FINALLY! Kickstart Your Tech Career Journey

FINALLY! Kickstart Your Tech Career Journey

While the tech space has been growing quickly all over the world. finding a way forward and landing that first job in tech can be frustrating and difficult, to say the least. 

Most people don’t really have much idea as to where they should start.

That’s because this field evolves much faster than all other fields. 

We thought we’d help make these months a tad easier for job hunters by sharing some insights, tips and lessons that might help in breaking into a new tech career. 

1. Learn how to talk ‘tech’

Those looking to find a job in tech should begin their journey by trying their best to pick up the language and vocabulary of this sector - as well as any terms specific to the industries that they’re gunning for a job in (i.e. e-commerce, fintech, legaltech, insurtech, etc.) 

To start off, do your best to gain a basic understanding of core concepts that are related to the functional make-up of a typical tech company (i.e. What are the different teams in a typical start-up or established company? What exactly do these different teams do? What are the inter-team relationships that exist and how do team-members cooperate to get their product to market?). Once you gain a clearer lay of the land when it comes to how companies work, beginning to take beginner steps towards learning more sector and product-specific terminology (i.e. cloudSoftware-as-a-Service (SaaS) or freemium) can definitely help. 

Of course, the exact terminology you’ll need to know will depend on the specific role you’re looking to land and the sector you’re looking to break into. For example, an aspiring Product Manager will want to know what a sprintwireframe and a user session is - while someone applying for a sales role should have knowledge about prospectingdiscovery, closing and pricing models that help get a sale through.

In addition to key terms of reference, there are concepts which take little time to learn but go a long way in increasing your knowledge of what a company that you’re interested in working for is really about. To do this, you’ll want to learn things like a product’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP and key features - as well as the company’s competitors and clients.

This begs the question (which we’ve heard asked from past candidates): should one learn the language of tech on their own - or can one be expected to receive training from their new employer?

Our usual recommendation is “Learn the words and terms specific to the field and position you’re applying to before you walk into your first interview.” 

Why? While some companies may be more generous than others and give you time to learn on the company’s dime, most firms (particularly start-ups with limited resources) will have a strong expectation that you hit the ground running immediately with minimal handholding and guidance. 

So unless you have a unique individual skill that puts you lightyears ahead of other candidates, our recommendation is that you learn the key terms of reference and basic language of tech before beginning the outreach portion of your search. 

2. Master + Own the free tools that companies are using before you’ve even interviewed.

The tech industry changes quickly - and the tools companies use to help their teams get work done collaboratively is no exception. While many start-ups have been using the following tools for a number of years, those coming from slower-moving industries or more traditional corporate environments should make sure they familiarize themselves with the products below:

Slack: It’s safe to say that at many companies Slack has upended email as the primary mode of internal communication. If you haven’t used Slack, it’s an instant messaging app on steroids: you can share files, run conference calls, create polls, and integrate with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. And this is just the tip of the iceberg - you can see the full list of Slack capabilities here and here

Zoom: A powerful video conferencing platform, Zoom allows you to join meetings directly in your browser and negating the need to download and run software separately like Skype (though you can do this if you wish). Perhaps its most impressive feature is its ability to support up to 1000 video participants and built-in real-time collaboration tools.

Google Docs: While the Microsoft Office suite of applications have their own distinct and powerful advantages (particularly Excel), the vast majority of daily document creation and analytical needs can be amply met by Google’s free cloud-based Docs suite. The free package includes a word processor (Docs), Slides (slide show) and Sheets (spreadsheet). Its main attraction is the ability to collaborate and edit documents in real-time with colleagues, as well as the ability to retrieve and work on your files from any device.

Hubspot: A swiss-army knife of sorts, Hubspot integrates the functionality you would normally find in several separate platforms. Originally conceived as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, it now includes features that allow a company to create and track marketing campaigns as well as a customer service function (such as the creation and tracking of support tickets). Simple and plain, these tools are the bread and butter of how sales professionals in tech keep track of their leads, tasks, contacts and overall results. Learning to master this tool is a must in tech and will add to your ability to impress upon employers that your ramp up time will be much shorter than other candidates. 

3. Use Your Soft Skills - They Matter!

Has anyone here graduated with a non-technical degree (i.e. arts, social sciences) ? Do you remember constantly being told that your soft skills would come in handy ‘someday’? If this pretty much describes you, we’ve got some great news – today is your day and a career in tech is a very real possibility for you (if you’d like it to be)! The underlying soft skills that gor you through that degree are in high demand in tech. The soft ‘business’ skills that make up a core part of sales, marketing, project management and operations roles in tech are the types of skills that companies in major tech hubs are actively hunting for.  

4. Get your pitch on….a lot 

Part of putting yourself out there professionally in an industry with tons of new opportunities includes mastering the dreaded yet super important art of pitching. If you ask any recruiter they will tell you that the hardest product or idea to pitch is hands down yourself. Getting good at articulating how you can help a company grow and succeed, what rare skills and abilities you bring to the table as a potential hire and why you’re passionate about their solution, will help elevate your interview game to new heights and leave a lasting impression with the team reviewing your job app. 

