How to Break Into The Tech Industry With No Experience
As technology evolves exponentially and has a rising impact on economies, there seems to be no better time to get into the tech industry than now. However, we have to ask: how difficult is the transition from a non-technology profession into tech?
Many people believe that they need a relevant degree to break into tech, which fortunately is not true. Tech is largely an industry based on innovation and skills—not on academic prowess. Tech jobs require people with a diverse array of strengths and intelligent, fast-learning minds.
It's totally possible to land an awesome tech job—regardless of what experience you're bringing to the table.
Is the tech industry hard to break into?
Before we jump into how to break into tech, let's start by answering this simple question: Is the tech industry really that hard to get into? It certainly has a reputation for having a really high barrier to entry, but it's also ripe with opportunity.
For starters, in today's constantly-connected world, tech is a huge industry—especially in the U.S. In fact, the U.S. has the largest tech market in the world, accounting for 33% of the total global market.
What does that mean for you? Plenty of openings. Tech hiring grew by an impressive 81% between the years of 2019 and 2021 (even with the pandemic road bump in the mix) and The New York Times even described hiring in the tech industry as "bonkers" in a June 2022 article.
While there's no shortage of openings to get your foot in the door, breaking into the tech industry does come with some unique obstacles and challenges. Some of the most notable ones are:
- Ageism: The tech industry is no stranger to criticism for being ageist—more so than a lot of other industries. One study found that anyone over the age of 35 is considered "old" in tech. Yikes. So, more experienced workers might hit roadblocks trying to break into an industry that shows obvious favoritism for young candidates.
- Lack of Diversity: Similarly, the tech industry (particularly in Silicon Valley) also frequently comes under fire for its lack of diversity. Despite many public promises to prioritize diversity, the field is still male-dominated and lags way behind in racial diversity as well.
- Technical Experience: The world "technology" alone inspires visions of coders and developers firing away on keyboards. It's true that some of the positions available at tech companies require a lot of technical expertise and experience, but there are also plenty of other roles that don't require such an intensive background.
- Location Bias: Many people think technology is synonymous with major areas like San Francisco or New York City, which leads them to believe they couldn't possibly find their place in the industry if they don't live in one of those tech hubs. But, tech jobs exist everywhere. In fact, the two states hiring the most tech talent in 2022 might surprise you: Texas and Maryland. Yes, they're even ahead of California.
- Recession and Layoffs: While there's still plenty of opportunity out there, mutterings and news of layoffs or hiring freezes as tech companies brace themselves for a looming recession might have some people think now isn't the time to join the industry.
The tech industry certainly isn't without its shortcomings and challenges. But, tech jobs are still desirable and highly sought after because they frequently offer prestige, high pay, and the chance to work in an innovative field.
How to Get Into Tech (Regardless of Your Experience)
So, you've decided that the tech industry is where you want to be—and you're feeling a lot like that awkward preteen who still can't seem to find their locker.
The process of breaking into tech isn't quite as unfamiliar as you might've convinced yourself. All of the traditional job search best practices—like tailoring your resume (we suggest using Teal's AI Resume Builder) and practicing your answers to common interview questions—still apply.
But, if you're eager to get your foot in the door of the tech industry, there are a few more steps you can take to make a name for yourself and land a coveted job.
1. Flip The Script on What Tech Looks Like
You might think that landing a job in tech automatically means working for one of the power players.
But, FAANG (that's a popular tech acronym for Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google, by the way) companies aren't the be-all and end-all here. In fact, hiring at those larger firms is actually slowing down.
Like we mentioned earlier, tech in the United States is a huge industry. You'll have far more success if you break outside of your limited view of what tech looks like and explore companies that might not have as much fame—but offer far more opportunity.
2. Understand Your Role Options
Next, it's time to get clear on this: Do you want a tech job or do you want to work in the tech industry?
