How to get the experience you need for the IT job you really want

If you’re a recent graduate or are just looking for a career change, finding a tech job can feel impossible. You’ve probably scrolled through tons of job posts before realising that 99% of them ask for significant experience in the field before you can apply.

How are you meant to gain this experience if you can’t apply for any of the jobs in the first place? It seems like a total contradiction.

While landing your perfect technical role is difficult, it’s not out of reach. To help you out, we’ve compiled a quick guide to getting experience which will help you break into the technology industry without full-time experience.

Take on freelance projects

A fantastic way to show off your technical skills and interests is to dive in head first and take on some freelance work.

If you’re currently employed in a full-time role in a different field, this is still doable – just take on one project at a time and complete it in your spare time. This allows you to get some real-world projects and concrete experience under your belt to impressive potential employers.

You could find this freelance work in multiple places. If you’re just keen to gain the experience, it could be good to contact nonprofit organisations and offer your services for free. A good place to find these opportunities is Catchafire, where charities post projects in everything from SEO to PR.

There are multiple freelance websites which, although aren’t always ideal for full-time freelancers, are great to pick up some odd projects and work experience. Try the following sites, set up an account and apply for relevant projects:

  • Upwork is the web’s biggest database of freelance projects;
  • Fiverr is an online marketplace for freelance services, starting at just $5. It’s a good place to find some small projects and gain experiences quickly;
  • People Per Hour is similar to Upwork but smaller-scale. The best part of this website is that you’re able to list your services for a specific fee, which people can then purchase.

If you struggle to pick up projects without a portfolio, try to think outside the box. Do you have any friends or family who run a business – or could you get in touch with small local businesses? If so, you could probably help them improve their website or even create one, create and implement a digital marketing strategy, help them boost their SEO or use other skills you have to their benefit. We can guarantee someone will be extremely thankful for the help.

Build a portfolio

After taking on a few freelance assignments, you’ve actually started building up evidence to include in a portfolio. But those experiences don’t mean much to a tech employer until you’ve packaged them up into a consumable portfolio. Here’s how to do exactly that:

1. Make sure your clients agree to let you use work in a portfolio before you work for them – and get it in writing. If you’re unsure, go ahead and ask. If you’re working for free or a small amount of money, you should be allowed to use it as your will. If not, don’t take on the work.

2. It’s inevitable that you’ll be asked in an interview about how you created the end product or achieved the results. Therefore, when completing freelance projects, try to keep a diary of the project which explains the process.

3. Make your experiences available to recruiters. There are multiple ways to do this. You can, of course, list them on your CV – but nowadays, it’s much more impressive to create an online, visual portfolio. If you’re a web designer or coder, creating one yourself from scratch is a piece of your portfolio in itself.

If you’re an expert in a different field, you’ll be able to find lots of different portfolio building tools online. Some are for free, while some may ask for a small fee. Take your time finding one that’s right for you and which displays your skills well – check out this blog for some ideas.

Another option is LinkedIn. You can easily display links to websites or upload documents or images under each section of your work experience. Make sure to add a detailed caption under each image/link and explain what part you had to play in the project.

Intern for a short time

If you’re fresh out of school or university and are able to stay with parents or a friend for a while, working as an intern could be a worthwhile investment of your time. Keep track of local job boards or reach out to companies you’re interested in working for and enquire about the possibility of an internship. Often, a company could benefit from an intern but just hasn’t considered hiring one yet.

Internships might not seem ideal, but they sometimes lead to a full-time role and give you tangible experience in your field.

While it might seem hard to break into a technical job, it’s entirely possible once you’ve created an attractive, results-lead portfolio. And just remember, the best web designers, SEO professionals and programmers once had no experience too.

So with your shiny, new tech portfolio and CV at the ready, make sure you check out the S2 jobs page – we’ve always got lots of fantastic positions available.

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