Building Up the Experience to Land Your First Tech Job

So you’ve just graduated school. If you don’t already have a job offer in hand, you’re probably looking for employment of some sort—and you’re likely to run smack into one of the biggest conundrums facing new technology professionals: lack of experience.

Specifically, postings for entry-level jobs often ask for at least a few years of experience. This seems weird and counterintuitive: after all, you need a first job in order to build experience, right? Yet according to new data from TalentWorks, some 61 percent of full-time, entry-level jobs “require 3+ years experience.”

The TalentWorks study covers postings for jobs in all industries, but clearly technology isn’t exempt from this trend. Even worse, according to TalentWorks, employers “are driving ‘experience inflation,’” boosting the amount of experience required to land any job “by 2.8 percent every year.” In essence, that means “your younger sister (or brother) will need ~4 years of work experience just to get their first job.”

(According to the TalentWorks data, things are also rough on the other end of the career arc, with “hireability” decreasing by 8 percent every year after candidates turn 35.)

What does this mean for tech professionals who have just obtained their degree? It’s not enough to wait until after graduation to attempt to land your first job; you need to build up your experience while you’re still in school. That means pursuing part-time work, internships, or pretty much anything else that gives you a shot at interacting with technology.

If you’re in school, the idea of landing an internship at a prestigious tech firm such as Apple or Google no doubt holds a lot of appeal (and such positions tend to pay a lot of money for even a few months’ work, which definitely helps), but don’t neglect the chance to work at smaller firms. There’s an added bonus to this strategy: lesser-known companies with smaller staffs may give you the opportunity to connect with experienced tech pros in a more meaningful way; you may also end up with more responsibility than at a monolithic tech giant.

When the time comes to begin your job hunt, keep in mind that tech firms are interested in work that you’ve done independently. Even if an entry-level job posting emphasizes a need for “formal” experience, you may convince a hiring manager of your abilities by showing off apps or websites that you’ve launched on your own time. And if you’ve created a small company or done a lot of freelance work from your dorm room, that’s even better for your future job prospects.

In other words, although the requirements for many entry-level jobs may seem intimidating, there are ways to sufficiently build up your résumé long before you set foot in a hiring manager’s office. But you need to plan and prepare well in advance.

One Response to “Building Up the Experience to Land Your First Tech Job”

  1. Morgan L. Lucas

    And yet, companies are still going to complain when they require a Master’s for entry level work that “They can’t find anyone”.

    Adjust your expectations, be reasonable, be willing to train people. Why bother going to college at all if you need another 3 years of experience to be paid entry level funds in a world where the cost of living is always rising and wages never keep up?