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How to break into the IT industry

How to break into the IT industry

In this article, KRCS, a premium reseller of Apple products and accessories, looks at how job seekers can break into the IT industry.
 

The digital world is changing at an unprecedented rate, and IT skills are more in-demand than ever. Many people looking for jobs in the tech industry may wonder how they could possibly secure a job in this field, sometimes without any previous experience.

IT usually covers the design, development and management of computer software, hardware and networks. Most IT roles require people who can communicate effectively with customers, suppliers and colleagues. For some job roles, you will need a degree in IT, maths, science or engineering, although you may be able to enter more business-focused careers (for example IT consultancy) with a degree in any discipline.

For jobs in programming, network support, technical support, database administration, computer and network security, and website development you will need certified technical skills.

Having said that, graduate study is not essential. A degree does give you an advantage in the job market, but if your first degree is not in IT there are still things you can do. In this post, we will explore some tips and hints to help you stand out.

Transferrable Skills

If you’re looking to break into a completely new industry, you may feel at a loss. When looking for jobs in tech, it sometimes seems as though you need to be proficient in several programming languages to even be considered for a job. However, this is not the case, many people go into professions that may seem unrelated to their degree or previous experience.

But you’re guaranteed to have some sort of transferrable skills under your belt already, whether this comes from previous work experience, volunteering, education, or even just from your day-to-day life. There will be something you can use in your application. This is not to say that other skills become unnecessary, but many people undervalue themselves when it comes to their soft skills.

One major soft skill is communication, which is often underestimated when it comes to job applications. It may seem cliché, but good communication skills are essential for any job that involves other people, which is most jobs! According to Jobvite’s 2016 Recruiting Survey, 73% of employers regard good conversational skills as an important characteristic when interviewing candidates. Whether it be a presentation, group work, or customer outreach, communicating is an essential skill. For example, if the job you’re applying to is in the IT department of a larger company that is not very tech-savvy as a whole, you might find yourself having to explain and ‘translate’ technical jargon to your co-workers.

Top tip - anyone can say they have great communication skills. To really stand out to employers, you need to prove it. Think of a time you really put those skills to use - perhaps when you gave a presentation to an audience or spoke publicly (this could be to 3 people, 300 people, or more!).

Nowadays, technology is present in almost every part of our day-to-day lives. While this may seem intimidating to some, it could mean more opportunities for others. Some of the more specialised skills that you already have in one field could transfer into the tech industry more easily than you might think. For example, a fashion student with an interest in tech would be invaluable in developing wearable tech; a stay-at-home parent may have better ideas for new Smart Home devices than an IT specialist.

Work Experience 

Gaining work experience will help you when it comes to securing a job. Many IT-related degrees include industrial placements, during which you can develop the skills that employers are looking for. Alternatively, you can find placements and internships (short and long term) advertised on company websites and job sites. To increase your chances of securing a job it is a good idea to continually improve your skills and keep them up to date.

Get Certified

To increase your chances of securing a job, it is a good idea to continually improve your skills and keep them up to date. There are many different short courses and certifications available, while joining a professional body will give you access to networking opportunities and industry standard qualifications. You need to show that you mean business.

Improve Your Skill Set

As stated at the beginning of this article, programming languages aren’t the be-all and end-all of finding a job in tech. However, some knowledge may be necessary, depending on the job. There are many websites that teach basic coding, many of them free. A few of the most popular sites are:

  • www.codecademy.com
  • www.khanacademy.org
  • www.futurelearn.com
  • www.edx.org
     

Not only do these sites provide you with new and valuable skills, it also shows motivation and initiative to take action, which is another desirable trait that employers look for.

Do It Yourself

While knowledge of IT certainly matters, the real bottom line for hiring managers is what you can do. This could be why so many entry level IT jobs still expect their candidates to have experience. You need a way to show employers that you can walk the walk. Nothing is stopping you from starting tinkering and building something.

Getting your hands dirty on projects at home will allow you to hone your skills without the fear of damaging a company’s expensive investment. Once you feel comfortable with your own equipment, expand your services to your friends or family.

Networking

As with any job, it’s sometimes just as much about who you know as what you know. It’s a good idea to research events relevant to your desired field. If this isn’t possible for you, don’t worry - there are plenty of well-known and influential websites and forums that you can actively participate in. Not only will this help to build connections, it will also improve your knowledge of the field.

Never underestimate the power of meeting in person—especially in the tech industry. IT is a surprisingly collaborative field, so candidates who can represent their ability to connect with other professionals will succeed.

Top tip - dropping a comment like “my mentor suggested…” in a job interview will stand out from candidates who go it alone.

Technical CV

Don’t forget you will need an IT CV, also known as a technical CV. This can be used to apply for many roles such as web developer, IT consultant, software tester or applications developer. If you don’t have one, your competition will. Include an introductory paragraph which mentions your technical expertise and experience and incorporate a 'key skills' heading which will allow for more detail when discussing technical competencies. As with any CV, ensure that you highlight relevant skills first and foremost.

Have Realistic Expectations

It’s important to have realistic expectations about the kind of positions available to you at this stage - you may have to aim lower initially and build up your experience from there. But you’d be surprised how far the skills you already have can take you and just how many opportunities there are for you to break into the tech industry.

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