Tips for getting a job in technology (even without a background in tech!)

There’s something in tech to match every personality!

Coding is just one part of the product journey — there’s user experience (UX), analysis, design, sales, testing (QA), project management, product marketing and more — take a look around and find what suits you.

Follow people and companies on Twitter and Medium etc. to understand the field better.

Build the right skills

Once you’ve decided the area(s) you want to work in, look at job adverts and see what they’re asking for. Learn the skills and incorporate them into whatever you’re doing at the time — then you can get them on your CV. Think of transferable skills too. You rarely need a Computer Science degree to get an interview.

Sites like General Assembly Dash, SoloLearn and Coding Academy can get you a long way in learning to code for free. You can learn about pretty much any discipline for free online — and indeed I still do, even when I’m on the job.

Broaden yourself

This is where you have to look at yourself honestly. Not very confident? Take up acting. Get a bit tongue-tied? Go to a public speaking class. TED talks can help with just about anything! Treat yourself like a project, you don’t have to settle with what you’ve got. Well-rounded people are in great demand!

Take what’s available

There’s so much on offer for free or cheap. Get your CV checked over by a pro. Get a mentor. Look at conferences, events, meetups, networks, Slack groups and clubs in your town/university.

StartUp Weekends (), hackathons, Meet Ups (meetup.com), university mentoring schemes, UX talks, coding clubs and digital networks on Slack are some I’ve come across. You’ll learn so much by getting involved.

Bonus points: see if you can help out, not just attend.

Be interesting

Involved in any of the above? Write a blog? Huge twitter following? Organised a charity event? Introduced a new process during your internship? Talk about it on your CV and in interviews. Tech needs personality! Basically: do good stuff and write about it.

There’s a lot of ‘same old same old’ in tech, use that to your advantage. The companies that are worth working for relish different backgrounds and outlooks — it makes for better tech!

Be bold

Especially women — you can’t be counted if you don’t raise your hand! According to Lean In, men apply for jobs when they have 60% of the criteria and women wait for 100%. So even if a woman has 70%, she’s still potentially ahead of the game in a male-dominated field!

So apply for the job, you’ve got nothing to lose. Include things you’re not too great at (don’t outright lie). It’s rare to find people who are great at every single skill on a job application — personality, enthusiasm and drive count for a lot! Other bonus skills are communication, problem-solving, empathy and willingness to learn. Have an example of when you learnt something quickly, it’s got me through some difficult scenarios!

Get experience

Find local companies, offer to work for free as an intern for a month or one day a week for 6 months — whatever fits. Just being part of office or agency life will put you ahead of other graduates or school leavers.

Make things

Game-changer alert! Any relevant things will do even if they’re not directly related to the job type you’re applying for — websites, designs, wireframes, start up concepts, sales pitches. They don’t have to be industry standard or even real projects, but you will learn loads from doing this, you’ll have something to talk about in interviews, you’ll show you’re proactive and you’ll learn to critique your own work. Crucially, you can practise the skills in those jobs adverts. Get them in an online collection (e.g. WordPress portfolio, PDF) and link in your CV.

If you can’t think of your own ideas, then demonstrate how you’d rework something current (NB make this clear), even if it’s just a screenshot of a website with your arrows and text on it, and a paragraph of explanation.

Bonus tip: a lot of people want a basic online presence without paying much (e.g. clubs, religious groups, local plumbers) — you just need to ask around.

Critique everything

Your own work definitely, but also every piece of tech you browse or use. What’s good, what’s bad, what’s annoying, what’s difficult, what’s ugly and how would you improve it?

Persevere

You may well get knockbacks. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and learn from it.

When I was starting out, I was told by one job agent to keep web design as a hobby (based on my lack of experience). I felt crushed, but I didn’t give up and I’ve used these tips to forge a good career in the tech world.

Summary

Although you may feel like you’re out of your depth right now, you really have the power to increase your chances, and smash that application and interview! You just need to take the initiative to do it!

Click for your free copy of The Women in Technology Edit

Tejay White

Tejay White

Tejay is the Product Owner for ebs ontrack, our suite of online portals in FE. She sets the vision for the products, and looks at ways to make them more dynamic and engaging. She is also a volunteer instructor for CodeFirst: Girls, teaching beginners’ web coding to female students at Sheffield University, to help encourage them into technology careers. She has also recently been accepted on a scheme called Northern Voices which aims to get more female technology professionals represented at conferences and in the media. See http://technorthhq.com/programmes/northern-voices/ for details and bookings!

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