Starting a new career, or making a big change, is always going to be daunting. You may feel like it’s too late to make such a significant change – especially into something like the tech industry.
The two paths into the tech industry
At the end of the day, there are two main pathways into the tech industry. This applies even in cases where you want to work for yourself, either as a freelancer, a business owner or even as a consultant.
1. Work in a tech role in any industry
This is the most accessible option for those who are making a turn from another job type. There are huge gaps in talent for tech-related roles in businesses around the country and around the world. Take cyber security jobs, for example. In the United States, there are 500,000 and growing unfilled roles (and that number is growing). That isn’t the total number of job listings or open positions in a given year; it is the number of businesses who want a cyber security analyst but have not found one.
Though some roles require a lot of training, you would be surprised at how accessible so many of these tech roles are for those who want a change of pace. This is particularly the case for those looking for a higher-paid, more in-demand job that gives them the security they are looking for.
2. Work for a tech company
Tech companies are where the best of the best tend to go because their talents are in greater demand, and, typically, they can be compensated for their talents better than in other situations.
You may work for a tech company that creates tech products (either physical or digital), or you may work for a tech agency that provides key services to businesses like cyber security and IT support for those who cannot afford to have their own in-house team.
If you are switching from a job that isn’t in the tech sector, then a good way to start after you have earned your credentials is to look for open roles outside of the tech industry. As there are so many open roles, you can easily find and secure yourself a job while building up your professional experience and then working your way up.
How to understand what area in tech you are passionate about
There are many reasons for wanting to get involved with tech. For some, it’s the creation. Software developers are artists in their own way, and they can get a job in any tech company. For others, it is about high pay and job security. Knowing why you want to get started in tech is entirely different; however, than being 100% confident in what new role you want to work towards.
1. Start with your interests
You will have been exposed to tech. We use it all the time in both our personal lives and through our business. Having a professional interest in a subject is a great place to start, so go with what you are already interested in or believe is important and run with it. Cyber security, for example, is one of the most important tech-related focuses of every business, even those that deal with the arts. In today’s digital world, you cannot avoid the importance of cyber security, and it’s a great choice for those who are looking to start a new career in a tech-related role.
2. Take short, online courses
Another great way to understand more about what is available out there is to take online courses. These don’t even have to be paid, since they are just introducing you to different technology and information areas and explaining the basics. Many free courses out there that you can have finished in just a few weeks or even a few days can really help you understand where your interests are.
3. Read (or listen)
The same benefits you can get from those short, online courses can also be gained from reading, or alternatively listening. This doesn’t just mean audiobooks, either. Many podcasts in the tech sector are both very entertaining and can give you more of an understanding of what you are personally interested in the most.
4. Explore the job boards
When you have a more clear idea of the topics you are interested in professionally, you should then start to look at the job boards. You aren’t qualified yet, but the job listings will give you a clearer understanding of the roles out there, what employers will expect you to do in a day, and of course, the qualifications that they are looking for. You don’t need to check every box, but by understanding the gist, you can be more targeted with your efforts and education.
How to start building up the experience and knowledge you need
Knowing the sector and job type you want to go for is the first step. The second is to start training. Unlike other job types where you can often use the skills and knowledge to get a good start on a new position, tech-related industries require hard knowledge. Not only do you need to know what to do and how to do it, but you may also be required to be certified by a governing body. Take cyber security, for example; though you could theoretically get a job as a cyber security analyst with just a cyber security degree, that is the minimum. You can work towards many certifications that will provide future employers with the peace of mind that you know what you are doing and that your skills have been ratified.
Before we get to that hiring stage, however, you’ll want to follow these steps:
1. Kick-start your efforts with a degree
The best way to start a new career in a tech-related role is with a degree. If you don’t currently have experience with coding, there are likely graduate certificates available that you can work towards. These certificates will help you understand the basics of what you will need to pursue a job in that role.
For example, without coding experience, you will need to complete a cyber security graduate certificate before starting your cyber security degree. This is only six months extra and will give you the foundation that you need to succeed in your cyber security degree and your future career as a cyber security analyst.
