Getting a tech job or freelancing in technology and communications can be a grueling simply because these are such broad sectors. It’s difficult to pinpoint what skills and experiences will be beneficial during the application, interview and employment stages of a tech job. That being said, here are a few simple rules that every aspiring technology aficionado should follow to guarantee success in landing a tech job.
1. Don’t list Microsoft Office as a skill if you don’t actually know how to use it.
Compared to past generations, most young professionals can easily figure their way around Microsoft Office. But there is a big difference between writing an essay in Microsoft Word and being able to format a beautiful, professional-looking document. The same is true for Microsoft Powerpoint, which is a very popular tool in both the private and public sectors. Unfortunately, the biggest dichotomy exists with Microsoft Excel. Putting together a spreadsheet or a table in which you manually entered or dragged around data sets does not count as knowing Microsoft Excel. Studying with engineering students during my last semester, I was stunned to hear that so many did not reap the full benefits that Excel could provide to such a technical discipline. As young professionals, take the time to experiment with the inner-workings of these programs before you place them on your resume for a tech job. Who knows when you might need to create optimization models and basic algorithms in the workplace?
2. Don’t claim that you’re a social media guru (unless you actually are one).
Out of the near 3,000 people who have grazed my Facebook friend list, I consider 5 to be true social media gurus. They’re the first to update on current events, they skim through underground blogs to promote fresh-off-the-press music, and they frequently tag their subscribers in posts to establish a sense of community. Unless you are thoroughly immersed in all the mainstream social media channels there is no reason to claim social media superiority. Most often, there is a sense of entitlement that comes with managing more than one account, but if the majority of your updates are ‘humble brags’ carrying undertones of inebriated tomfoolery, you should rethink the label.
3. Don’t fall Behind on Tech Trends.
Don’t forget to keep current with the wonderful world of technology. Wired, Techcrunch and Mashable are great places to start when searching for new topics to share while standing ‘round the water cooler.
4. Don’t Forget to Research the Company.
This seems like an obvious point to make, but do some background research before applying for a tech job. It will not only benefit you during interviews, but it will also let you size up your skills to see whether or not you will be able to perform in the role.
5. Have a Portfolio Ready.
Most employers will ask you to provide samples of your work, such as a website you’ve coded or a poster you’ve designed. Ensure you have proud pieces that exhibit your talent. If you don’t have a portfolio, perhaps take on a few freelance jobs or do some creative work for friends. Do this as soon as possible, because rushing to compile a portfolio for a job interview is stressful and time-consuming. A portfolio is something that shouldn’t be hasty, but should develop organically, much like settling into a new apartment.
6. Invest in Yourself.
Preferably, your portfolio will be hosted on a website which is your own URL. And this must be emphasized: time to drop the yourname.blogspot.com addresses, people! Nothing turns off an employer or a colleague like visiting a website which has URL composed of 29+ characters. Remember, it’s perfectly fine to use a WordPress template; not everyone is a PHP developer. But for your own sake, invest $22 in purchasing a personal domain and server space for the year.
7. Brand yourself.
Create a sense of uniformity between your social networks, personal website and resume/business cards. Having a universal feel for your different channels speaks volumes. It automatically says that you’re organized and put together, and that you can think with a marketing perspective. This can be achieved through something as simple as assigning the same colour scheme to all of your material, or using similar backgrounds for your various social media outlets.
8. Utilize Your Resources.
Nowadays, everyone has a friend who is a graphic designer or photographer, either professionally or casually. Utilize these resources and take professional photographs for your LinkedIn account and your website. Ask your friends for help in designing simple business cards. If you’re really looking to get noticed, create a dynamic PDF resume. These resumes are visually stimulating and low on words, but can link to your website or social networks with the click of a mouse. These links are often filled with a more in-depth analysis of your work history; leaving your resume nice and clean, not tainted by a cumbersome word count
Even if it’s just a little bit. Many employers ask for sample writing pieces that aren’t jargon heavy, so you will need to have something that wasn’t produced for your undergraduate thesis class.
You could be well on your way to becoming the next Gates or Jobs, so don’t let minor mistakes and missed details get in your way to your dream tech job. Follow these tips, and you will avoid some of the most common errors that we make in the early stages of our careers.