The skills gap in the tech industry continues to concern employers. According to a recent TEKsystems survey, 66 percent of IT professionals and leaders believe their organizations don’t have the in-house skills to fill their talent needs. Moreover, 70 percent of IT leaders agree that a lack of skills is the most significant challenge when looking for quality candidates. Yet with increased automation and ongoing integration of continuously advancing technologies, the demand for qualified IT professionals is likely to continue and even grow for the foreseeable future.
That means that as a recent IT grad, to a certain extent, you’re already in demand. However, even with a low supply/demand ratio for IT positions, you need to make sure you possess the skills and experience employers are looking for. And equally important: you have to make sure employers notice you. The following tips can help you position yourself as a top-tier candidate:
Acquire In-Demand Skills
Drive your candidacy up a notch by learning skills that set you apart from other IT professionals looking for a job. For example, according to Computer Business Review, with many companies now using big data to analyze a wide variety of key performance indicators, knowing how to use Big Data tools such as Hadoop, query language and noSQL can be a distinct advantage. At the same time, advanced UI and even artificial intelligence skills are going to be increasingly in demand. Keep in mind that the most in-demand skills change quickly in IT, so regularly review job ads to find out what employers are looking for.
Secure a High-Profile Internship
Every employer likes to see a respected organization’s name on a candidate’s profile. Of course, there’s a huge amount of competition for internships with Google, Apple and other business leaders in a variety of industries. In order to secure one of these highly desirable spots, you need to stand out. Frances Bridges, writing for Forbes, advises making sure you know the company’s product or service inside and out; can explain the value you can bring to the company; and are able to communicate your passion both for your profession and the company.
Work With a Mentor
This is one tip that can’t be emphasized enough. A mentor is a seasoned professional who can help you learn more about your profession and industry, as well as navigate your career. Use your network to determine a potential mentor, then reach out to him or her about mentoring you. Once you’ve found a mentor, agree to touch base weekly and meet face-to-face (or via online conferencing tools) once a month to discuss your progress and address any questions or concerns you have. Note that many top executives continue to work with their mentors throughout their professional lives, no matter how successful they become. Since many employers consider being a mentor good experience, the arrangement also has benefits for the person mentoring you.
Set Up Your Own Website
Even if you have a super-polished résumé and online profiles, setting up your own website is a good idea. Why? The answer is simple: both your résumé and your online profiles offer a concise, to-the-point overview of your professional track record.
By setting up your own website, you can include much more information about yourself that employers can review without having to commit to a conversation or interview. Ideally, your website should include a copy of your résumé, your portfolio (if applicable), a more in-depth overview of some of your major projects or accomplishments and samples of any articles or studies you’ve contributed to professional publications. It’s also advisable to maintain a blog that’s on-topic for either your area of expertise or your industry.
Finally, don’t forget to add information about your hobbies or volunteer work that allows employers to get a more well-rounded view of your personality. For example, if you run marathons, it could indicate perseverance, or if you volunteer in a soup kitchen every Saturday, it could indicate dependability.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
First, make sure that your profiles contain keyword-rich headlines and job descriptions. Second, be active: write your own posts, share other people’s posts and interact with others by liking and commenting. The more active you are, the more networking connections you’ll get and the more noticeable you’ll become. It’s also a good idea to check out the profiles of top influencers or people in positions of seniority in your field. Keep your identity visible, so the people whose profiles you’ve reviewed can review your information and connect with you if they’re interested in following up.
Participate in Talent Communities
More and more companies are establishing online talent communities. These are forums where active and passive job seekers, as well as alumni and other interested professionals can connect with the organization’s employees and leadership. Talent communities are a good source of information about the industry in general, as well as about the company itself. For example, you can connect with current employees and gain an impression of what it’s like to work at the organization, or you can participate in discussions surrounding new industry developments.
Most importantly, if you become a valuable and active member of the talent community, chances are you’ll hear about job opportunities much faster than through job postings, since you’ll already be on the company’s radar.
Getting noticed during a job search is often more difficult than actually doing a job well. By keeping the above tips in mind, you can enhance your candidacy and visibility and place yourself firmly at the top of employers’ candidate lists in 2016.
Richard Wang is the CEO of Coding Dojo, a 14-week coding bootcamp in Silicon Valley, Seattle, Dallas and Los Angeles, and managing partner at Village88 Ventures, a tech accelerator located in Seattle.