Scratching your head wondering what the difference is? Contrary to popular belief, working in the tech industry is not limited to programming jobs. There are a variety of jobs within the industry that you may not be familiar with yet. Let's quickly break it down:
- You Want to Land a Tech Job: These are the more technical roles you probably immediately think of: software engineers, web developers, data analysts, and other positions that require a lot of specialized expertise.
- You Want to Work In the Tech Industry: The industry doesn't only need technical roles. Tech companies are companies (duh, right?), which means they need sales development representatives, customer support specialists, marketing professionals, human resource coordinators…you get the idea.
If you're trying to land a tech job without a lot of prior experience, you'll probably have a heavier lift in terms of getting the right training and education. But, if you're looking to make a switch into the tech industry from a similar position in another field? You might have an easier time.
Either way, understand what roles appeal to you (there are no right or wrong answers here!) so you can start to narrow down your preparation efforts.
3. Get the Nitty Gritty on Requirements
Now that you know what type of job you're looking for, it's time to get some clarity about what you actually need to score that position.
Some simple searching can reveal a lot here. Comb through popular job boards and sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and even LinkedIn to search for your desired position (for example, "customer support specialist"). Most of the sites offer filters so you can narrow your search by location, industry, and more.
Pull out a few positions that seem interesting to you (and remember to save them using Teal's Job Application Tracker so you can easily get back to them when you need to!) and look specifically at the qualifications.
What do those requirements have in common? Do you need a specific type of degree or certification? Are there certain skills you see mentioned across the board? Make note of the common threads you spot. That'll be helpful as you figure out your next steps.
If you really want a deep understanding of what you need to land and thrive in a certain type of role, it can also be helpful to do some low-pressure informational interviews with people who already work in those types of positions.
Use the search function on LinkedIn to search for "customer support specialist" and then click "people" to see employees with that title on the platform. Again, you can filter by industry or company to find people who specifically work in tech.
When you find someone who seems like a good fit, reach out with a friendly and personalized connection request to see if they're willing to answer a few questions. Here's a quick template you can use:
I'm [Your Name] and I'm preparing to break into a [role type] position in tech. I see that you're a [role type] with [company] and was wondering if I could ask a few questions about your experience.
I'd love to buy you a virtual coffee!
Thanks for your consideration,
You might not always get a response, but it certainly doesn't hurt to ask (respectfully, of course).
4. Pull Out What You Bring to the Table
You're armed with your list of what it takes to land the type of job you want. Now it's time to figure out what boxes you already check. Are there any qualifications you know that you already have locked in?
Let's return to our customer support specialist example. Maybe most of the job postings you looked at wanted at least a year or two of experience in a customer-facing position. While you're brand new to tech, you spent the past three years in a retail environment working directly with customers. That's a transferable skill and experience you can absolutely highlight in your application materials.
As you think through this, don't only focus on your specific skills— think about potential industry overlap as well.
For example, are you making a change from a nursing career? That could be super appealing to a healthcare technology startup. Did you previously work as a teacher? You could catch the eye of some online education platforms.
Sometimes it's the unexpected or outside-the-box candidates that catch recruiters' attention most, so your goal here is to identify any relevant or impressive qualifications that could serve you well in that type of role.
5. Identify Gaps and Expand Your Education
As you compare what jobs require with your own skills and experiences, it's also worth making note of what you don't already have (even if it inspires a little bit of self-doubt).
For most people with absolutely no experience and background in tech, the best course of action is to opt for courses taught by renowned experts or enroll in a training or internship program that allows you to work with technology.
Do you need experience working with a specific type of software? Or is there a certain certification that's super desirable in that field? Seek training and IT certifications that allow you to explore the different dimensions of the tech industry. While getting a degree in tech takes up to 4 years, certifications can be earned in a few weeks or months.
The point of identifying those skill gaps isn't to make those jobs in the tech industry feel even more out of reach. Instead, it highlights what areas you can improve to set yourself up for more success.
