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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

How to Look Qualified For a Tech Job When You’re a Little Light on Experience

You have your eye on a tech role you want, but you’ve never worked in the industry before. And every job description—even an entry-level one—says you need experience before you apply.

You feel frustrated and ready to give up: Is a career change to tech even possible?

Actually, it’s easier than you think. As with anything else, proving you have relevant knowledge means beefing up your skill set and then adjusting your personal branding to show it off. Here’s how to do that:

Step 1: Do Relevant Work

Tech companies don’t just want random experience—they want to see you have skills that line up with your desired position. And the way to get this coveted knowhow is through what I call “micro-experiences.” These are learning opportunities that fall somewhere between reading a few blog posts (which wouldn’t be enough to sell your readiness for a position) and getting a full-blown job (which you aren’t yet qualified for).

These projects require exactly what tech recruiters want (real-world work with concrete outcomes) and what you can reasonably attain (a small, time-limited opportunity that doesn’t require someone to invest heavily in you).

Here are three places to look:

  • VolunteerMatch lets you search local and virtual opportunities.
  • Catchafire is filled with short-term volunteer opportunities.
  • Fiverr is the place to list the skill you’d like to develop and snag a bunch of micro-experiences quickly.

For example, if you wanted to build out your product marketing skills, you might reply to an ad that reads: “Help us use Facebook to drive more of our audience to purchase a product on our site.” That’s the exact kind of project you can crush and use to demonstrate your success to future employers!

Pro tip: Before you say yes, make sure that your client will agree to let you share your work and results externally. Even if it means turning down a project or taking a lower fee, this is non-negotiable. Because the real goal is to show off your work to recruiters, and a project they can’t see is one that doesn’t exist.

Step 2: Show Off What You’ve Learned

Now that you have more experience under your belt, you want to make sure to show it off. Here are the places it matters most:

On LinkedIn

LinkedIn has the advantage of being visual—and it’s where recruiters are already looking. Fact: It’s used by 94% of social recruiters. Embed representative images on your profile (e.g., a screenshot of your top-performing Facebook ad), along with a caption that points to the results: “Conducted A/B test with Facebook ad messaging, leading to a 25% increase in click-through rate and a 10% increase in purchases.”

Now, you’ve got that precious experience that recruiters value in the exact place they’re looking to find it!

On Your Personal Website

LinkedIn’s a great start, but to really stand out, you should also share your experience in a customized portfolio. Good news: You can set up a personal website in just a week.

On Your Resume

You’ve got the experience, you’ve updated your online presence, and you finally feel confident enough to apply. The final step is to weave your stories into your materials and how you describe your career story. Add a volunteer experience or projects section on your resume (more on that here).

I know that when you want to get a job in tech, strict experience requirements can make it feel hopeless. But instead of getting frustrated that you lack direct experience, take matters into your own hands. Get it the same way that entrepreneurs launch their startups—by being scrappy and hacking the system that seems stacked against you.

Because at the end of the day, there’s one rule that trumps all others: Seeing is believing. And once tech recruiters see your experience, even those tough gatekeepers will start to believe!

Get Jeremy’s free step-by-step course to landing your first tech job - and learn the exact techniques he used to go from teaching kindergarten to working at Apple, LinkedIn, and startups.

Photo of person making resume courtesy of PeopleImages/Getty Images.