If you’re changing industries or have a less traditional professional background, perfecting your ability to pitch yourself is a must. Why? When employers hire someone from an outside industry, they are plain and simple taking a risk. To help them de-risk the process of hiring you, your pitch can act as a powerful tool that puts all of their trepidations about hiring someone from outside the industry to rest.  

One of the less talked about ways to get really good at this is do it in front of people that aren’t in your immediate circle or network. Pitching in front of a crowd that doesn't know you that well but works in the sector that you’re gunning to work in can be a transformative experience. The main value that these individuals bring when it comes to helping you improve your pitch is that they are less likely to pad their feedback down with niceties or pleasantries. Blunt and honest feedback is essential to improving your personal pitch and value proposition. There is no better way to get this feedback than by moving outside your usual circle and comfort zone to hear from new professionals that will give you exactly that. 

If you’re looking for some resources on sharpening your pitch, check out:

5. Get thoughtful, crafty + personal 

Thoughtful

This is going to sound super obvious but one of the most underestimated tools in every job-hunter’s toolkit is thoughtfulness. When an employer sees that you’ve put the time and effort into learning about their company, solution and culture, they are more willing to spend the extra time getting to know you and why you want to work for them. Skimming over the materials that you send an employer in an effort to send out as many CVs, CoverLetters and LinkedIn messages is something that repels even the most junior of hiring managers. To skip the queue and get noticed, try spending the time creating a package of materials that firstly, expresses who you are as a professional versus a job seeker (i.e. what are your values, what is your abbreviated story of how you got to where you are), second, shows off your skills in communicating your value ad to the company you’re courting, and thirdly, demonstrates why you have the right skills to succeed in the job role.  

Crafty

Craftiness and resourcefulness are traits that are praised by employers irrespective of the industry that they are part of. Finding out what kind of person you are meeting with the morning or afternoon of your interview and igniting conversation around ‘who they are as a person’ versus ‘what you need from them’ can be a great first step in building rapport and sparking interest in what YOU can do for THEM.

Check out the link below for some examples of ways to help yourself stand out. Exercise caution in applying the first one as our recommendation is always to get very good at keeping it simple before experimenting with new CV formats.

Personal

“...People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.” - Brene Brown

It has not always been the case, but today there is greater acceptance of the idea that getting personal and, in some ways, displaying an openness to greater vulnerability can be a huge asset in showcasing your professional self. Remember, we are all human and stories more often move us than straight facts. 

Now, we’d like to add a disclaimer here that this DOES NOT mean: breaking down and launching into a monologue that reveals every personal fact or moment of adversity that you have faced in your life. It also does not mean sharing way too much information about your victories and/or triumphs. Getting personal in an interview should involve the use of one story or moment that moves beyond your formal work experience to make a point about who you are as a professional. The best way we’ve seen this power leveraged is in discussing how a specific experience taught you something and/or made you into a stronger/weaker person. If this is something that you think you might want to try, please first read the below resources on how to do this well:

6. Don’t go at this alone. Build out your corner of champions + experts

“It's not what you know, it's who you know...” - Every Career Counselor Ever

We’ve all heard this age-old saying but not as many job-seekers looking to begin a career in tech take it as seriously as they should. It's true that the tech space has many companies but when it comes down to it our tech community represents a small world where many that you meet both know and talk to one another. So what exactly does this mean for you and your job search?! Put simply, it means that by building new relationships in this community, you can very quickly begin to establish a network that will help you learn the ropes and have your back when it comes to keeping you informed of new opportunities.

So where do you start to make this happen?

First, take out a piece of blank paper and think very hard about who you know that might have some idea about the tech-related job or industry that you’re trying to enter. If you don’t get any inspiration or if you are blazing a brand new trail with a low number of contacts, it's time to use that powerful tool that helps job-seekers build their networks quickly - LinkedIn. Search for individuals that are inspiring and doing work in tech that you want to eventually be doing. Jot their names down and hit the ground running with reaching out for coffees and phone calls to learn more about what they do and how they got to where they are? Make sure that in this mix you include at least 3 names who work on the HR side of tech.

After mapping out some names, and reaching out for coffees, move on to people who more generally have your back when it comes to knowing about you, your passions, and most importantly, writing references. Let them know that you’re looking to take on a new career path.  

7. Use the tools to set you apart + give structure to your search.

You’ll want to make sure you find ways to organize and structure things so that you can go about your search in the most efficient way possible. This includes setting a schedule for reaching out to contacts, organizing the research you’ve done on industries or companies (a spreadsheet is great for this) and exploring the most effective platforms to link up with potential employers. 

You can also consider finding friends or acquaintances to conduct mock interviews with you. This is a great way to get real-world practice and feedback in a fail-safe environment. Ideally those who you do mock interviews with you are already working in tech, and are as a result, able to offer industry-specific feedback on your interview performance. However, if you don’t know anyone in the industry, practicing interviews with someone who doesn’t work in tech will still give you valuable observations on important aspects of your interview like body language, tone of voice and your ability to clearly present your story. Using recruitment agencies to help hone your skills in this area are also a great tool.

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