How to Kickstart a Career in the Tech Industry
To celebrate the fantastic digital skills seen throughout Leeds, Plusnet has sponsored a new documentary called ‘The City Talking: Tech in Leeds’, which premiered at Leeds Dock, last night. From large companies to ambitious start-ups, Yorkshire has award-winning digital work coming out of its ears, and becoming a part of it is easier than you might think.
There’ll always be a place for the web development geniuses, but getting an IT degree is not always essential when it comes to working in the tech industry. You no longer need an in-depth understanding of coding and hardware to get a job in the world of digital, as more companies than ever are now looking for people who can write, design, and edit content for social media, PR, and blogging purposes. The tech industry is also the fastest growing job market in the UK, with 1.56 million new jobs created in 2015 - nearly three times the rest of the economy.
We spoke with Sarah Burgoyne, who recently graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in Hospitality & Management, and now works as a Social Media Executive for 123 Print. She talked us through her first-hand experience of getting a job outside of her degree subject and what you need to keep in mind if you want to make your way into the technology industry, but don’t have a wealth of experience under your belt:
Nurture Your Transferable Skills
No matter what kind of educational or professional background you have, the chances are you will have developed a range of transferable skills that recruiters in the IT sector will be looking for. Careers advice website, Prospects, identifies six key areas that will help when applying for a graduate or entry level position, all of which you’ll probably already have some degree of experience in. They are:
- Commercial awareness
- Communication and teamwork
- Creativity and innovation
- Problem-solving and analytics
- Project management
- Knowledge of technology trends
Many university courses give you an opportunity to work as part of, or even lead, a team of your peers. Take this opportunity to develop skills in delegation and diplomacy, and use any presentations you deliver to improve your verbal communication. Technology is an industry that is built on teamwork and cross-department communication, so make the most of each opportunity you get to improve these skills.
“I didn’t realise it at the time, but I learnt so many transferable skills whilst studying at university. Anyone who is currently a student, or has been a student, will understand the importance of deadlines – whether it’s for an assignment or a project, you always have multiple tasks which need completing on time. This has greatly improved my organisational skills, which are crucial when working in a fast paced environment as a graduate. The pressure of having multiple deadlines and numerous assignments helped me prepare for the workplace, meaning I can now easily prioritise tasks and meet my goals.” – Sarah
Make Your Current Role More Technical
If you’re considering a move into the tech industry from a completely different background, try finding side projects within your current role that can give you a little bit of experience first. This could involve taking a critical look at the user experience of your company’s website, simple database management or even working with your company’s social media profiles to help build up their online audience. By seeking new opportunities, and pointing them out to your management, you’re also showing the proactive skills that employers love to see in new recruits.
With enough research and experience, you may be able to create a small role for yourself before seeking a new position too, whether it’s to address a gap in the team or to become a specialist in your workplace that others can rely on. At university, this could mean using your spare time to write features for a university newspaper’s website, or working with a student radio team. Anything that brings an element of technology to something you’re knowledgeable about will help you when pursuing an IT-focused career.
One of the best things you can do to get some experience is start a blog. It can seem like an easy hobby, but there is an entire network of full-time bloggers who are constantly creating new content and promoting themselves online. Learning how to use social media is essential to blogging, writing new blog posts will sharpen your communication and writing skills, and working with other bloggers and developing an audience will help you learn networking skills.
Running your own personal website also helps you to think about different audiences, how users interact with your website, and what you should do to stay up to date with a particular topic or industry. Creating graphics for your site can develop your design skills, and you can find a range of basic tutorials online for software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. While you may initially struggle to find time for extra projects, just small amounts of experimentation will allow your skills to slowly develop.
“When I started writing blogs for the company I had to learn how to use WordPress. I had no experience using this before, but I’m lucky to be surrounded by a good team who showed me how it all works! It’s a good idea to research into software and programs which may come in handy in the field you’re thinking of applying for.” – Sarah
Search for Both Large and Small Companies
When searching for a new job, it’s important to look for businesses of all sizes, as they will bring with them a range of different opportunities. Large companies may offer more senior positions, if you are looking to move from a position that has managerial responsibility. Being able to diplomatically manage the workload and personalities of a team of people is extremely valuable and can outshine a lower amount of technical knowledge, especially if you’re proactively spending your spare time skilling up.
On the other hand, if you have less employment experience in general, look for vacancies at start-up companies. These companies have a strong focus on personal development and look for well-rounded candidates who are eager to learn and develop. One of the most accessible industries is PR and social media, as communications and English qualifications can provide a solid foundation for employers to build on, allowing them to teach you the technical specifics.
Sell Yourself Correctly
Landing a job in any industry is half about being the right person for the job, and half about being able to sell yourself as the right person for it. When looking at moving over to the technology industry, consider your existing CV and prioritise any technical experience gained from your previous employment. Be open and honest about areas of the technological world that you’re interested in learning about - if you’re applying for a training-heavy position, then do some wider reading about what you would be likely to learn were you to land the position.
Interpersonal skills are essential for working in wider teams of people, so think about any times you have had to deal with a difficult situation, particularly in a professional setting. If you can talk about calming down an angry customer or suggesting a colleague approach a task differently, potential employers will have a better idea of how you will fit into their business and react to challenging situations.
“If you don’t believe that you are right for the job and will be able to carry out the role to the best of your ability, then chances are the interviewer won’t either. A lot of companies focus on experience, so you need to show them that experience isn’t the be all and end all. Let them know you are a fast learner and you won’t be bringing any bad habits with you – they can then mould you how they want you, which is always a positive.” – Sarah
As a society, we have moved away from the ‘job for life’ culture. Speaking to Silicon Republic, James Milligan, senior business director at recruiting firm Hays Ireland, said “job for life doesn’t really exist in the modern world. Generally, two to three years would be a good duration for somebody to stay within their role - whether that be moving on within the organisation that they’re currently in, or looking at an alternative organisation to work within.” A study, by the New College of the Humanities in 2014, also found that half of UK graduates are not working in their field of study, showing that the careers market is much more fluid that for previous generations.
The technology industry is one of the most accessible areas of employment, thanks to the recent explosion of jobs focussed around social media and online PR. If you consider moving into the tech industry, remember that your previous experience will most likely have given you a wealth of transferrable skills already that you can adapt for a new career. Experiment with new tools and broaden your knowledge by keeping up with the latest trends and you’ll find yourself in a new role in no time.
Find out what opportunities are available at Plusnet on our careers page.