Everyone has to start somewhere in the professional world. Entry level jobs are crucial positions to help workers learn and grow as professionals and as members of a team. But how do you go about finding the right entry level position and landing a job offer? What are employers looking for in candidates? What should you do to give yourself the best chance in the job hunt?

Recent changes in our society, including (and especially) in the tech industry, have forever altered the labor market and how both job seekers and employers operate. So the answers to those three questions have changed a bit from what might have been the traditional response.

“For decades, a college degree has been an external indication of skill and ability,” said Dr. Jonathan Huer, former chief learning officer for Eleven Fifty Academy and current director of the SLED (State and Local Government, and Education) overlay team with AT&T. “Now, there are degrees, certifications, certificates, badges, and other ‘micro credentials.’ Employers who look at individuals holistically can find really good entry level talent. Those who look at traditional indicators [college degrees] only are missing out on a tremendous quantity and quality of talent.”

While traditional paths to tech, such as obtaining a college degree, are still great ways to get into the industry, there are a growing number of opportunities for people to find their place through entry level roles.

The real tech education begins when you start working.

COVID-19’s spread around the world put the hiring plans of countless companies on hold. Those employers are now playing catch up and are looking to bring new talent into the fold. SEP Director of Human Resources Dawn Bunting, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, said her team plans to fill more than 10 job openings in 2022 alone.

“We take hiring the right person very seriously,” said Bunting. She noted that SEP hiring managers look for many of the standard attributes in new talent such as being a good team player, good communication skills and problem solving ability. “We think it’s important that candidates have the opportunity to flex their skills no matter their role,” she added.

The skills candidates have to flex will vary depending on their background, and that background doesn’t necessarily need to be in tech. With the seemingly endless diversity of products and services available from tech companies, a diverse background of skills, outlooks and ideas is a necessary asset in today’s tech ecosystem.

“There are so many opportunities to work in tech,” said Bunting. “We have employees with music, math, and even theater degrees! Diversity of thought is an important aspect of designing and building software products, so do yourself a favor and give the tech industry a shot.”

Bunting has advice to those looking to break into the tech industry through entry level roles. “Be prepared to learn something new—all the time. In the tech industry, companies are not successful unless they’re doing something new and innovative, and they don’t teach these things in school. Coming in with a solid foundation in the basics is important, but the real education begins when you start working; embrace it, and you’ll have many more opportunities, both immediately and as your career progresses.”

Tech values the fresh perspectives that entry-level hires bring.

COVID, at first, created a lull in hiring, then a rush. It also altered how our society functions in numerous ways and accelerated change that had already been taking place. Jonathan Gandolf, co-founder and CEO of High Alpha start-up The Juice, sees new talent and new ideas as necessities in our “new normal.”

“If you can learn fast and are ambitious, there’s ample opportunity in the tech industry,” said Gandolf. His team expects to open engineering and sales roles to aid their growth, with a premium being put on candidates with fresh perspectives and no hesitancy in sharing their ideas.

Job candidates who can effectively tell the story of how their experiences (not necessarily traditional tech experiences) have helped them learn, grow and solve problems, are the ones Gandolf says will set themselves apart from the competition.

The number of professionals who come to tech from non-traditional backgrounds and paths is on the rise, and Gandolf loves it. “I think it brings more people with unique perspectives into tech,” he said. “My own career path has wandered into and out of tech, and it has made me a more versatile leader. Diversity of thought and experiences is a great thing for any business.”

The advice Gandolf has for those looking into entry level tech roles? “There’s endless opportunity if you keep your head on a swivel.”

“Share your story,” he added. “No matter the role, you’re going to need to problem solve and storytell. If you can do that, you’re already ahead of many of your peers. Then, be a sponge. Also, your first team is more important than your first job.”

Be prepared for competition.

It’s no surprise that the tech job market is red hot right now with tech companies across the country, and especially in Indiana, looking for bright new talent to help their teams grow. Demand is high, but that doesn’t mean finding an entry level role in the tech industry will be a walk in the park.

“With remote positions becoming the new norm and salaries for tech roles on the rise, more and more people are beginning to think about careers in tech,” said Ben Colter, HR generalist with DB Services.

For those looking at a tech career who don’t have a tech education from a college or university, Colter advises beefing up their resumes with as many internships, bootcamps or certifications as possible. “A couple weeks in a bootcamp is a good start, but this education pales in comparison to someone that spent two to four years at a university focusing on tech,” he said.

