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Job Hunting in a Rough Industry

Embarking on a job hunt in a new industry is daunting even in the best of scenarios; when that industry is experiencing a slow-down in hiring, job seekers face even more struggles. 

It’s not all doom and gloom, though! There are lots of ways in which job seekers can keep on top of their skills and position themselves to launch a new career when the time is right. 

What’s a job seeker to do?

Grow your portfolio

Having a solid project to show off on your GitHub is great; having multiple projects is even better! Tech is a show-me industry, meaning employers want to see your skills in action, not just hear about them. It’s great to have at least one solid, complete project in your portfolio, but smaller, practice projects that show your passion for coding and technology and interest in skill building go a long way as well. We’ve even heard from employer partners that they’ll throw out resumes with just a class project on them, in favor of finding a resume with multiple projects, even if the candidate doesn’t have professional tech experience.

Continue your learning and professional development

Dying to learn game development? Wish you knew more about design? Could your communication skills use some help? Continue your learning and professional development on your own! There are plenty of great (and free!) resources out there, including Udemy, Microsoft Virtual Academy, Khan Academy, Code School, Free Code Camp, Google Digital Skills certifications, and many more. If there was an area in your last course that you’d like to continue to explore, now’s the time!

Another great tip is to research job descriptions for roles that interest you, and start making a list of the skills mentioned that you don’t currently have. Working to get at least a fundamental understanding of those skills, so you can begin crafting a small project and be able to talk intelligently about it in an interview, will help you stand apart from the pack.

Research and work on learning complementary technologies

As you’re expanding your learning and professional development, be sure to explore skills and technologies that are complementary to what you already know. We’ve heard from our employer partners who say they’re more interested in how you can put your skills to use (through machine learning, AI, cloud, etc.) than what specific languages you know. Expand your resume and portfolio by working on projects that expand your practical knowledge.

You can also explore tech-adjacent areas of interest to bolster your resume, building on skills you already possess. If you’re a strong writer, you can try your hand at technical writing. If you already have a solid background in software development, try branching out into dev ops or quality assurance. Someone with strong web skills may want to bulk up on their accessibility or user experience acumen.

Contribute to open-source projects

Check out a site like firsttimersonly.com that provides opportunities for tech newbies to contribute to open source projects. One of the toughest aspects of making the leap from a tech skills course to actually landing, and succeeding, in a tech role, is learning how to collaborate with others on a project. The more you commit to an open source project, the more you’ll learn! We hosted a panel discussion on contributing to open source during our Monday Guest Speaker Series, and you can check out the recording here.

Engage with the careers team

Our highly-skilled careers team is here to help you with the transition from tech student to tech professional. In addition to the workshops and career readiness requirements you complete during your course, our Technical Career Coaches can work with you after graduation to help further tailor your resume and LinkedIn profile for a tech role, conduct mock interviews, and give tips and guidance on the job hunt that are specific to your situation. We’ve worked with folks from all paths of life, and can help ensure you’re marketing yourself properly as you enter the job market.

Our Tech Employer Specialists keep the #jobs subchannels in Slack updated with hot leads and other opportunities, and our Tech Careers Newsletter offers another chance to check out roles as they’re sent straight to your inbox every other Tuesday. Reach out to the specialist for your region to gain expert advice on companies and roles that may be a good fit for your interests and skills, or for a pep talk as you prepare for an interview.

Attend tech events or other networking events in the community

Use your down time to check out tech events (virtual or in person) that align with your interests and goals. You’ll meet others interested in tech, including potential hiring managers, while broadening your own knowledge. Visit the #tech-events channel in Slack to see upcoming options, and be sure to keep an eye out for our regional newsletters (launching soon!) featuring even more ways to engage.

Most regions boast their own professional organizations and/or Slack and Discord communities for techies, with a mix of free and paid options. Some examples include the Technology Association of the Bluegrass (TAB) and Bluegrass Developers Guild in Lexington, The Circuit and Cincy Tech Slack in Cincinnati, Louisville Tech Community and related Slack in Louisville, and GemCity.TECH and Technology First in Dayton OH.

Don’t lose hope!

Landing your first job in tech is often the hardest, but it’s worth it! Each week we hear from students who are launching their tech careers, and we’re still seeing a steady flow of jobs shared to us by our employer partners. The job hunt process may take much longer than you expect it to, but making steady progress by following the steps above will help you experience success in the long run.

Completing these steps is no guarantee that you’ll land a tech role, but we’ve seen great success out of our students who implement them. And once you join the over 1,000 Code:You graduates who have already launched an exciting new career in tech, be sure to let us know! We love celebrating your successes, and we use placement metrics to help secure continued funding to keep the program going. 

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