How To Land A Job In Tech
Tech is the fastest growing industry and a great one to work in. But where to start?
5 min read
If you’re a pre-entry or high school student interested in eventually entering tech, why wait? Though going into the tech industry before you’re even at university can be a challenging feat, it is equally rewarding. In an age where every job requires experience, it is extremely valuable to have something to show for before you’ve even fully entered the workforce as an adult.
In the summer of 2016, I interned at a New York-based tech accelerator running social media at conferences. I now have another internship for a developing payment platform app and am a writer for She Can Code- this has all been before my sixteenth birthday. From talking to family members and mentors, as well as picking up a few things myself, here are the things I have learned along the way throughout the process of becoming a teen in tech:
Know the Basics. Learning how to form your first CV and what goes into writing an infinite amount of cover letters is your first basic step in practically any type of job search. Tech is an irruptive, nuanced field, and chances are your future employer isn’t looking for cut-and-dry employees. Don’t be afraid to incorporate a little bit of spunk into your applications, and give yourself the chance to stand out.
You can find tips from The Muse on resumes here, and advice how to write cover letters that will stand out here. Still confused? The Balance provides some helpful information about formatting your cover letters and also provides examples of letters people have used in the past. Many sites also offer free resume templates including Microsoft Office and My Perfect Resume.
Access Your Skill Set. One of the easiest ways to enter tech as a teenager is through an internship. These positions are usually targeted at people a bit younger and who don’t have as much experience as professionals. Start thinking about what type of internship or other entry-level position would be best suited for you. Are you a master at social media, a whiz with Python, or are you just looking for basic office work? Lean towards jobs that are in or close to the field that you will want to work for full-time in the future.
Be honest with yourself. Avoid applying to jobs where you are obviously unqualified, but at the same time, don’t shy away from applying to a job because you don’t 100% match; spoiler alert: no one does. As long as you have most of the listed qualifications, your cover letter and interview will sell you as the ideal candidate.
Set Yourself Up For Success. If you’re drawing blanks as to what to put on your resume, consider taking a step back. Sites like Volunteer Match will help you find volunteer positions that can help you build up your CV so you can ensure a successful entrance into tech and build up your professional skills. Volunteer positions are less selective and will most likely be more inclusive to working with teenagers. You can also seek out local opportunities in your neighborhood or join community service based clubs at your school.
To specifically hone in on building up your technological skills, Code.org, Khan Academy, and Code Academy are great sites to learn how to code for free. Our Resources page also provides a full directory of tools you can use to strengthen your digital skills.
Make sure to regularly practice your interview skills with a friend, or just with yourself in front of the mirror. LiveCareer provides some basic interview tips, and there are hundreds of other articles online with suggestions on how to rock a job interview. You’ll become more comfortable with interviews the more you have them, so it’s easier if you think of each interview you go on also as practice for your next one, and not put an excessive amount of stress on yourself about the interview process.
Start Searching. She Can Code has recently launched Rise Up to help you find your next job We are committed to connecting you with equal opportunity employees who are just as passionate about diversity and inclusivity as we are. Rise Up is small now, but we are continuing to grow. We pinky promise you’ll love it as much as we do.
Hungry for more? The following sites are also great for finding internships and entry-level positions:
Before you apply anywhere, do some digging and make sure that the job listing was posted relatively recently (no more than a month ago). You can also see on Angel List whether companies have been active lately. As a teen, it can be easier to reach out to smaller startups than go for the big guys. Newly developing companies that haven’t gained as much traction yet and could probably really use your help (and also don’t have hundreds of applicants to sift through!).
Be clear about what you want. A lot of companies--especially startups--may only be looking for unpaid help, and you need to be honest with yourself if that is something you’re up for. If so, know the facts: in order for companies to be exempt from paying students the minimum wage in the UK, you must be able to use the internship as part of your higher education or as part of a school/work trade. You can find out more about employment rights in the U.K. here, and about similar laws in the U.S. here.
Don’t be hesitant to only look for experiences that also pay. Most job search engines like InternQueen or the Muse have options to filter out unpaid positions.
Reach Out to People Yourself Can’t find what you’re looking for? Afraid that your job applications will get lost in the void? Seek out hiring managers and CEOs in tech yourself through LinkedIn or email. Never apologize for your age. Instead, focus on selling yourself and the fact that you’re younger. Let people see that you’ve researched their company, and allow your maturity to shine through in writing and during interviews. Though there may be hesitation at first, companies will be confident hiring a teenager when you show them you are passionate, responsible, and hardworking.
She Can Code has already covered the many benefits of attending tech events, but the advantages are even more numerous when you’re first making your mark in tech. Events are a wonderful way to connect with people in the tech industry in person, and exchange contact information. You may find opportunities through casual small talk at tech conferences that you never would have otherwise, and will gain a deeper understanding of tech in the process.
Adriana Chavez is a student and writer based in New York. She currently works as part of the Day of the Girl-US action team where she runs the Girls in STEM blog series. She is passionate about coding and intersectional feminism. When not hidden behind her computer or a great book, she can be found walking the streets of New York with her rescue dog.