Definitely prepare for opportunities and stiff competition for the most in-demand tech roles, such as cybersecurity where there is a roughly zero percent unemployment rate, he said.

Landing entry level jobs requires some homework.

It’s important to know exactly who you’re talking to when it comes to interviews; including the background of the interviewer or interviewers if you know with whom you’ll be meeting, but most certainly the company with which you’re interviewing. “Know the basics of the company where you’re applying to work,” said Stephen Phillips, talent leader with Australia-based Vivi and former talent development and growth specialist with Zylo. “Understand, in basic terms, the product or solution. Show your passion, and that you understand the role and what about it excites you. Even though you haven’t done the role, talk about what you have done and accomplished, communicating how it can translate into success in the role you’re applying for.”

With an understanding of the company, and potentially the interviewer, it’s beneficial to utilize past experiences and find direct ties from them to the responsibilities listed in a job description. “Take the job description and lay it alongside your resume and consider each bullet point,” said Phillips. “For as many components of the job description as possible, try to think of a similar situation or experience from your resume that would fit.”

Tailor your resume for the job you want.

Telling the story of your background and your skills is crucial to landing a job. On top of understanding the background of a company you might be interviewing with, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of your own background. Be prepared to tell your story, going into detail about why every item on your resume helps make you an asset the interviewers should invest in.

“We also try to look for candidates who have made an effort to build their resume in different ways; those who have gone out of their way to learn a new skill that could be applicable to that role or found another way to garner experience,” Phillips said.

Building a diverse resume doesn’t always mean internships, part-time jobs or participation in hackathons. It means getting involved in your community, volunteering your time or seeking leadership roles in clubs and organizations. Showing the multidimensional aspects of your background provides more perspective for potential employers to determine whether you’re the right fit for them. Depending on the questions they may ask about such experiences will help you determine if they’re a good fit for you.

Examples of entry level tech jobs.

You don’t need to be a developer or cybersecurity professional to have a place in tech. From Human Resources to marketing, business analysis to communications and customer success to sales, there is an increasingly large and diverse pool of career paths available in the world of tech.

Entry level tech jobs in sales.

Carson McWhinney, a sales development representative with Greenlight Guru, believes Indianapolis’ place as a growing tech hub provides a vast array of opportunities for anyone to dive into tech. “The hardest decision is choosing which direction you want to go in while at the same time making it easier to find a position that fits your passions,” he said.

McWhinney came to tech sales last winter after having worked sales roles in different industries. He advised those searching for an entry level position in tech to practice perseverance, determination, patience and trust, they will find the right role.

Entry level tech jobs in development.

Nathan Gallagher, a junior developer with RocketBuild, was looking for opportunities outside his past experience working for universities and wanted to find a role in tech. “I knew that developers were in demand, but typically developers with some experience,” he said. “I did some programming as a data analyst but technically had no development experience, so I was nervous about being able to find work.”

After keeping a close eye on LinkedIn and other job sites, Gallagher made sure to apply and interview only with companies he was actually interested in. Ultimately, he ended up getting connected with RocketBuild through a friend who’s a former employee. 

Gallagher recommends those looking for their first job opportunity should never compromise themselves. “Be honest about what you want and what your strengths and weaknesses are, and you’ll have a better chance to end up someplace where you fit in and feel comfortable,” he said.

Your future in tech.

Digging deep and thinking about what you truly want and care about can help people who might otherwise think “there’s no place for me in the tech world” see that there truly is. “If you think there’s no place for you, likely you have not engaged in enough interior processing regarding what it is you want and what type or position and company fits that desire,” said Oliver Pappas, sales development representative with Greenlight Guru.

Jordan Clark, solution consultant with Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG), sees the world of tech as a great opportunity for people to combine their existing passions and skill sets with new things they learn and new technologies they discover. “Technology is evolving around us in our everyday lives,” he said. “Due to this evolution, many of those who believe they don’t hold the skills needed for a tech industry job do have the ability to build such skills while still being able to use the skills they have developed in previous careers such as education, human resources, and other client facing industries.”

Wondering what opportunities might be out there for you in Indiana tech? Be sure to check out the TechPoint Job Board for great entry level roles.

Read about how skills-based hiring will help resolve Indiana’s biggest tech talent challenges.

Check out adult apprenticeships, and read about why they will be a key part of the future of tech talent.