There’s a glimmer of hope. Studies show that the number of available jobs in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields is significantly higher than those in non-STEM fields. CEO of Burning Glass, Matt Sigelman, found that, “graduates in STEM field have much better prospects, both because they are competing for a large number of jobs…but also because they make substantially more.” It was found that there are 2.5 entry-level positions for those with bachelor degrees in a STEM-field, compared to 1.1 entry-level positions for those with a non-STEM bachelor degree. Starting to perk up? You should be! You aced the initial test and chose the right field to focus on. But now the challenge begins. From applying to practicing interview answers to standing out from the crowd, there are a number of hurdles to overcome in order to land your first IT job.
Learn everything you can about the company you’re interviewing with. Know your stuff before walking in the door. Read their website, check out their reviews, see if they have recently been in the news. Confidence comes from knowledge; walk into the interview with a well-rounded understanding of what they do and why they’re different than their competitors. Weave in some exciting things that the company is involved in, and for bonus points, offer a helpful suggestion or two on how you can personally enhance or contribute to the company goals through your own skillset. Feel free to think big.
Improve your nontechnical skills
While you may be a whiz with Java or PHP, your interpersonal skills are what ultimately will give you a leg up in the hiring department. More and more, IT companies are looking for people who possess both skillsets. Most employers know that this is your first job so experience won’t really come into play here, what will be a defining factor is your attitude and overall listening and communication skills. Employers need to get a solid sense that you will work well in a collaborative team environment.
If for some reason you feel that you are lacking in this department, we suggest investing in improving your people skills. You can do so through networking at local industry events or coding competitions and/or through interviewing as much as possible. Improvement of these nontechnical skills is vital for helping you stand out amongst the crowd of applicants.
Internship, internship, internship.
One of the best ways to go about improving your chances on landing a great job right out of school is with an internship. Important practical experience is gained here and it serves as a key stepping stone to a full-time position. There’s no better way to help you cultivate and improve on your workplace skills.
Another option to gain relevant experience is through community service projects such as designing a webpage for your local teen center, building a mobile app, or setting up a network for your church. Look for things that are going to give you hands-on training in real world scenarios and will ultimately help round out both your talents and your resume.
Let technology assist your resume.
The majority of job applicants will come in with their standard resume that their parents helped them create, and give a rehearsed speech about their GPA and how much they’ve learned in school. Set yourself apart. If this is a more creative IT position, showcase how creative and technically proficient you are by creating a SlideShare, blog post, or Youtube video detailing what you’ve done and how it applies to the job.
If it’s more of a standard tech position, make sure you build a presence on industry-specific site such as Github or Stack Overflow. Github will allow you to display previous projects and Stack Overflow will allow for peer engagement with others in your field. Your current knowledge blended with your inquisitive nature is an important thing to capture during your interview.
But above all, never forget the importance of your LinkedIn profile. I know it’s not the most exciting of all of the social media networks but trust me it’s essential. This is your professional digital footprint. Recruiters and employers alike are using this site as a tool to source new hires. Networking happens here, recommendations are flaunted here, and jobs are posted here. According to a 2013 article, 77% of all openings are posted on LinkedIn and 48% of all job openings posted on LinkedIn are never posted anywhere else! Do you need further convincing?
Transitioning from the classroom to a 9-5 is challenging, really challenging, but it helps to be as prepared as possible. Know that you are an asset, I mean really truly believe that. Go in there and display all that you can offer, this is your opportunity to wow them. Make the best impression possible – this could be the beginning of a lucrative career.