Some of the options you may have available to help fill in those skill gaps include:
- Apprenticeships and internships
- Conferences and seminars
- Online courses and certifications
- Mentoring relationships
Those will help you beef up your knowledge while also giving you some more experiences to showcase on your resume. You can easily update your resume using Teal's AI Resume Builder.
6. Build a Portfolio That Stands Out
Once you have learned a skill or two, start building your portfolio by working on small projects. Don't seek perfection but experience and development. Implementing your skills and building your experience is key at this point. There are tons of freelance opportunities and small businesses that offer applicants one-time assignments and projects.
These projects can lay the foundation of your portfolio and show recruiters your capabilities. Evidence of learning and qualification is essential, but ultimately, the practical translation of your skills is going to be hugely important when securing an employment opportunity.
Need some inspiration? We put together a series of resume examples that do a fantastic job of showcasing both a candidates expertise, and initiative.
7. Network, Network, and Network Some More
You might roll your eyes every time you hear the ol' "it's not what you know but who you know" cliché. But, that overused platitude holds water. A robust social media presence is a great way to be found in the tech circle. Grow your social network to tap into opportunities. Look around for connections in the field and reach out to them. Twitter and LinkedIn are especially relevant for this tactic.
Estimates vary, but anywhere from 48% to a whopping 85% of jobs are said to be filled by employee referrals and networking. The better your network, the higher your chances are of securing a position in tech.
That can seem daunting—especially when "networking" inspires visions of stuffy conference centers, name tags, and dry chicken skewers. Keep in mind that networking really only means building relationships with people.
If you're eager to connect with people specifically in the tech industry, you could:
- Search on LinkedIn and other social media sites to find relevant professionals (always introduce yourself or include a personalized note!)
- Ask your friends, family, or other contacts if they know anybody you should reach out to
- Join relevant online groups, communities, or even in-person associations
Basically, think of any way that you can start to shake some hands (virtually counts too!), forge some bonds, and build some name recognition within the tech industry.
One helpful tip here is to consider reaching out to startups. Startups are typically not in a position to hire expensive employees and are often open to offering opportunities to people with the flexibility to learn. This works out the best for people who are new to the industry and have beginner-to-intermediate-level skills to offer.
8. Put Your Best Foot Forward
When you've put all of that work into laying a solid foundation, the last thing you want is for your resume or application to move you directly to the recycling bin.
Make sure that all of your other job search elements are polished up and ready to impress. Here are a few things to consider:
- Use a functional functional resume format rather than a traditional chronological one. That will call more attention to your skills over your past employment experiences.
- Create a website or online portfolio where you can showcase your qualifications.
- Refine your social media presence so that recruiters see a polished online presence when they inevitably search for you (which the majority of recruiters say they do as part of the screening process).
- Take on some freelance work or even pro bono work for a cause that's important to you. It's a great opportunity to hone your skills, make some connections, and even get a tangible sample or experience you can share.
Struggling to pull together a resume that will land at the top of the pile? We can help with that too with our AI Resume Builder.
9. Be Consistent and Stay Up-To-Date
The tech world is based on learning, innovating, and polishing your skills. And the best thing about the nature of the work is that it allows you to break free from the shell of traditional work culture and repetition.
However, how successful you are in your new learning is entirely based on how consistent you are with your practices. Technology evolves every day, and keeping pace with it is the key to success.
The tech industry presents unique opportunities and challenges to those who wish to do something new in their career. Transitioning into the field of tech with little experience may not be easy, but it surely is rewarding. With dedication, passion, and the right direction in mind, you can jump-start your career in tech today.
Think You Can't Break Into Tech? Think Again
The tech industry might seem like this exclusive club that's impossible to join, especially if you don't already have some tech experience under your belt.
But, while that perception is pretty common, it's not totally accurate. The tech industry offers plenty of opportunities in a variety of different roles that could be just the right fit for you.
And hey, if you managed to find your locker on the first day of high school (you eventually did, right?), you can do this too.