The U.S. gained 307,000 technology jobs from 2018 to 2019, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association. Tech jobs continued to make a steady climb in 2020, fueled in part by the immediate need to digitize processes as workers fled office settings. Despite some pandemic-related setbacks, the tech industry appears poised to add even more jobs in the coming years.
This is great news for anyone hoping to work in the tech industry or tailor an existing tech job more to their liking.
This side of 2020, employers are far more likely to consider nontraditional arrangements including job sharing, gig work, and (of course) remote employment. With demand for reliable, skilled tech workers on the rise, now’s the time to sketch out your vision of the perfect job.
Not all of the rules have changed, certainly. You still need an up-to-date, demonstrable skill set. Certifications are still as important as academic degrees, if not more so. And if you’re applying for a programming position, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with what a coding interview looks like these days.
None of these expectations should feel daunting to a job seeker with marketable skills. That said, you can increase your chances of landing your dream job by taking these eight steps:
Step 1: Decide
You’ll find the job you really want faster if you start by narrowing down the options. There’s little point in scrolling through an endless list of jobs that won’t rise to the level of motivating you to apply.
The tech industry continues to grow and expand, so a firm grasp of current terms and titles is essential. Increased granularity often translates into the development of new job titles and associated descriptions. Knowing what you’re looking for will enable intelligent sifting.
It’s at least as important to decide what you don’t want to do as identify the types of tech jobs you find interesting. Start with a tight filter to avoid wasting time. You can always open up the funnel later on if you aren’t getting sufficient results.
Step 2: Update
Armed with the knowledge of the sort of position you hope to find, you now need to update your digital footprint accordingly. This includes your résumé, of course, but it might also involve references. If you are making a career change, ask for endorsements from professionals already working in the field you hope to enter. Reach out to people doing the kind of work you find interesting. Just the process of asking for a reference could alert you to opportunities you might otherwise have missed.
You will also want to update your profile on any job-seeking sites you’ve used in the past, adding relevant terms and deleting outdated information. This is where you’ll apply what you’ve recently learned about current job titles and terminology.
Step 3: Search
Having narrowed your search and updated your online profiles, begin your job hunt by setting up automated search agents on the career sites you’re using. Again, show some restraint. Don’t go adding search terms that more realistically qualify as “a near miss” for what you want.
Assuming you’ve done your homework, you’ll have a default understanding of the kinds of jobs associated with specific terms. While “coding” and “programming” might sound identical to people outside the tech industry, using one term over the other often yields different listings. Remember to filter for full-time or part-time, on-site or remote, as appropriate.
Step 4: Network
A common stereotype is that tech positions attract introverts. Even if there’s some truth to that, now is the time to overcome any reluctance and connect. Set aside a manageable amount of time each week to make phone calls or conduct video chats. Let the people you trust know that you are looking for a new challenge and then listen carefully to feedback.
As with the process of updating your references, just talking with people can take your job search in new and interesting directions. Put yourself out there, regularly, every week.
Step 5: Intern
The meaning of the word “intern” has become increasingly fluid as the workforce ages and a growing number of adults leave one vocation to pursue another. Offering to intern somewhere can be a great way to decide whether a position that’s caught your eye is all it’s cracked up to be. For employers, even a paid internship is an inexpensive means of trying out a new potential employee.
Step 6: Contribute
There are large swaths of the tech industry devoted to a cooperative mindset and continuous improvement. Entire communities spring up around specific software and hardware platforms, and these communities place a high value on reliable, accurate information.
More than one skilled worker has caught the attention of a recruiter by making consistently helpful contributions to an industry-specific online community. These contributions can be anything from code snippets to freeware to graphics and photos. When you post helpful resources, your “voice” is more likely to be heard above a cacophony of misinformation. If nothing else, you end up with a nice line item on your résumé.
Step 7: Learn
It never hurts to add additional skills and certifications to your résumé. Start looking for and asking to participate in training opportunities within your company. Who knows? The perfect job you sketched out may already exist (or open up) with your current employer.
Acquiring additional skills can lead to uncovering opportunities that might not get posted to websites. Learning a new skill is also a good way to stave off the burnout that can accompany a longer season of job hunting. You’re less likely to get discouraged when balancing your search with the acquisition of a new skill or certification.
Step 8: Hustle
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than a few enterprising souls decided it was time to take a side hustle full-time. Some did so out of necessity. Others decided life was too short and already had a career change on their bucket list. Whatever the motivation, 2020 was a good year to step back and reconsider the role of work in one’s life.
The tech industry is a great marketplace for those who want increased flexibility to decide when and how long they work. The truly skilled are increasingly able to pick and choose their assignments, deadlines, and preferred clients. Deadlines still matter, but they can seem far less onerous when set by mutual agreement.
It Doesn’t Hurt to Look Around
The past year forced both employees and tech companies to reassess the wisdom of dozens of employees in an open-plan office. A keyboard used on a kitchen table can be as productive as one in an office building. It’s unlikely that the work landscape will ever return to what we thought of as “normal” before 2020. The terrain is still shifting, especially in tech, so it makes sense to consider new possibilities now.