How to Land Your First Job in Tech
Despite the abundance of tech startups, getting a job in the industry can be tricky. Perhaps you've sent numerous applications but aren't getting anywhere, or you struggle to get past the interview process? You could be missing a few simple tricks! SuperHi teacher Louise Bishop has compiled some handy resources and key tips to give you the best chance of standing out and landing that dream role.
Firstly, before diving into the details, it's important to understand the different roles that exist in tech. What type of work do you want to be doing? You can find more info about your chosen career path below:
Once you've read up on your chosen area, follow these steps in order to put yourself in the best position to get hired...
Create a personal brand online
Building a personal brand online helps employers find out who you are and what you're about. Most employers in the tech industry will Google you before inviting you for an interview, so it's a good idea to populate the web with some searchable content that will show up and show off all of your skills. Before applying for any job, prep your personal brand online by following these steps:
Start by creating a CV using a template on Canva, or, if you're going for a design role, use a design tool like Figma or Adobe InDesign to show off (and practice) your skills.
If you're using Canva, stick to the template, the sections are there to guide you
Only add relevant work or school experience
Update your CV for each company you apply for, mirroring the skills in the job description
Add a photo of yourself – companies want to know who you are
Keep fonts/color schemes simple and sleek
Keep spacing even
Add a link to your portfolio or work
Get feedback from someone you trust before you send out your cv, especially if spelling/grammar isn't your strong point
2. Add any existing work to relevant online sites, demonstrating projects you've created or worked on.
Making a portfolio of your work can be great fun. It can also be time consuming. It's really easy to get carried away trying to make things look perfect. But, if you're going for an entry-level tech role, it's important to get something out there to represent who you are and the work you've done - even if all you have to show off is side projects, or the portfolio site itself. If you're in a hurry, you can use a site builder to help you get started while you work on building something from scratch. Some good no-code solutions are:
Wix (free, but not the best when it comes to SEO)
Squarespace (better, but paid)
Remember, your portfolio should demonstrate your skills, personality and interests. Skillcrush has a good guide on what to include. Your domain name (the bit you type in) should be your full name to match the rest of your brand, e.g. www.louisebishop.squarespace.com or www.louisebishop.wixsite.com
In an ideal world you'll design and build your portfolio from scratch, starting by designing it first, getting inspiration from sites like Awwwards and Site Inspire. If you've never used design software, try sketching your ideas out with pen and paper (we all have to start somewhere!).
At this point it's a good idea to do some research into how you might go about building your design too. Find some tutorials you can follow and bookmark them for later. You can even try our free course on how to Plan, Design & Code your first website for some great tips.
Don't be afraid to keep things simple if you've not got much development experience. If you design something really complex that looks amazing, but is beyond your current skill level, include it in your portfolio as a project instead and simplify it slightly for your build. Work is never wasted!
Lots of people fall into the trap of never finishing their portfolio (me included) by striving for perfection, but having a portfolio online can really help increase your chances of being hired. Sometimes done is better than perfect.
4. Create a Twitter account using your full name and follow companies that you're interested in working with. "Like" or retweet some of their tweets, and also tweet a few articles you find interesting that are related to your chosen career path. The idea behind this is to create another searchable profile filled with things you like from the industry you are trying to break into. If you see another user posting about their work, give them feedback. Employers want someone who is active in the tech community.
5. Create a LinkedIn account and follow companies you're interested in working with. Also fill out your profile adding your skills, experience and interests. Remember to sell yourself and enable the #OpenToWork feature so that recruiters will find you.
6. Write a blog post on something you're interested in or a topic involving your chosen career path and post it on Medium.com. Remember to use your full name here too!
7. Write down your own personal story somewhere (pen and paper is fine, or Word). Include the things that have made you, you. Use your struggles and triumphs to explain the things you're interested in. Be passionate and authentic. Practice reading this out loud and get comfortable with it, then ask someone to review it and give you honest feedback. This step will help you when networking and during interviews.
8. Support others. You never know when your feedback could open a door to someone interesting who could help you with your career.
How to network (even in a pandemic)
Building your network is really important – you never know who could be your next boss. When you're meeting new people, I recommend asking them for advice on how to get into the industry. Ask them about their journey, how they got employed and what they do in their day job. You can ask if they have any job openings, but try to do this after you've created a relationship with them by asking a few questions. Remember to be polite, enthusiastic and interested.
