as a good thing—if you are coachable and ready to get your hands dirty.
If you’re getting ready for a career in tech, here’s some advice on what practical steps to take to get your first tech job, even if you have little or no experience.
3 Steps to Landing Your First Tech Job
Whether you’re fresh out of college or mid-career, there are many opportunities in the tech industry for people from all backgrounds and with all types of skill sets. Here are three steps you should take if you want to land your first tech job.
1. Figure out what aspect of tech you like
Many people mistakenly believe that they need to know how to do everything tech-related to get a tech job. People will waste their time figuring out programming or code when their skillset is more suited to a people-centric position like a UX designer or project manager.
The truth is, there is a lot more to tech than just coding. While some roles, like developers and front-end engineers, will need to know how to code, there are plenty of other positions in tech that require different kinds of skills. Get to know the different areas of tech to see which roles interest you. From there, you can determine what training you need to start mastering that area of tech so you can get quality experience that will get you hired.
2. Start reading about the tech industry
Tech is an ever-evolving industry with a lot of moving parts. Expect to be asked questions about the tech industry during an interview, including tech methodologies like Agile or frameworks like Scrum. Someone might ask you how you would work a Sprint.
These might seem like nonsense words to you now, but once you start reading about the tech industry, you’ll see that they are an integral part of every successful tech company’s process.
When you don’t have experience, it’s critical to learn everything you can about the industry. You can accomplish this by reading books and articles related to the tech industry and talking to people you know who have landed jobs in tech. Techmeme is an excellent place to start, as it aggregates important tech news from all over the web. Following tech industry thought leaders on LinkedIn can also give you some valuable insight into the conversations surrounding the industry.
3. Get an internship at a tech company
Internships are perfect for getting your foot in the door at a tech company. They can also give you insight into how a tech company works, so you can decide if it’s really where you want to be. Some tech internships are paid, while others aren’t. It really depends on the company.
Many tech companies move their interns around different departments. This can give you invaluable experience working with different types of teams in other areas of the business. Your experiences as an intern can shape your future career and help you determine which aspects of the company you want to focus on as you advance in your career.
The importance of fit in a tech role
One thing that sets tech companies apart from other industries is their focus on “fit” when they hire. You might hear stories of people who were rejected because they were not a “cultural fit.” So, what does that mean, and how do you know if you fit into a tech role?
First, it’s essential to understand that culture is more than just a buzzword in tech companies. A company’s culture defines how it approaches its business, both internally and externally. Internally, a company culture describes a company’s values. This can include everything from how employees approach problems to the dress code (usually, very casual).
If you do not fit one company’s culture, it means your personal values are at odds with the culture that the company values in some critical ways. The good news is that tech companies do not all have the same culture, so just because you do not fit at one company does not mean you will never find a fit.
Next, understand that there is more to fit than cultural fit. During your interview, you will need to demonstrate that you understand the company beyond its Friday afternoon ping pong tournaments.
If you are interviewing with a public company, you can research their 10-K, which outlines the company’s strategy, risks, financial performance, trends, and most and least profitable products. If you can speak about how your experiences and knowledge can help solve the company’s challenges and reach its objectives, you will demonstrate that you fit into the company’s overall strategy.
Finally, there’s role fit. This is where you demonstrate that you have what it takes to take on the responsibilities required of the role you are interviewing for. Practice makes perfect here and, fortunately, there’s tech available to get you ready. The PM Interview can help you develop answers to common interview questions, while Careercup can help you prepare for more technical software engineering questions.
How to get a tech job with no experience
If the thought of going through the interview makes you break out into a cold sweat because you don’t have any experience working in the tech industry yet, take a deep breath. There are several ways to get a tech job, even if you don’t have professional experience.
1. Do pro-bono work
Just because you haven’t gotten hired to work in tech doesn’t mean you don’t have options for developing your technical skills. Start a project to practice your skills, then use that as an example of your experience. Build a website from scratch to get more familiar with code before attempting to do a similar project for someone else. Start a GitHub account to build your profile.
Talk to friends, family members, and local business owners to see if you can do a project for free. Many business owners would be happy to offer you an opportunity to help them as you get experience for your own career. A reference from a small business owner can be all the experience you need to get your foot in the door.
2. Network, network, network
Building a professional network is essential if you want to get a tech job with no experience. Join professional groups, attend local or virtual networking events, and tell everyone you know that you are seeking a job in the tech industry.
LinkedIn is a very convenient tool for networking—if you use it correctly. Start conversations with new connections and reach out to people in your network who work at companies you are interested in working at.
3. Take online courses
Many tech companies will happily bring on people who do not have professional experience, as long as they have some credentials to demonstrate their knowledge and skill set. Online courses make learning and acquiring new skills accessible to everyone. You can start with a single class and go all the way to getting a college degree.
There’s a lot of demand for freelance developers, engineers, designers, and project managers. You can easily find freelance work on websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Guru. Use those experiences and clients to build a portfolio that you can use to demonstrate your experience to a tech company.
5. Think outside the box
If you have any professional experience, you likely have a lot of the skills required to succeed in tech. Non-technical skills such as problem-solving, analytical thinking, communications, and working on multiple projects at once are all critical to tech companies. Volunteering and participating in other organizations can also help you get these skills. Highlight these transferable skills in your resume and during an interview.
Start working toward a career in tech
The tech industry is exciting, with positions that are perfect for people of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds. Even so, it is still an emerging field. Do not let a lack of experience keep you from achieving your goal of landing a job in tech.
Building a profile on GitHub, finding freelance clients, and working on solo projects to build a portfolio can help you get the experience tech companies are looking for during an interview. At the same time, taking online courses from educational platforms such as Coursera can help you get the educational background that you need to break into the tech industry successfully.