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“If you hate your job, take a loan and you will start liking it”. I don’t remember where I read this but this sounds convincing. Now think of the tech job market worldwide, saying it is growing would be an understatement, it is booming. Still, why don’t fresh graduates not get a job when the pass out of universities? Let’s have a closer look at this issue and try to help technology students get a job as soon as their course finishes.

5 practical steps to land your first tech job

TLDR;

Network in person, use recuriter’s help, contribute to open source, list companies/roles you want to work in and learn a new tech thing each month to land your first tech job. Bonus but important points, make a killer resume, have a great pet project deployed online to show and start early.

Interesting subject

Around 11 years back I wrote this blog post “10 things a tech student must know” then 4 years back I did a talk at the college I completed my bachelor’s from titled “Things I Wished I Knew While Doing My Tech Bachelor / Undergraduate”. Again 2 years back and in Nov of 2017 I did another talk with QnA and interaction with the title “Career Paths for to Be Tech Graduates” at a couple of college in Kathmandu. I also did another talk called “Things I wished I knew as a junior developer” for a meetup in Feb 2017. This has been an interesting topic for me in the past decade.

Why don’t students get a tech job after the course?

Let’s face this, it is a mix of the education system and the individual student themselves. I studied my undergrad/bachelors in tech in Kathmandu, Nepal and my master in tech too in the Netherlands. Surely, very different education systems and outlook to education. One thing in common is both don’t make the student an employment ready product. On the individual side, don’t do a course because your friend is doing it. Simple logic, first ask your self where do you see yourself in 5 or 3 years then backtrack your way to reach there.

How to fix this?

I am no education expert or anything still I have worked like a decade in tech and in multiple countries by now. One thing is sure, skills and results are the primary and degrees are secondary. Universities/colleges should try to bridge the gap between students and real market needs. Like I don’t know of any university that will teach students lets say git that you are going to use each day at work. That doesn’t mean what is being taught is wrong :). Yes, I am ranting a bit here.

On the student’s side, you need to research what is relevant for the market, learn on your own and brand yourself so that you can sell your skills faster. For instance, if I interview a candidate who has a good tech blog with helpful and regular posts may be even on medium. Your chances of getting hired are up by like ~5% already. Because being able to put your ideas/learning in words is an important skill for a software engineer.

5 practical steps to land your first tech job

Lets get to the steps now

After all my rants tirades lets focus on how you as a tech student can land a job as soon as you finish your degree. Below are the things you need to do to increase your chances to land your first tech job.

1. In person networking

Go to at least 1 meetup/conference/training/events each month and add at least 2 new people on Linked In who can help you find a job. Not to mention message/email them after the meeting to build a relationship. Meetups are a great way to meet up people who you would normally not meet. Depending on the city you are in like if you are in Sydney you could go to a tech meetup each week. If you are in Kathmandu you could catch a meetup each month. Going to a usually free meetup is beneficial in many ways, you learn new things listening to people, you can network… Don’t underestimate the power of meeting people in the flesh.

So you are asking why would this person refer me? Right? The answer is simple Many companies have referral bonus. If they refer you and you get selected, get the job, complete your probation they get a certain sum of money. A win-win situation for all you, the referrer and the company. Email, then call and ask for a coffee meeting is recommended before asking for a job referral. Of course not to mention you should have an amazing CV.

2. Use recruiter help

In the starting, it should be you emailing and potentially calling tech recruiters. The idea is simple, it is a recruiter’s job to find good candidates for tech roles. So be open tell them you are looking for junior or starting jobs and try to find a match. Probably the recruiter knows a couple of openings where you could actually be a good fit. Depending on the city there are internships, graduate roles which are specifically targeted at fresh grads. You might need to run away from recruiters after you have some years of experience, but that is a different story.

3. Contribute to open source

I know many companies which will look at you github profile first then go through your resume. So actions speak louder than words. To begin with, you don’t need to start contributing code. You can start with helping on documentation etc. There are lots of ways to give back to open source. Hacktoberfest 2018 is starting in 2 days make good use of it. So learning git and github becomes a prerequisite for this step. If you are a tech student in their final semester and don’t know git = you don’t have a very bright future in tech :).

4. Make a list of companies with probable roles

If you don’t have a target how will you ever achieve it, if you have a target you can have plans to attain it. Make a list of companies and positions/role that you want to work in when you finish your degree. Towards the end of the course if you are not sure to pick backend or frontend or UI/UX or DevOps/SRE or data engineering or DBA or … sorry but no one can help a confused person ;). If you see yourself as a frontend engineer at say Atlassian you need to work for it. Another handy tip is to keep a spreadsheet of all the jobs you have applied for with dates to do a proper follow-up. It is not easy to get a call for an interview for less experienced candidates so check step 1 referral helps a lot here.

5. Learn a new tech thing each month

Now as you have shortlisted companies and roles you want to work for you have obviously read the job descriptions. So you now know what skills the market and/or the company you aim to join is looking for. Start learning it, dedicate some hours each week/weekend and learn it. Best way to learn is to try to build your pet project, it could be anything that excites you. Don’t just go through a course on docker and say yes I know docker. Show it running on a project and then you will actually learn it. If you already know 7 out of 10 things the company will need to teach another junior software engineer, your chances of getting the job automatically becomes higher.

Conclusion

There are many other general things that you need to be good on like having a clear and impressive 1-page resume, having at least one project that is online. Like, having basic knowledge of a breadth of things and a bit of depth in the area you want to work in, knowing your skill and going to the right area of tech also helps. You need to do the above steps like 6-9 months before your course ends else doing things in haste and the very end will not help much.

The tech industry needs new people every year worldwide. From the positive angle, tech needs more and more new people. From the other side, your competition is not only in your city but anywhere in your world so your skills and ability to learn sets you apart. Best of luck hunting for your first tech role!

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