How to Get Your First Gig in Tech
Want to work at Google, Facebook or Dropbox? Here’s how to get your foot in the door.
By Becky Fisher (Founder, Beyond Business)
Applying for a job in tech can feel like you’re swimming in a sea of unpredictability. Sometimes the interviews last a week, sometimes three months, and in other cases, you, the student with a Harvard degree, can be rejected before getting an interview. So what’s the deal?
Laszo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, said recently in a New York Times article that a college degree is no longer a good indicator of future success. He went on to list desirable qualities like cognitive ability, leadership, humility, autonomy, and lastly states expertise as the “least important attribute”. This is useful information, but it doesn’t help you get any closer to that dream job of yours.
In order to get a job in tech, you do need to have some or (preferably) all the attributes he listed above. Have leadership on your resume, be sharp in interviews, exercise humility throughout your professional and personal life, and aggressively seek out projects and jobs that will make you better.
Have all of these qualities and still struggling? This advice is for you. These are the steps you should take in order to get your foot in the door, get your resume in front of HR, and hopefully land yourself that interview.
When you apply to a position at a tech company, large or small, assume that there are at least a dozen other applicants just like you. In order to stand out, it helps to be referred by someone at that company. And believe me, they want that referral bonus. If you don’t know someone personally, reach out to your extended network and get introduced. This is the best way to guarantee that your resume will be seen.
How to get connected: Attend meetups (meetup.com), reach out to your network, or participate in programs that facilitate networking like Beyond Business. The more you meet new people and put yourself out there, the better your chances are of finding someone that can help you out.
Once you have that connection, make sure you are fully prepared. You usually only get one chance with a friend of a friend. Check the job listings page and find two or three positions that you would like to know more about and potentially apply for. Be sure you meet those qualifications or are at least in the ballpark of meeting them. In other words, don’t apply for a product position if you don’t have any technical knowledge.
How to be prepared: Read about the positions that most interest you and learn the key qualifications that employers are looking for. Check out the LinkedIn pages for current employees in positions similar to the one you’re applying for. If their background aligns with yours, you’re probably a good fit.
Make the Ask
The email to the connection should include your resume, the jobs you are looking at, and a specific ask. If you know that you want those positions, simply ask them to look over your resume, and if they’re comfortable to refer you into the system. If you want to know more, ask for a phone chat to further understand what life is like at the company and any other questions you may have. The more specific you are with your email, the easier it is for this person to help you.
How to Make the Ask: There is an air of informality in the tech world. Be clear about who you are and what you’re asking for, but be sure to keep it short. Extra text is wasted time. Check out these email writing tips on Forbes.com.
This advice should help you get your foot in the door. The rest is up to you. Do your research, cast a wide net, and be flexible to take on whatever comes your way.
Do you have any other advice for grads looking to get into tech?
About the guest blogger: Becky Fisher is the founder of Beyond Business, a career accelerator that provides an immersion into the San Francisco tech scene. Previously, Becky was a classroom teacher and consultant for education companies including EdSurge, Edutopia, Kidaptive, and Launchpad Toys. Connect with her at email@example.com or @BFish921.
Image credit: Adam Simmons via Flickr.