Guide To Finding Work As A Tech Grad
Congratulations! Getting a qualification in the tech space isn’t easy at all. We know just how complex a field like computer science can be, and if you’ve recently graduated with this or another certification that’s IT-related, well done.
So, the next question really is, what’s next? What to do with your qualifications? Perhaps you’ve been working towards a particular career path since you started your learning. Or, you may have embarked on this learning journey without a clear sense of where you might specialise.
Over time, what you want from your IT career can change. At the very early stages of being a tech professional, you’ve really got a luxury of keeping options way open – where you start today might in no way resemble where you end up, but if it’s still in the IT space, it’s almost guaranteed that experience and skills you hone today will come in handy later down the track.
We often find that IT graduates contact us when they are ready to kick off their tech career. It’s important to note that the majority of companies do not use recruitment agencies for entry level jobs or for graduate roles, they usually source for these themselves.
While we offer our services for free to our jobseekers, our clients pay for our services – and for entry level roles they’d rather recruit directly or through their own graduate programme.
As IT recruitment experts, we’re in constant discussion with our clients around what skills they need and how to acquire them. In this article we’ll give you, the freshly-minted IT professional, some tips into how you can launch your tech career and find your first job. Let’s go!
Before committing to something, it’s a smart idea to do your homework into the field you’re about to enter. You may have already started this during your studies, but we’d suggest taking some time to really build a picture of what, where and with who the good work opportunities are for you. Remember, tech is a really diverse field so there are certain employers and industries that might suit your interests and skills the most.
Here’s how you can map out the options for where to work:
- How many roles are advertised in different regions across the country?
- In my chosen specialisation, where do most of the jobs exist?
- What sort of industry would I like to work in (tip: have more than one!) and how can I apply my tech qualifications there?
- Where do IT professionals (who I know) work and what do they have to say about their roles?
- What are the types of roles advertised that match up with my skills or areas I want to develop in?
- What organisations or regions in New Zealand will give me the most opportunity to work alongside talented, experienced IT professionals who I can learn from?
- What is the meet up/IT community like in this area?
- What organisations are on the cutting edge of IT and technology that might help sharpen my skills and/or provide a great work history.
- What is the news or industry media saying about New Zealand’s tech sector – where are the opportunities?
Taking notes on all these things, and anything else you feel is important to you in a job, just makes the decision making process more informed. Sure, missteps in your IT career at this early stage are pretty low risk, but why not do a bit of planning and feel more confident in that first role?
Many businesses in New Zealand offer roles through a specific ‘graduate’ programme’. These programmes are designed to attract smart graduates with good potential and nurture their learning in a grad role, with close support from others in the business. A grad role gives both the business more control around what work a low-experience employee does, and in turn helps your transition into the IT sector with appropriate help nearby. There’s not a rule that says you must take a ‘grad’ role when you finish your qualification. But if you’re someone who’d prefer having this support, then you can look for these roles.
Getting a grad role will often involve similar components of a traditional job application, with references, CV and a cover letter typically expected. The way the job interviews are conducted vary by organisation, so make sure to find out exactly what’s involved. How you find these roles can also vary depending on the employer, with some having dedicated programmes separate from their job vacancies. Sometimes tertiary institutes will have relationships with tech employers to help them connect with grads easily. You can also go through traditional online methods like SEEK or register with Student Job Search’s Graduate Job Support for early grad job alerts from employers.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there on the biggest professional social network, LinkedIn. No one expects you to have an illustrious work history when you’re just starting out; but don’t be afraid to put any experience on there – there are transferable skills from almost everything that an employer would be interested in. Of course add any IT qualifications, certifications, or IT projects that you’ve worked on while studying, as this will help build out a profile of your skills.
Once you’ve set up your profile, you’ll want to build a network. Start by finding people you know such as fellow students, past employers or anyone else you’ve met in the IT sector. Then you can start following industry news and thought leaders so your newsfeed has plenty of relevant information in it.
A feature LinkedIn added is the ‘open to work’ green label that sits over your profile picture. This is a good thing to add when you’re in the market.
Once you’ve established some connections in your region, don’t’ be shy to put yourself out there with a post such as:
“Hi everyone, I’ve recently graduated with a ___________ from _________. I’m looking for work opportunities that I can apply these skills in, based in Wellington. My goal is to be a software developer, but will gladly explore roles that can put me on this path. I’m also really keen to keep my learning by working alongside great tech professionals. If you or anyone you know about any opportunities, please reach out”
While a grad programme is a really good way to get your first IT role in a structured, methodical way, there are no ‘rules’ about how you must get into this line of work.
