Are you interested in pursuing a career in the technology industry but don’t know how to start? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who is going through this experience—thousands of people just like you are thinking about a career in tech right now.
It makes sense that so many people are interested in careers in technology—salaries are good, job prospects are strong, and employee satisfaction in many roles is extremely high. Furthermore, according to Code.org, there are over 500,000 open positions in technology jobs in every industry and state, which means that if you’re willing to work hard, there should be a job for you.
Pursuing a new career in the industry can be difficult. Technology jobs are very different from any other job you may have had, and the entry paths are different from most other industries. However, don’t let that discourage you from pursuing a career in technology.
Careers in technology not only have attractive job prospects, but you’ll also be able to work on challenging and interesting problems each day. You’ll be involved with developing technologies other people will use, and you’ll help companies reach their goals. Indeed, jobs in technology can be fulfilling, and provide the right balance of challenging tasks and interesting work.
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If you’re considering a transition from another career into a career in technology, this guide is for you. We are going to break down how you can pursue a career in technology, no matter what your background may be. Do you have no prior coding experience? Or do you know how to code but have no idea how to look for jobs in programming? If so, this guide will be useful to you and will help you figure out how you can break into the industry. If you follow the steps in this guide, you’ll be on your way to finding a great job in technology.
The great news is that you can change careers at any time. If you want to start a new career at 40, technology is a great career path. If you are unsatisfied with a job after only a year and you are trying to figure out what career you want to pursue, technology may be worth considering.
Step 1: Prepare for the Change
Before you commit to a single path in technology, you need to consider whether or not a career in this industry is for you. Firstly, you should make sure that you are in the right mindset for a career transition. It’s easy to say that you want to pursue a career in tech, but it’s another thing entirely to commit to the transition. When you’re thinking about a job in technology, make sure that you have good reasons for doing so.
If your mind is telling you that you’ll look bad, or that you could invest months in a career transition only to be disappointed, don’t worry! Everyone has these feelings. Do not let them hold you back from making a career transition. If your mind is telling you that you have other commitments, or that you are already happy in your current job, then perhaps it’s not the right time to pursue a career change. Either way, make sure you have cleared up whether you are ready to make a transition. If you do this upfront, you’ll be less likely to change your mind halfway through your journey and feel as if you have wasted your time changing careers.
Before you start to find the right career for you, take a moment to reflect on whether you are ready for a career transition. Some common signs that you should change careers include:
- You are not passionate about your current job
- You lack motivation
- You are not feeling challenged
- You are always looking forward to the weekends, and dread showing up for work
If you feel any of these symptoms, or if you just feel as if you are ready for a new professional challenge, a career in tech may be right for you. After you have established whether you should consider transitioning into a career in technology, you should start to think about your motivation. There are a few questions you should ask yourself, which include:
- Why do you want to transition to a job in tech? Do the attractive career prospects interest you? Are you unsatisfied with your current job? Do you like to work on difficult but interesting problems? Whatever the reason, make sure you have one. If you have an answer about why you want a new career in tech, it will be easier to determine which path is for you later on.
- What are your long-term career goals? Do you want to work on challenging problems, or would you prefer to do more simple work? Where do you see yourself in five years? You should think about where you want to be in the future, and ask yourself whether a job in tech will help you get there. If you want to be working on meaningful, challenging, or interesting problems, for example, a career in tech may be for you.
- What matters to you in a job? What do you not enjoy about your job right now? Will a career in tech help you obtain the things you seek in your ideal job? Make a list of what matters to you in your work, and think about whether a career in technology will help you get there. If you like analytical and critical thinking, technology is a great place to exercise your mind.
Write your answers to these questions on paper so that you can see what you are thinking, and so that you have a note of all your opinions on your career transition. Taking note of your lines of thinking now will help you further down the line if you ever lose confidence in your career transition—you’ll have records to convince you to stay on track when things get tough.
After you have considered these questions individually, bring all of your answers together and ask yourself, “Is a career in technology for me?” The more thinking you do, the more confidence you will feel along your journey into a career in tech. Your first step is to ignore all of the made-up reasons why you shouldn’t move to a new career and ask yourself whether a career in tech is right for you.
Step 2: Research Jobs in Technology
If you think a career in tech may be worth exploring, your next step is to do some research about what jobs are out there in the industry. This research will help you build up a more complete picture of what to expect from working in the tech industry, and will make it easier for you to decide what jobs you may want to explore further down the line.
Before you start researching companies and jobs, you should know what you’re looking for. Later in this guide we’ll discuss a few jobs you may want to pursue, but first, we should discuss the two main categories of jobs in tech: technical and non-technical.
- Technical Jobs. Technical jobs are positions where you will be required to code or use a technical and analytical mindset to solve difficult problems. Technical positions include web developer, mobile app developer, and hardware engineer, among others.
- Non-Technical Jobs. Non-technical jobs are positions in technology where you will not be involved in the creation or maintenance of new technology. An example of a non-technical job is a technical salesperson, whose job it is to sell a company’s technology to prospective and existing customers. Other examples include product manager, customer success representative, and digital marketer.
