It’s no surprise that you’re curious about making a career breakthrough in tech. There is rapid job growth currently underway in this industry. This reflects how much computers, and the networks connecting them, have become such an integral part of the modern-day business or organization.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities in the computer and IT fields will increase by 12% through to 2024. The report also projects a steady rise in salaries for tech experts commensurate with the soaring demand for their services. These promising statistics would pique anyone’s interest. But the perpetual hurdle is: you can’t secure these jobs without experience, and you can’t gain experience without having a job. The truth is you’re not the only one dealing with this dilemma — everybody is looking for proof that candidates can deliver before hiring them.
So, what can a rookie do to chalk some experience up their sleeves in pursuit of landing a job? We sought to know how some seasoned technology practitioners overcame this age-old catch-22 and successfully broke into the tech industry in their 30s.
Here is what they had to say:
Technology is not an abstraction career path; ‘what can you do/have you done?’ will always be the first question from hiring managers. You need practical skills as much as theoretical knowledge — the only way to learn is to stop contemplating and begin working on your ideas.
For Brandon Christensen of V & C Solutions, it all began in his second year in college. He and his friends “wanted to network all their apartments for computer games.” Of course, back then, it was not as simple to have many virtual gamers on the same console as it is now. They “ended up with coax cable running from window to window down four apartments.” That was how he got into networking and eventually secured an IT job for a software development company on campus. He studied for a business course “but got his first career-level IT job right out of school due to this work experience.” Getting yourself engaged with projects at home or helping friends with tech issues is an excellent way to sharpen your expertise without the pressure of getting it right in every attempt. As you are getting started, every tangible experience makes a difference.
Getting accredited with industry certifications is a good starting point. These credentials must not be time or effort-intensive. They can be as primal as learning specific skills and getting micro certifications to prove that you have the expertise. In a recent survey of 6,000 IT professionals by Linux Academy, 94% of employers admitted that micro-certifications give candidates a competitive edge.
Certifications are not just necessary for rookies — even seasoned tech experts regularly hone their skills to stay at the forefront of technological advancements. In his two years of experience, Holden Watne (Generation IX) observes that it “has been quite a learning process.” His is a story of a Salesman of a SaaS company turned into a Technology Consultant. What advice does he have for people from non-tech backgrounds who want to break into tech? “You should think five or so years down the road and then build on your skills every day.” He identified his interest in cybersecurity and is “going the CompTIA route with focus on A+, N+, and Sec+.” Even before getting the certifications, he was already learning using Pluralsight.
It’s similar to the “Do It Yourself” idea, just with an enhanced tinge of a team-effort experience. You can’t miss a small business or a charity organization in your locality that needs help with creating a new program or managing a website for free. Besides helping you gain experience, volunteering shows that you’re passionate and willing to go the extra mile. In case of any paid openings, the company will always consider you first.
Ian Hansen (Philantech3) worked as part of his school’s volunteer help desk team. He says that the experience helped him learn “a lot and get fantastic skills.” It was so instrumental that he was able “to jump into technology administration right out of high school.”
The trick is to start with whatever experience and knowledge that you have. Start small, and with time, you will figure out what you need to land your dream tech job. Your final technology career path may not even be on the list of your current considerations.