Shifting careers to move into a fast-growing field like technology can be a smart investment in your long-term professional success. The hardest question for most career changers is not whether to make a change — it’s where to begin. This is especially true if you are considering entering a field you’re unfamiliar with.
Luckily, the path to getting a job in tech with little to no experience can be a simple and direct one if you follow a few basic steps.
1. Develop a Growth Mindset
First, keep in mind that your perspective can determine how successful your career change process will be. It’s worth taking some time at the start to get into the right frame of mind. If you’re looking to get a tech job, the key is to develop a growth mindset.
Having a growth mindset simply means believing that new skills can be learned and mastered. No one was born knowing how to write code or build web applications! Everyone, no matter how naturally talented, was a beginner once. Every app or device you use was created by a team of people who had to learn and practice new skills on their way to creating something awesome.
You’ve been a beginner in the past too, and have learned all kinds of complex things, from typing or riding a bike to playing an instrument or making a work presentation. So give yourself space to learn, regardless of your age or experience.
In tech, progress never stops. There will always be a new tool or programming language to master. Just know that every new program that you get under your belt will make it easier to master the next one, whenever it pops up.
2. Know Why You’re Making a Change
Why do you want to get a job in tech? It could be that you’re curious about how things work and the code that makes it all happen. Maybe you’ve grown up with digital devices and can’t imagine life without them. Or, perhaps you’re looking for a stable career that will allow you to better provide for yourself and your family. You may have wanted to move into a tech career for a while, and the timing finally seems right to make the change.
There are no wrong answers here. The important part is to have a vision you can go back to on rough days to remind yourself why you want to be a tech professional, and give yourself a motivational boost of energy to keep going.
3. Name Your Goal
The key to this part of getting your tech dream job is to be clear about where you want to end up once you learn the ropes. There are all kinds of exciting job opportunities in tech, and one or more are sure to be a great fit for you.
If you’re a creative problem-solver, a web developer or software developer position might spark your interest. If you’re interested in something more concrete, software engineer or data engineer roles could be where you will excel. Do you enjoy finding patterns and connecting dots? You may be exactly the person a tech company needs as their new data scientist. Interested in solving mysteries? Cybersecurity could be the field for you.
As you become more familiar with the responsibilities of these roles, you can also begin to narrow down your preferred type of workplace. A deeply resourced multinational enterprise company can be just as satisfying as a career destination as a scrappy innovative startup in a field you really love. Choose what makes the most sense for you and your reasons for setting the goal identified in step 2.
4. Start Right Where You Are
Now you know where you’re going; the next step is to map the route to get there. The good news is, you don’t need an MBA or any other formal degree to be successful in your new tech career. You don’t even need to have a technology job to start getting tech experience!
In fact, you may be able to start getting tech experience at your current job. Consider volunteering to help update a small business’ website, interview shoppers about your store’s app, or shadow someone in your IT department as they troubleshoot a problem. Information you get from these “practice” opportunities can help you decide what new skills you want or need. Check with your HR team to see if your company offers tuition reimbursement or any upskilling or reskilling programs that you may qualify for.
There is an abundance of virtual training possibilities for those who prefer a self-study program. From free YouTube videos to paid options like Coursera and LinkedIn Learning, there’s no shortage these days of convenient and affordable ways to master new skills at home and at your own pace.
Interested in learning alongside a team? Consider participating in a hackathon as a subject matter expert on an issue close to your heart, and watch up close as tech professionals work together over a fast-paced weekend to build a solution to a pressing problem. Or reach out and pick up some projects through Catchafire or a local site like LendaHand and start building your emerging tech skills while helping make the world a better place.
Learn better in a classroom with live instruction? Reputable companies like General Assembly and CompTIA offer a variety of programs designed specifically for adult learners, and with schedules and topic areas crafted to meet both your needs and the demands of a hot job market. Programs are offered both online and, where permitted, in person on campus. Financial aid and payment plans are often available for students who qualify; there’s no need to take on crushing amounts of debt for a conventional four-year degree when a rigorous 12-week bootcamp can give you the skills, tools, and support you need to be a competitive tech job candidate.
5. Connect with Community
How are you supposed to find your first tech job when as many as 70% of job openings are not advertised? With a strong network, you can hear about those “hidden” jobs before other candidates do.
Networking doesn’t need to be a negative experience. Consider it a way of learning about your new industry and community by connecting with human beings who were once in your shoes. Most people enjoy helping people the way they were helped on their journey. As long as you treat people with kindness and respect, and not simply as a means to an end, you’ll begin to grow your reputation as a smart and curious person who would be a pleasure to work with.
Online communities can be as powerful for networking as in-person events. With so many networking events happening virtually, you can connect with hiring managers, tech recruiters, and other potential employers from Silicon Valley to New York City and beyond, often for free. Check out sites like Meetup and search for the topics that interest you; from Python to Ruby to HTML, there’s a meetup to meet your needs.
You’re seeking ways to connect with tech industry professionals as someone new to the field and eager to learn. So polish that resume, post it on job boards, read a few articles on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile, and put yourself out there. Once you start writing code, even if it’s for a class project, share it on Github. Leverage social media to connect with future colleagues and maybe even find a mentor.
Volunteering and being of service is both a great way to learn and a great way to meet new colleagues in the tech industry. Consider joining a professional association or two, even if you are just starting out. Get involved in Slack channels, LinkedIn conversations, Twitter feeds, and attend a few conferences, whether they’re virtual or in-person.
Initiative, curiosity, kindness, and hard work will set you apart as a strong interview candidate for your first tech job. The more tech talent you begin to have in your circle, the more likely it is that you’ll begin hearing about relevant job openings — and your new friend may even be able to get your application directly to a hiring manager.
You can land your first tech job with no experience as long as you’ve done the right research and preparation beforehand, and are willing to put in the time and effort to master new skills. A commitment to lifelong learning and a clear idea of what you want to do and where will help ensure your success, no matter how you choose to study. Take the time to consider free and paid training options, in-person and remote programs, and volunteer opportunities as you design your learning plan. And, start connecting with your future employers and colleagues early through networking and social media. A new career is waiting for you — take your first step toward it today.