Hunting for a Tech Job? Leverage Your Personal Projects and Stories

If you’re new to the tech industry, it’s easy to find everything overwhelming. How do you apply for a job? What if you have no previous workplace experience? What’s the best way to show off your skills?

Dice’s new Optimizing Your Tech Career ebook offers some tips for anyone just starting out in tech. If you’re wondering what you can leverage as you apply for your first jobs (and prep for those first interviews), here’s a sampling of its advice:

Leverage everything

Don’t worry if you’ve never had a technology job (everyone starts somewhere)! When it comes to candidates for entry-level positions, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for a grasp of key skills, along with humility (Can you take feedback well?), hunger (Are you always up for new challenges?) and people smarts (Are you empathetic, collaborative and enjoyable to work with?). When you’re putting together your first resume and application materials, you can pretty much use any experience relevant to tech: internships, personal/passion projects, school projects and more.

Rely on personal projects

Personal projects show that you’ve mastered key technologies on your own time, that you’ve worked with others toward a common goal (if you’ve built an app with friends, or participated in open-source projects), and that you’re always hungry to learn and adapt. Before you begin applying for jobs, make sure to spin up at least one of the following:

  • A GitHub repo with your code
  • A personal website displaying your personal projects
  • A link to the app store that has your products
  • Pretty much anything that allows a hiring manager to quickly evaluate your portfolio

Always do your research

For recruiters and hiring managers, it’s instantly clear if a candidate knows nothing at all about the company and/or role. Well before the interview, do your research, starting with the organization’s official website and any other web pages that describe what they do. You’ll also want to check for any news about the company via Google News, Apple News or your aggregator of choice; make sure to focus on any mentions of their strategy and future roadmap and determine how your skills can potentially help them achieve their goals (even in a small way).

Stories sell

During the application and interview process, the best way to sell a hiring manager or recruiter on your skills and background is to frame as much as possible in a narrative format. While crafting your application materials, cite times that you guided a team or overcame adversity to achieve stunning results; during the interview process, expand on those stories to show off not only your technical skills, but also how your soft skills led to successful outcomes in your internships, school projects or personal pursuits. And don’t be afraid to use past challenges to show your humility, compassion and growth; the story of how you evolved past your shortcomings is always a powerful one.

For even more on applying for jobs, negotiating salary, and nailing that next big promotion, check out the Optimizing Your Tech Career e-book.

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