Break into Tech: A Guide for Non-techies

If you have a non-technical background, you’re probably thinking the only way to get a job in tech is to be a developer. Well, your new buddy ol’ pal is here to show and tell you that non-techies/coders can break into tech too!

Coming from a customer service and administrative background, trust me when I say there are plenty of positions for you in the tech world. As long as you have the “soft” skills – communication, time management, organization, problem-solving – you have what you need to get in where you fit in!

If you’re having trouble finding work, changing careers, or maybe you’re a code newbie, this post will help you get your foot in the door.

This post contains affiliate links, this means I receive a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase using one of my links. Thanks for your support!

Take Inventory

List all of your skills, accomplishments, and certs. Know what you’re good at and tasks you enjoy doing.

Take this test if you’re not sure – Plum – Job Seekers. This helped me learn more about my strengths, how I work, and what jobs to look for. There will be a list of interview questions you can ask.

Make a list of the must-haves you want for your next role.


Just in case you’re having doubts, let’s see what’s out there for you:

  • Sales & marketing – sales support/engineer, email marketing, digital marketing
  • Analysts – data analyst (Excel, Google Sheets), web analyst (Google Analytics)
  • Human Resources – employee experience/advocate, people experience
  • Administrative – executive, virtual, or admin assistant
  • Support – customer success, customer support, customer experience
  • Finance & accounting – accountant, accounts payable/receivable clerk
  • Design – user experience (UX) designer, user interface (UI) designer
  • Writing – technical writer (user manuals, tutorials), content writer, copywriter
  • Management – sales, operations, office, or product manager
  • Project management – project manager, project coordinator, project team member
  • Cyber security – legal, knowledge manager (document processes)
  • Misc – research, recruiter, legal

Research

So now that you know what’s out there, search one of those job titles above and read the job descriptions. This will give you an idea of what skills you’ll need to bring to the table. Learn about the industry you’re interested in.

Take note of the tools/languages/software you see over and over again from the job descriptions. If you see Salesforce a lot, for example, you can start learning how to use this software here – Trailhead.

Here’s a Google Drive with articles I saved to help you prepare for your job search – Get Hired in Tech.

Upgrade Skills

Get certified – HootsuiteHubspotGoogle Digital GarageProject+Salesforce, Hootsuite, Google Analytics Academy, CompTIA IT Certs, Google Cloud Certs, Top Cloud Certs, AWS Certified Training Paths, Microsoft Certified (H/T @wecloudtoo for Cloud certs)

Learn a new skill – Use those job titles above or skills needed to find the course you’re looking for – SkillsharePluralsightUdemyAlisonCourseraedxAquent, LinkedIn Learning.

If you want to learn a little bit of code, Freecodecamp can help you learn the fundamentals. More resources for future coders here.

Build Portfolio

Start a blog – You have a lot of experience so share what you know and lessons you’ve learned.

Check Amazon and look for popular books in the industry. If you’re interested in a customer support role, read Delivering Happiness and write about the lessons you learned, and add your own input. Some companies will ask you what was the last book you read about customer service, like the Happiness Engineer role at Automattic.

New to blogging? Here’s an oldie but goodie for you – Beginner’s Guide: Creating + Launching Your Own Website. Start writing on Medium or WordPress.com. You can also post an article on LinkedIn – probably the best option since it’s a free and easy way for recruiters & hiring managers to find you. Use one of my fave tools to find ideas to write about – AnswerThePublic. Just type in a keyword and you’ll have content for days.

Add some graphics with Canva to break up the text. They also have plenty of templates, so no design skills needed.

Contribute – Next job may ask you to update their docs so start contributing to open source projects. You can add screenshots or screen recordings with Loom for visual learners. If you’re new to GitHub you can learn the basics here.

Hands-on projects – Gain experience by volunteering or freelancing. This will give you something to talk about during your interview and prepare for those behavioral questions (“tell me about a time when…”).

Create your own sample project. For example, when I was looking for WordPress jobs, I found some Start Bootstrap templates and converted them into WP themes to build my portfolio.

If you have a script library for sales calls or customer service, Trello or Asana board templates for onboarding clients, or a checklist for top tools to use, share that.

Update Resume

@venikunche helped me out a lot with my resume and portfolio last year. If you need help with yours, add your info to this thread.

Outdated resume? Check out the template gallery in Google Docs.

Make sure you add the links to your projects to LinkedIn and your resume. If the links are too long, shorten it with bit.ly, or Pretty Link if you have a WordPress site. This will look way better and easy to remember like: msguery.net/linkedin or bit.ly/mguery-resume.

Copy this Google Drive to help you prepare for your job search – Get Hired in Tech.

Connect

Reach out to folks who have the job you want. Find a mentor. Join LinkedIn groups. Find an event on Meetup and Eventbrite and get to networking. Tell your network what kind of role you’re looking for, especially on Twitter.

