Congratulations on taking the first step towards starting your career in the IT industry! As a student, getting your first job in the field can be both exciting and intimidating. Here I will give you helpful tips to increase your chances.
First things first, it’s very important to have a clear understanding of what you want to do in the IT industry. Do you want to be a software developer? A systems administrator? A data scientist? Having a specific career goal in mind will help you tailor your job search and focus on the skills and experiences that will make you a competitive candidate. And with a little bit of preparation and some helpful advice, you will increase your chances of landing your dream job.
By the way, my name is Mirza Camić. I am a student in the Information and Computer Engineering Bachelor’s Programme at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) in Austria and I’ve been working as a freelancer for the past 4 years. Last year I finally decided to pursue a professional career in the IT field. I’ve applied to many positions, had a couple interviews, and received a few offers. Here are some tips for getting the first IT job that helped me a lot. … So let’s start.
Resume and portfolio
Your resume and portfolio are crucial components of your job search in the IT industry. These documents help showcase your skills, experiences, and accomplishments to potential employers and set you apart from other candidates. Here are a few tips for creating a strong resume and portfolio:
- Tailor your resume to the specific position and company. This means highlighting the skills and experiences that align with the job requirements and showcasing how you can contribute to the company’s goals.
- Use action verbs to describe your responsibilities and achievements. For example, “Designed and implemented a new database system” sounds more impactful than “Worked on a database project.”
- Include any relevant coursework, internships, and personal projects. If you have limited professional experience, these can demonstrate your passion for the field and your dedication to learning and improving your skills.
- Don’t forget to include any technical skills or certifications. These can make you a more attractive candidate and demonstrate your expertise in specific technologies or methodologies.
- A portfolio is a collection of your work that showcases your skills and achievements in a more tangible way. It can include projects you’ve completed for school, work, or personal endeavors. It isn't a necessary part, but it is always nice to have some work and to show it.
- Choose projects that demonstrate your technical skills and problem-solving abilities. These can include code samples, design mockups, or reports on data analysis projects.
- Include a brief description of each project, highlighting the challenges you faced and the solutions you implemented. This can provide context for your work and demonstrate your thought process and approach to problem-solving.
- Consider including any relevant open source contributions or personal projects. These can show your passion for the field and your willingness to take on challenges outside of your formal education or work experience.
- In my opinion, one of the best tools for creating a resume and portfolio is Canva. You can even use the phone app or edit the files on any device. But just don’t think to much about the design and the colors of the documents, the content is way more important. And believe it or not, many people put their resumes together just in plain text. That’s why you should focus on the content and how to present it in the best possible way.
Overall, a strong resume and portfolio can help you stand out as a candidate and demonstrate your skills and experiences to potential employers. Be sure to keep these documents up to date and tailor them to the specific positions and companies you’re applying to. With a little bit of effort, you can create a strong foundation for your job search in the IT industry.
Strong online presence
ZIn addition to your resume and portfolio, it’s good to have a strong online presence. This can include a LinkedIn profile, a personal website with your projects or your github repositories. These platforms can help you connect with potential employers and industry professionals, as well as showcase your skills and experiences to a wider audience.
The job search
Job portals: Dig deep
Once you have a solid foundation in place, it’s time to start actively searching for job opportunities. You can also search for job openings on job boards and company websites. My favorite option would be to dig deep into the postings on the job searching websites, the more popular ones get updated regularly and they have many options for students.
I’ve found the German language web portal karriere.at very helpful, it is one of the most popular so that many employers use it to post their open positions, and you also have a lot of filtering options to find your ideal job. For the students of TU Graz the Career Info-Service is a very helpful tool, and there is also the career newsletter.
Networking: Reach out to professionals and alumni
Another important aspect of landing your first IT job is networking. In addition to networking through events and meetups, consider reaching out to industry professionals and alumni for advice and guidance. They may be able to provide valuable insights, introduce you to potential employers, or even offer job leads. Consider asking other students for their experiences or maybe some of them just got a job in the IT field.
Student jobs or internships: aces up your sleeve
But here is the secret, the IT field is really competitive and there are a lot of professionals, all the people who have more experience. But there is no reason to be afraid of it, because we as students have a great trick up our sleeves: student jobs in the IT field.
The number of student jobs in the IT field is constantly growing. The great thing is that they are reserved for students, for young people with little to no experience. The expectations are a bit lower for student jobs than for other part or full-time jobs and they are tailored for beginners in the field. Plus, they are a great recommendation for your first job.
As an IT student, internships are also a great way to gain practical experience in your field while getting a taste of the professional world.
As an IT student, internships are also a great way to gain practical experience in your field while getting a taste of the professional world. Not only do internships provide valuable hands-on experience, but they can also help you network and make connections within the industry. But the problem is that they are usually restricted to a period of time, a couple of months. The nice thing is that you can choose what suits you best. An internship is great if you just want to get some experience in the real IT world but don't want to spend time working during the semester. They often lead to a student job if you did well during the internship. Many people see them as an extra step in the process, but they can look good on the resume.
I personally would recommend looking for a student job, since it is a “long-term solution”.
I personally would recommend looking for a student job, since it is a “long-term solution”. The opportunity to work during your studies, gain real experience and earn makes them a perfect option. And as you gain skills and experience, you can use that to pursue more advanced roles within the company or explore new opportunities.
The interview: Dare to ask questions
It’s a good idea to practice common interview questions and prepare examples of your skills and experiences to share during the interview. Be sure to research the company and the role beforehand and come up with questions to ask the interviewer, as this shows your interest and enthusiasm for the opportunity.
Don't be afraid of the interview, it is usually a nice and pleasant talk with the representatives of the company where they get a chance to get to know you a bit better. But the interview is also there to help you. It is a great chance to get to know a bit more about the position and ask questions on topics, that the job posting did not include.
Some common interview questions and topics::
- Could you explain your interest in the position?
- What do you know about the company?
- Your previous professional experience (if you had any)?
- How do you perform in team/group tasks?
- Questions about your studies, subjects, university projects, acquired knowledge and technologies used during the studies
The interview may even contain a technical part, where you will be asked to solve a simple programming problem or explain how you would approach it. But the bulk of the interview for a student position is about the studies and the experiences you have gathered.
Finally, don’t be afraid to start small and work your way up. And more importantly, don't ever think “I am not yet ready” or “I am not good enough”; you will never know unless you try. Just get out there, follow these steps and start applying. You have everything to win, but just a couple of minutes to lose.