Posted by Jane Irene Kelly on Friday, May 19, 2017 - 08:00
If you want to pursue a career in the IT field but worry you don’t yet have the right tech skills under your belt, don’t let doubt stand in your way. Today’s employers are looking for a lot more than just technical abilities when hiring for IT roles. Even if you don't have a technology-related degree, you could still be a strong contender for an entry-level IT job in today’s competitive market.
Technical skills are important, of course, and they’re what most employers consider first. But many businesses are loosening requirements for some tech positions because there is simply not enough talent with advanced skills available for hire. Many are willing to take a chance on training candidates who may lack extensive hands-on work experience in technology but have other valuable knowledge and attributes — plus a lot of star potential.
Hiring managers interviewed for a Robert Half Technology survey pointed to several different non-IT backgrounds that can give candidates a competitive edge in the hiring process for tech roles. Topping the list, perhaps not surprisingly, are mathematics and problem-solving skills. More than one-third of respondents (36 percent) indicated that employers place a lot of value on these skills. For hard-to-fill specialist positions like data modeler and data scientist, these skills are vital. And they're useful for computer science jobs and other technology roles.
Ranking second among the survey responses was business or marketing skills (31 percent). The growing number of digital transformation initiatives that require close collaboration between IT and the operations side of an organization is one reason companies need technology professionals with business acumen. These abilities are also essential for management roles in technology. For students about to enter the workforce who aspire to become tech leaders someday, that is something to keep in mind: You’ll need to keep expanding and refining business and marketing skills throughout your career.
Also important — even for some of the most technical jobs in the digital era — are soft skills like writing and critical thinking abilities. (For management and other leadership roles in IT, these are also must-haves.) Companies want to hire tech pros with soft skills, which is why a liberal arts education can carry weight in an IT job search, according to 22 percent of hiring managers surveyed.
Show how you can add value
Another recent survey by our company helps underscore the strong need for nontechnical skill sets in the IT workforce. According to 28 percent of the CIOs surveyed, communication skills, including written, personal and face-to-face, are the areas where today’s technology professionals require the most improvement. Twenty-one percent cited problem-solving skills.
So, new grads — even if you already have a strong technical background and an education in some aspect of IT — be prepared to highlight other types of in-demand skills, you have. In your resume/cover letter and during the interview process, demonstrate that:
- You are an effective communicator
- You have a strong understanding of business (even better if you have specific knowledge of the potential employer’s company or industry)
- You have a history of coming up with creative solutions to problems
Robert Half Technology’s latest Salary Guide offers two additional tips for IT job seekers that can be especially useful to new grads who haven’t yet amassed extensive technical skills:
- Present a work history that shows measurable career progression. Even if your work to date has been outside of the IT field and primarily consists of internships and volunteer opportunities, a hiring manager is likely to notice if it shows a clear pattern of professional growth and increasing responsibility.
- Exhibit a proven record of delivering results to previous employers. Be ready to explain to a hiring manager how you have personally added value to projects and organizations — in the workforce or as a student. It can make a big impression. Employers gravitate toward candidates who are able to clearly articulate how they can add value to a company.
There’s no substitute for passion
Something else that can set you apart in an entry-level IT job search is your passion for IT. Findings from the IT hiring manager survey mentioned earlier suggest that relevant hobbies and activities pursued in your free time — and even outside of school — can complement other qualities like professional experience and increase your appeal as a candidate.