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5 Steps for Getting Your First Job in Tech

Industry Advice Computing and IT

In June of 2019, there were more than 700,000 tech jobs open the United States, and not enough qualified workers to fill those roles. For individuals who have the knowledge and skills that companies are looking for, it’s a great time to be searching for a job in tech.

If you’re considering pursuing a tech-focused career, there are a number of steps that you can take to improve your chances of landing the job of your dreams. Below, we’ve outlined the five most essential steps you should take to prepare yourself to work in tech.

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Whether you have a technical or non-technical background, here’s what you need to know.


How to Get a Job in Tech

1. Start by setting goals.

Because “tech” encompasses so many different careers and impacts virtually every industry or sector of the economy, it isn’t enough to simply know that you want to work in tech. It’s important that you fully understand all of your various options so that you can choose a particular goal (or goals) to work toward.

What kind of work do you want to do? What kind of company do you want to work for? Have you considered the different tech careers available to you? Do you have a certain salary in mind? Knowing the answers to these questions will be essential in determining your unique path forward, so it’s important that you take the time to think about them early in your journey.

2. Develop your hard skills.

In order to have a successful career in tech, there are certain hard skills (also called technical skills) that you will need to learn and continuously improve upon. One of the most essential hard skills is your ability to read, write, and understand code.

If you are new to coding, there are steps that you can take to improve your skills. These include:

  • Staying on top of recent developments in the field by reading books, articles, and other free sources of information
  • Signing up for a bootcamp or workshop
  • Practicing as much as possible
  • Finding a mentor
  • Pursuing formal education

Additionally, you will likely need to leverage other hard skills depending upon your career. Understanding what type of work you would like to do (and setting related goals) will help you further identify which skills to prioritize. For example, someone who would like to eventually work in data science or analytics would likely want to prioritize developing their analytical skills, while someone interested in developing UI might focus on developing their design skills. 

According to a recent report conducted by LinkedIn, the top in-demand technical skills sought by employers include cloud computing, artificial intelligence, analytical reasoning, and mobile application development, all of which are likely to be learned more effectively by pursuing formal education than by trying to learn them on your own. 

3. Don’t forget about your soft skills.

Hard skills are obviously an important part of working in tech. But while it may be tempting to focus all of your efforts solely on developing these technical skills, it’s also important to take the time to develop your soft skills as well.

Sometimes called people skills and social skills, the term soft skills refers to how you interact with those around you. Being able to work on a team, develop relationships, and communicate effectively are all examples of soft skills that those interested in working in tech should develop. These skills may be essential to efficiently performing the duties of your role, especially for individuals who want to one day work in a position of leadership. 

Soft skills are also critical during the interview process. In addition to considering your technical prowess, hiring managers will also use the interview to gauge your personality so that they can determine how well you would mesh with—or clash with—the other members of the team.

4. Gain hands-on experience.

Whether or not you have experience, using your technical skills to address real-world business problems will be one consideration that a hiring manager uses to determine whether or not to hire you for a role. If you have already spent some time working in tech, then it’s easy enough to point to your previous positions to demonstrate your ability. But how should you go about gaining this experience if you are applying for your first job in the field?

There are a number of potential paths forward. If you are currently enrolled in college, it is strongly advised that you take part in an internship or co-op that will allow you to put your education into practice. In addition to exposing you to potential employers, this will help you build a portfolio of work that you can point to in the future during an application or interview.

Already out of school? Consider pursuing a passion project, volunteering to perform a technical task related to your career interests for a local charity, or starting a freelance business that will again allow you to build up a portfolio that you can reference in the future. 

5. Build your professional network.

One of the best ways to increase your chances of being hired for a job is to consciously take steps to expand your professional network. 

Connecting with others who do the work you would like to do or who work at companies you would like to work at can be incredibly beneficial to your career prospects, for a number of reasons. In addition to modeling what a successful career trajectory in tech might look like, these individuals can also help you get a foot in the door by notifying you of open positions and acting as references. 

If you’re new to the idea of networking, start by thinking small. Updating your LinkedIn profile, connecting with former classmates, professors, and employers, and attending tech-focused conferences are all great ways to begin building your network.

How Earning a Computer Science Degree Can Help

While it is certainly possible to get an entry-level job in tech having only earned a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s degree in computer science or a related field will make applying to jobs easier—and is often required to move into more senior-level positions. 

Beyond simply being a credential for potential employers to reference while evaluating your ability to do the job, earning your MS in CS will help you accomplish all of the steps outlined above much more efficiently than if you were to pursue them on your own. 

The Align Master of Science in Computer Science program at Northeastern University is designed specifically to help students without a technical background break into the field, focusing on teaching students the hard and soft skills necessary for success. Industry-sourced faculty members offer valuable insight into the challenges facing today’s professionals and become a valuable network of connections after graduation, while an array of experiential learning opportunities enable students to put their education into practice. 

Are you considering pursuing a career in tech? Learn more about how earning a Master of Science in Computer Science from Northeastern University’s Align program can help you reach your goals, or download our free ebook below.

Download Our Free Guide to Breaking into Computer Science