The Non-Tech Person’s Guide to Landing a Tech Job in 5 Steps
Unless you’ve been working at the DMV for the last decade, you’ve probably noticed that technology is changing every single aspect of our workforce.
Non-tech companies are becoming tech companies. Traditionally non-tech jobs, like teaching, are seeking people who can code. In fact, the proliferation of tech companies themselves is so significant that non-tech jobs and salaries are growing nearly twice as fast in tech-driven job markets as they are anywhere else.
Perhaps most importantly, the demand for tech talent is currently greater than – and growing faster than – the supply of people graduating from school with high tech skills. Companies are being forced to get creative, both in what they’re willing to offer to qualified candidates and in who they consider to be ‘qualified’ candidates, because there simply aren’t enough people with formal technology training to go around.
As a result, the barriers to entry in this high-dollar, high opportunity job market are surprisingly low. So what are you waiting for? Here’s how you can land a tech job without any formal education or experience:
1. Learn how the web works.
Fact: you don’t need to know much about technology to know more than most people do. The tech revolution is still in its infancy, and the number of people who know how to build websites is much, much smaller than the number of people who have absolutely no idea what a website really is. (I.e., there’s still plenty of room for you to get in and get ahead.)
Start by reading this excellent overview of ‘How the Web Works’ by Justin Mares. The article covers the basic tenets of the World Wide Web in the most comprehensive layman’s terms available. It’s worth bookmarking for future reference as well – it’ll likely come in handy when you’re working to uncover areas of interest in quasi-tech roles in step three.
2. Immerse yourself in the latest technology news, industry jargon and events.
The tech job market is a fast-paced, rapidly changing space where new technologies are created, acquired and disrupted daily. In order to be knowledgable about the space, you’ll need to stay current with weekly, if not daily, media updates. Try selecting a few of these tech media outlets to follow online, add to your reader, or subscribe to via e-newsletter. Sharing relevant links on your personal Social Media profiles will also signal to your network that you’re in the know.
Non-Tech Person’s Guide to Tech Media
Business, Culture, & Design
News & Analysis
Hardware & Software Reviews
|The Verge||TheNextWeb||Digital Trends|
3. Identify your areas of interest.
There are two ways to set about gaining a ‘tech job’ without the requisite skills. One is to go for a non-tech job – such as HR, Finance and Accounting, Inside Sales, Operations, Administrative Assistance, etc. – in a tech company. The other is to identify positions you’re interested in that require some technical aptitude and training (but not an entire degree), and then invest the time to build up your experience in the areas where you’re lacking.
We’ll talk more about free or low cost skill-building resources in step four. But first, take a look at these quasi-technical jobs:
- Junior Data Analyst, Front-End Web Designer, Consultant, Mainframe Support Technician, Mobile Application Developer (via Dice)
- Digital/Social Media Jobs – Content Manager, Campaign Manager, Community Manager, Analytics Specialist (via Washington Post)
- Computer Systems Analyst (via USA Today)
- Computer Service Technician (via CareerCast)
- Customer Success, Software and Software as a Service (SaaS) Sales (via Mashable)
- Technical Recruiter
- [Venture-backed] Startup Jobs (via VentureLoop)
Do any of these positions offer the opportunity to build on your existing expertise? For example, if you have a Communications degree and enjoy writing, perhaps Search Engine Marketing is a good fit for you. Or if you work for a company with a ‘digital department’ of some sort, try volunteering for projects and making connections who can help you crossover to the other side.
Another great way to learn about the industry while making valuable connections is by reaching out to people whose careers you admire on LinkedIn. Many people are open to coffee if you ask politely and explain your objective. (A little bit of flattery couldn’t hurt, either.) Make sure to ask how they got to where they are today, and which of their most important skills were learned on-the-job (and which ones weren’t).
4. Gain the skills you need.
As the competition for tech talent heats up, companies are increasingly willing to invest in the training and development of smart, capable people (albeit not quite qualified). By adding a few self-taught skills, you’ll not only demonstrate your ability to adapt quickly and learn on the job, but you’ll also gain some real-world experience to add to your resume.
There’s a growing wealth of free and low-cost learning options for the aspiring technologist. Whether you’re seeking to learn about a concept, such as Digital Marketing, or a specific skill, such as writing HTML code, a user-friendly online course is just a click away.
Theory and fundamentals:
- Computer Science Theory: EdX (full semester, free) or Udacity ($150)
- Digital and Social Media Marketing: General Assembly
- Beginner – Codecademy, Dash
- Intermediate – Code School
- Advanced – Pluralist
- Lynda.com tutorials
Immersive – become a hireable web developer in 10 – 15 weeks
- Anyone Can Learn to Code
- The Maker Square
- Big Nerd Ranch
- Google and Youtube
Note: Get credit for your work! Save everything you make (and are proud of) online, and begin building a portfolio. In the absence of work experience, your portfolio is an essential tool to showing employers what you’re capable achieving with a little bit of guidance. (Find a free online portfolio site here.)
5. Enlist a recruiter!
This is not a blatant piece of self promotion; it’s simply a fact. If you are seeking to alter the course of your career, the help of a recruiter can make the difference between a graceful transition and an irreparable step backwards.