The cyber security degree itself will delve into a wide range of topics that will make you ideal for handling any business’s digital security. From machine learning to networking, secure software design, AI, penetration testing, and more. You’ll learn how to create disaster recovery plans, how to perform digital forensics, cryptography, and of course, how to do a threat analysis.
With such a cyber security degree, you can work in any sector because cyber security is something that businesses of all types need. Small and medium sized businesses lose around $6 million per breach, whereas large, publicly-traded businesses tend to lose more than $100 million both directly and indirectly due to lost customers.
There are degrees like this cyber security degree for almost every role. Just make sure when you are looking for a degree that the intended student is you, not a specialist looking to further their expertise in their field.
There are many degrees out there designed specifically for those looking to shift their career in a new direction, and additional support resources like a graduate certificate to bring your knowledge up to the minimum requirements if you don’t already have the experience.
2. Learn online and become certified
You don’t need to go big every time when it comes to expanding your capabilities. Many tools available today come with free tutorials and courses that you can take. Take them, and finish the test at the end to earn certification. Google is the most famous company to offer this so that you can prove your knowledge of how to use a variety of Google tools to your employer or prospective employer.
3. Practice, practice, practice
Hands-on experience is invaluable, and you don’t need to wait until you are hired to get started. If you are looking to get into video game or software design, for example, you could learn so much by working on a personal project of your own. Not only will this give you real-world experience, but you will also be bettering your portfolio.
Many video game designers, for example, get their break by building up a modding portfolio, which showcases not just their talent but their ability to work alongside other designs.
It’s a bit more difficult with job roles like cyber security, but you will instead want to get certified in those cases. Thankfully your cyber security degree will prepare you for many of the top certification options, including:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH)
- Certified Network Defender (C|ND)
- CISCO CCNA
- CCNP Security
How to get your first job in tech
While you are working on your degree, you can also start making significant steps towards changing your career.
1. Create a portfolio
That portfolio is a great place to start. Even just uploading the work you did during your course is a great way to begin. If your work isn’t a good fit for a visual portfolio, then writing up blog posts and essays and working on getting them published is another great portfolio. Do this during your cyber security degree, or whatever tech-related degree that you have chosen for yourself, and you should have a decent showing by the time you graduate.
In fact, this portfolio you build up (either visual or written) can do wonders in helping you secure a job once you graduate. For more popular roles, like that video game designer, you will want to prepare yourself to be in it for the long haul. For highly in-demand roles, like a cyber security analyst, you should be able to find a new position shortly after graduation.
2. Clean up your digital presence
As with any job hunt, always search your name and work to clean up the related results. You can’t help if someone else has your name and what information is associated with that, but any pages that are related to you are in your control.
You can even use several SEO basics to work to get your results higher up when you google your name. This is going to be difficult to do if you have a very generic name or if you share a name with a famous celebrity, but it is always worthwhile. At the very least, make sure that all the sites you want to be linked are attached, so potential employers can explore your body of work from your website and then see your LinkedIn or other relevant profiles that showcase your expertise and your work.
In this day and age, this also means going through your social media. If you want it to be public, make sure that all content is well above board, even if that means going back years upon years through your Twitter. Otherwise, make your profiles private and have them unlisted from search engines to protect your privacy.
3. Leverage your network
You can start to leverage your network from day one. Get in touch with the people and businesses you know when you finally start your cyber security degree or make a blanket post to your network about starting your journey to become a cyber security analyst. By sharing your journey and learning, you can prove the value of your cyber security degree and showcase your value to your network
You can offer your services even before you graduate, on a project or internship basis. By doing this before you graduate, you can make this extra work beneficial to your degree and to your career by giving you work experience right from the outset.
All that is left is to apply and keep applying, especially if you don’t fit every requirement or hiring criteria. Job listings in tech are a wish list. With so few experts out there, it is worthwhile to simply apply and see where you can go with your experience.
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