From my experience, networking is the best way to get your foot whole body in the door. Every job I got was because someone referred me and I was able to skip the line and get an interview just by showing up to these events.

Use one of these Trello boards to stay organized during your search – Job Hunt and Job Search. If you use Notion, don’t forget you can move those boards to your workspace.

After you apply for a job, copy + paste the job description or use this Google extension and save to PDF. Add the PDF to the board with your notes in the comments – date applied, salary range from Glassdoor or LinkedIn, answers to the questions they asked from the application, etc.

Have a script or template ready when you’re filling out apps. Have one for your cover letter, an elevator pitch, and a quick intro about yourself. Edit, copy and paste it so you can save time. And edit your resume to match the job description. Use Jobscan.co to see if your resume and description match.

Automate your job search
1. Set up email alerts – skip logging into every job site by creating alerts once and having them come to you daily or weekly.
2. Remember to update your LinkedIn to let recruiters know you’re looking – LinkedIn Career Interests. And add your resume to your profile. This will make it easy for them to see your resume and get in touch with you ASAP!
3. Create an alert for Easy Apply jobs on LinkedIn. You can quickly send in your info to employers by just clicking a button.
4. if you have a website, create a page as a one-stop-shop. This page can have your downloadable resume, portfolio, and link to your GitHub or blog. Try adding a contact form so they can reach out to you while they’re on your page.
Use these 2 themes for inspiration – Freelancer and Resume (what I used for my portfolio and converted into a WordPress theme). Add that link to your new page to your LinkedIn contact info and summary.
5. Search keywords or hashtags on Twitter and save the search so you can go through to see who’s hiring. Use Google Alerts to get a list of articles related to that topic or keyword.
6. Extra step – create your own Slack workspace. You can set it up to get all alerts sent to you with the Gmail or Outlook add-on. Or use a Slack forwarding email to receive alerts.

For remote work – Companies hiring remote workers – Twitter thread, Remote OKRemote in TechWe Work Remotely

For local and remoteMuseGlassdoorAquentAngelListRobert HalfTech LadiesPOCITDiversifyTech Support DrivenMashable, Easy Application

You can find more under Job Search and here – Best Websites for 2020 Job Search.

If you’re in Atlanta, lots of startups are hiring – ATDC and Hypepotamus.

If there’s a company you really want to work for and you don’t see anything on the job board, introduce yourself. Send your resume with an email telling them about yourself and how you can help.

Remember this – you don’t have to have all of the requirements they’re asking for. You can always learn on the job, so apply anyway!

Interviews

Before your interview, have that list of must-haves, interview questions from that test you took earlier, and any questions/concerns from their website or job description. If it says remote-friendly on their site, ask how often. Flexible schedule – what are the hours? Ask about the dress code and what’s important to you.

If it’s an online interview, make sure you have your tech set up and ready to go. If it’s on-site, leave early so you can there at least 15 minutes before the interview. And bring a card or some cash with you for parking.

Relax and be yourself. And remember you’re interviewing them also.

After the interview, make sure you send them a thank you email. This will definitely help you stand out since not a lot of people send them. Choose from one of these examples and have it ready in your drafts folder – Job Interview Thank-You Letter Examples.

You’re Hired

Congrats to you! After you celebrate and share the news with your Twitter fam, it’s time to get to work. Ask all the questions. Learn all the things. Google is your friend, but don’t forget to ask your Twitter and LinkedIn friends for help.

Read How to Succeed in Your New Job: The First Week, Month and 90 Days to help you along the way.

Most important thing to remember wherever you work is to take care of yourself. There may be times where you’ll feel stressed out, anxious, or depressed. Listen to your body when it says to slow down so you don’t burn out. Make sure to take breaks (+ no eating lunch at your desk please) and drink lots of water. Sleep early and leave the house 15-30 mins earlier so you don’t walk in late and pissed.

Find more tips here – 20+ Self-care Tips, 4 Tips For Self-Care From 8 Silicon Valley Women Working in Tech, Practicing Self-Care Is Important: 10 Easy Habits To Get You Started.

Resources
Here are some blogs for you to check out to help you be great – Skillcrush, Trello, Help Scout, The Balance Careers, Breakinto.tech


Hope this is all you need to get started in your tech career. But if I’m missing anything or you have a question, let me know yo! Add a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

If you found this helpful, share this post with your LinkedIn connections. Don’t forget to copy this to your Google Drive – Get Hired in Tech.

Good luck to you!

About

Atlanta-based Digital PM & Implementation Consultant. Loves long walks at record stores + helping service providers simplify operations and launch online projects without tech stress. Liked this post? Join the Brief Gems email list to get more content like this delivered to your inbox!

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