If you’re someone who feels comfortable enough to reach out to people ‘cold’, why not enquire with some employers from brands or organisations you admire? Perhaps you know someone who works there already and loves it. Maybe you’re a customer of that business and really like what they do? Or maybe you’re looking to live in a particular part of the country and want to explore any possibilities at certain businesses that you like the sound of.
Whatever your motivation for preferring a certain business or organisation, getting in direct contact with them has plenty of merit. The worst thing that can happen? They say ‘nothing available’ and you move onto the next one.
If you do get interest from an organisation, then do your prep that it deserves; writing a bespoke cover letter, making sure your CV is tidied and spell-checked before sending it, making some notes about the role you’d be interested in, questions and why you’re a great fit for the organisation.
Don’t rule yourself out from advertised positions with criteria you don’t fully meet
We’re not going to suggest you aim for a Chief Technology Officer role fresh out of tertiary education. But remember, job ads are designed to bring in the best possible candidates to meet a business need. It’s rare that a candidate meets absolutely everything stated in a job ad. Even the best of the best might have strengths in certain areas, and working knowledge of others to get by.
So, with that in mind, we encourage you to really understand the limitations and capability of your skillset as acquired through your qualification, then have this listed as you browse through job ads. If you start to satisfy numerous criteria then the role could potentially be worth following up about.
If you feel like the job and organisation sounds well aligned with what you are looking for, but you might just lack some must haves, still consider reaching out in case there are some more junior roles that are related. Another reason to do this is to have conversations with more people in the IT industry. When people know you exist, what your skills are and that you’re looking, you may end up hearing from them at a later date.
It can sometimes take a while before you land that perfect first IT role. But that shouldn’t mean you stop practising your craft. Many developers and designers have projects on the go that are outside their day job – whether that’s maintaining a hobby website, doing some freelance work for a family friend or doing additional e-learning.
Doing your own projects that apply your skill set also provides you with a real example you can show to prospective employers. If it’s something particularly impressive, why not share it on LinkedIn too? The great thing about many roles in IT is that there is often something ‘created’ that we can point to which gives an employer a sense of our abilities. Your own projects should become part of that living portfolio you continue to build through your career.
Check out online communities
LinkedIn isn’t the only place you have to go to find a network of IT professionals. We’d suggest doing a look on Facebook and even Reddit for IT professional discussion. If you’re completely new to a certain area of New Zealand, why not do a post on that location’s subReddit or any Facebook business/IT group that exists in the area. It’s a bit outside the traditional channels to finding work, but talk to anyone who’s been working in their career for years and they’ll have at least one story where a contract or job was found through more than just browsing job listings.
Popular in the tech space, particularly in development is the platform Discord. A highly capable, messaging based tool, Discord servers are used for both private and publicly available group discussion. Starting as a tool for gamers, it’s quickly evolved into a tool for any topic. Do a search for Discord servers relating to IT, development, design, NZ tech and you may be able to find a group that can provide insights into new technologies, share challenges or experiences in the industry or just chat about the topic broadly. Depending on the server, this can become a valuable resource for staying up to date with the latest info.
After all, thinking outside the box is almost a prerequisite for surviving in any IT field!
Resources for job seekers
Download our Grad CV Template here.
Check out our ‘5 Expert tips to make your tech CV stand out’ for extra inspiration!
Our ‘best practice rules’ for CV formatting
- Keep it simple, no profile photos, no graphics and stick to one colour preferably, two colours (max).
- Font: Arial or Calibri is best.
- Font size: body copy should be 11pt.
- Length: keep it concise, three pages max.
- Check, check and check again for spelling errors. Get a friend to do a proof of your final CV.
- Use clear language and make sure it’s grammatically correct.
- Make it easy to read – use bullet points and have a good amount of white space on the page.
- List your work experience in reverse chronological order (start with your most recent job first and work backwards).
- Use your uni projects to showcase your skills.
- A good personal statement right at the top of your CV can grab attention right from the start and set you apart from the others.
- Make sure you have two character/work referees ready who can speak to your character and work ethic. It’s important that they know they will be contacted and that you have their permission to share their details as a reference.