How to stand out from the crowd as a young IT or tech job applicant?

26.10.2017 / Mika Laaksonen

Everyone knows that IT job market is hot at the moment and that there is a good choice of jobs for the young IT talents. Same applies to many other technical fields at the moment. However, as professionals of young talents’ recruitment, we often also see the other side of the coin; landing a great job is easy for some, whereas for others it’s difficult despite good technical skills.

We meet candidates who have been so valued, that they have been actually able to choose to work in almost any IT or tech company where they want. The technical skills have been a hugely important factor, but there are also other important factors that make these candidates extremely valued by the companies. The same factors also make these people much more likely to land a promotion, to rise to leadership positions and enable them to found their own company as well, if that’s what they prefer to do.

So what’s the difference between the best candidates and good candidates? And how can you be more valuable in the job market, so that you can increase your choice of working opportunities?

Here are a few tips for young IT and tech talents!

1. Build your tech stack for the future

It’s probably not a surprise for you, that staying updated on the new technologies pays off in the long term. And the thing is, as a young talent you have an advantage in this! It is easier for you to learn new technologies in University etc, as part of your studies, compared to an older person who is working fulltime with older technologies (they won’t have as much time to update their skills and will have a hard time keeping up with you).
However, there is still a big demand in the business life for older technologies too. There are many that are fading in popularity, but some that are so widely entrenched that their need will not go away in a long time – C, C++ and Java as some examples. As long as you recognise the development and keep yourself aware of the changes in the need for that technology, learning an old technology is not a waste of time. But don’t specialise only in the old techs.

2. Work on your “soft skills”

Communication skills, presentation skills, team working skills, confidence, etc… The list goes on. It seems almost impossible to find a job ad without some of these basic requirements nowadays. And there is a very good reason for that as well. However technical the job you apply for, you will most likely benefit tremendously from the “soft skills”. So don’t think you can get away with it, just because your technical skills are so good.
No need to get worried though. Developing these skills can be as simple as just spending a lot of time with people. This way you will naturally improve. For example, if you can choose, pick a job where you will interact with other people a lot.

3. Acquire experience from customer work (extra points for sales!)

It’s actually a really large portion of IT and technical positions where you need to be in direct contact with the customers. So whatever experience you get from customer work is very helpful, even if it’s from the totally different field. Your future employer will think twice before choosing you to a job with customer contact if you have zero experience from that.

And by the way, if you want to stand out really positively, get some sales experience too! Of course, sales are not required in most of the technical jobs. But even if it isn’t, that experience helps you to understand the business perspective of your daily work better, which is usually super value for your employer. Sales experience will also open a lot more career development paths for you later, including a better chance for leadership positions.

4. Make sure you speak English well (writing is often not enough)

This is sometimes a pitfall for the technical candidates. Most young people understand English pretty well these days, not least the IT folks. However, the verbal language skill is lacking for many people who have never spoken the language outside of school classroom. The speaking skill is important because more and more companies now operate with English as their main language (especially common in the tech & IT field). Also, the customer contacts in your job might require speaking English. So find a way to practice your English speaking skills, for example by travelling or going for an Erasmus semester abroad!

5. Learn to explain technical ideas to non-technical people

This skill is extremely valuable and too often lacking. In some roles it might double your usefulness to the rest of the organization or to the customers of your employer. Especially if your job requires “selling” a technical idea to anyone, inside or outside the organization. More often than not, the people who you are trying to convince of your idea don’t understand anything of it, if you explain it with the technical jargon. To be useful for the rest of the world, the rest of the world needs to understand you. 😉 So keep in mind that most people are not as tech savvy as you and learn the habit of communicating simply.

6. Get project management experience

A lot of IT development and other tech-related work projects happens within projects, project management skills are obviously needed a lot. Considering work experience, there is a big difference in being a part of the project or leading it. The latter makes you truly understand the challenges and bottlenecks of projects, scheduling, organizational skills, and teaches you how to get things done. As with customer experience, also the project management experience doesn’t need to be from your own field – for example, management of some of your student organization’s projects is a good starting point and valued highly by the employers.

 

So there you have, a few ideas to diversify your skill set and positively stand out as a job applicant. Remember to be patient, as a good skill set will take years to accumulate. But if you manage to get even some of these skills and experiences, I guarantee you will not regret it.

And remember, if you want to receive professionally relevant job offers, sign up at atalent.ee, and you will get notified of the best opportunities from your field.

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About the writer:

Mika Laaksonen

Mika Laaksonen

Director

Mika Laaksonen helps young talents and interesting tech and IT companies to connect in Estonia and Finland.

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