You can always pair up with someone if you're nervous doing this by yourself. Ask a friend to join, or even better, find someone who can mentor you.
These are good places to network:
1. Join some online (or in-person) events using Meetup. Choose an event that people who work in your chosen industry may attend. Although you might not be in the same room as people, you'll be surprised at the relationships you can create just by chatting over the web. Remember to look presentable, turn your camera on and smile – body language cues and social dynamics can be slightly different online than in person, so speak up, make an impression and get yourself heard.
2. Go to job fairs specifically for your industry. Silicon Milk Roundabout is a great place to find companies who are currently hiring. Even if you can't attend the event, it's good to get familiar with what's out there. Make sure you follow the companies on Twitter and LinkedIn too. Treat yourself like a brand – you want to try and make contact with a company you want to work for six times before you even apply!
3. Join an online community like SuperHi! Our Slack community is very active with designers, coders and thousands of other creatives who give feedback and share ideas, articles and resources with each other. Initiatives like our accountability club, women + non-binary online meet-ups and peer mentorships also offer opportunities to meet with other professionals who you could end up working with someday.
How to apply for jobs
Remember, don't apply for a job until you've followed the steps above – they'll help you go into this step with confidence. There are generally two ways of finding a job:
Using a recruiter or recruitment site
This can work, but you will often be going for roles with lots of competition. Your CV will be vetted by the recruitment agency and they will pass it on to the company you're applying to, so you need to make sure you stand out amongst a large pile of CVs. Also note that many, many, tech companies don't use recruitment agencies, so you'll miss out on some great roles if you only use this approach.
2. Find and create opportunities yourself by going direct to a company
I recommend making your own opportunities. Think about what you're interested in. Food? Animals? Sports? All of these companies have tech departments. Try writing out a list of companies you would like to work for and why. Next, follow them on social media and make contact, then find their website and careers page.
Don't be afraid to apply for jobs you feel under-qualified for.
You can send an email with a nice explanation of who you are, and which skills you have, and ask if they have any junior roles or opportunities for work experience or apprenticeships. Be creative in your approach!
Some good job boards for tech roles are:
Tech Ladies (those identifying as women only)
Remember to update your CV and tailor it to each specific job posting. You should also write a cover letter where necessary including:
What you love about the company you're applying to
Why you're good for the role
How your beliefs/interests match theirs
How excited you are at the possibility of working with them
Above all else, companies want someone friendly, who they can sit next to (or Zoom with) frequently. So try and get your personality across in your writing.
The #opportunities channel on our Slack is a place where SuperHi staff and fellow students share job posts too so it's often worth being part of an online community for this reason too.
Be enthusiastic about the company, the role and yourself
Do your homework. Research the company. What's their mission? Why did they start? What do they do?
Be honest. Don't be afraid if they ask you a question you don't know. Reply with "I'm not sure about that right now, but I can't wait to learn". Always try and end on a positive note.
Sell yourself. Practice your personal story. What makes you unique and perfect for the role you're being interviewed for? Don't be afraid to tweak your personal brand to suit each company you're applying to.
Ask questions. Questions are a great way to show your enthusiasm. Make sure to come prepared with one or two questions.
Don't be late. People are busy and it's a terrible first impression. If you often run late, pretend your interview is an hour earlier than it is.
Don't dress inappropriately. Look the company up online. What does everyone seem to wear? Suits or smart casual? A lot of tech companies don't have a dress code but it's important to check.
Don't get your phone out. It's tempting to fiddle with it, which can come across as rude.
Don't have poor body language. Try to not sit with your arms crossed, even if you're nervous. Lie your palms on your legs or put your hands by your side and take a deep breath.
Don't discuss money immediately. You don't want the employer to think that's all your interested in. Save questions about money until the end of the interview, or contact them afterwards to ask.
Don't swear – even if the person interviewing you does! It's good to be on your best behaviour when you first meet someone.
Louise has been teaching people how to make websites and iPhone apps for the last seven years. As a teacher at SuperHi, she writes courses and content for you to learn from. Originally from the UK, but often elsewhere, you’ll find her surfing, cooking, organising fun and helping people. If you’re stuck on something tech-based or otherwise, say hi.