Make a list of the companies you want to work for, even if working for them right now seems unattainable. If you want to work for Google, add it to your list, if you want to work for Slack, note the company down on your list. Alongside the company’s name, write down what makes you interested in them. Do they have good cultures? Are they working on interesting problems? This will help you get a better picture of what careers in tech look like and will help you better evaluate whether a job in tech is for you.
After you have made this list, you should look for job openings from those companies. Then, after you have found a few, read through the job descriptions and figure out what companies are looking for in prospective candidates. This will give you a greater sense of the skills companies are looking for in technical employees, which you can use to support the decisions you make about your career in tech. Job descriptions will also give you a sense of the day-to-day work of those in the industry.
Look through job descriptions in a variety of different technical and non-technical roles as well. This will help you understand more about the specifics of each role, so you can make a more informed decision about your future path into a career in tech. Some of the roles you may want to search for include mobile app developer, web developer, machine learning engineer, data scientist, digital marketer, and software engineer. The more roles you research, the better you’ll be able to understand what’s out there.
Furthermore, you should ensure that you look at both technical and non-technical roles. Non-technical members of a tech company are crucial parts of the team, even though they are not directly involved with the development of new technology. If you are coming from a non-technical career (sales, business management, marketing), you may want to consider what roles in tech that you can transfer your current skills to. For example, if you are a marketer, you could become a digital marketer; if you were a salesperson, you could learn about technical sales.
After you have read through a few job descriptions, you can then start to do more in-depth research into those careers. There are dozens of articles on Google that can help you find out what jobs are available in technology, and you can also use sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor to get a sense of the skills you may need and the salaries you can expect in different types of positions. For example, you can use Glassdoor to find out the average salaries for software engineers, then use LinkedIn to find out more about the job market in that particular position.
In addition, you can use Breakout List to find out about companies that are growing quickly. On the site, there are dozens of fast-growing startups listed, as well as links to their websites and job pages. If you’re looking to join a tech startup that already has a track record, Breakout List is a great resource to use.
Step 3: Choose a Career in Tech
After you have done some research about what careers you can pursue in technology, you should start to think about choosing a particular path. There are dozens of jobs out there in the technology sector, some of which do not even require any coding. In order to make a successful transition, you should have an idea in your mind about which role in technology you want to pursue. Here are a few paths you may want to consider:
- Web Developer. Web developers are responsible for creating and updating websites, based on a set of requirements. There are two types of web developers: front end and back end. Front end web developers create the user interface for a website (the part that a user sees), while back end web developers build the infrastructure that makes an application function, and at the same time, store and manage data for that application.
- Data Scientist. A data scientist is someone who gathers and processes data to solve a particular problem. Data scientists use the information obtained from an application or website to help a business understand its users and to improve the quality of their services.
- Mobile App Developer. Mobile app developers create functional apps for people to use on mobile devices, such as iPhones and Android devices. There are two types of mobile app developers: iOS developers and Android developers. iOS developers create, update, and maintain applications for Apple phones, while Android developers create and manage apps for Android-powered phones.
- User Interface (UI) Designer. UI designers are responsible for creating the design of a product. They choose the colors, typography, and format of a website, and decide how particular parts of a website will appear to users. After they have drawn up a design, they pass it on to a front end web developer to execute their vision.
- Digital Marketer. Digital marketers are responsible for raising awareness for a company’s brand and generating leads that may turn into customers in the future. Digital marketers use technologies such as email marketing, social media marketing, and web advertisements to engage a company’s audience.
This is only a small list of the dozens of careers available in technology, and new types of jobs are opening up each year. If you’re interested in learning more about what careers are available in technology, check out the Career Karma guides on various roles in technology.
How to Choose a Career
It can be difficult to figure out the answer to, “What career should I pursue?” When you’re thinking about which role is right for you, ignore all of the job titles you find—they can often be confusing. Instead, focus on what you want to get out of a job. In Step 1 we wrote about why you wanted to make a transition into a career in tech, and what you wanted to get out of your new job. Think about what you wrote again and use that information to help you decide which careers are for you.
To help you figure out which job is best for you, try this:
- Write down your main characteristics. Do you enjoy technical work, or do you prefer work that requires more interpersonal skills? Think about which roles in technology might make the best use of those characteristics.
- Reflect on the work you have done in the past, and the work which has made you happiest. Were you leading a team, or were you working on an analytical task?
- Think back to your job description research and consider which jobs offered the type of work you were doing.
Here are a few skills which directly translate into different careers in technology:
- Team building and employee relations → Customer success, HR, business development
- Building products → Software developer, project manager, operations director
- Product analysis and design → UX/UI designer, UX researcher, business development, operations
Choosing a career is important because it will allow you to focus your efforts when you start to look for training programs. Having an idea of what career in technology you’re interested in will also make it easier for you to find resources and guides which can assist you along your journey. It’s worth noting that you don’t need to commit to a single path as soon as you decide to change your career.
Take some time to evaluate the different careers out there, and perhaps even try out a few online courses to determine which tech specialization interests you most. Then, after you feel confident about what career you want to pursue, you can move on to the next step of your transition.
Step 4: Learn the Skills
You have decided to transition into a career in technology, have researched the options that are out there, and you have chosen a field you want to explore in more depth. What’s next? Your next steps will be to acquire the skills you need to break into your desired career. There are a couple of different paths you can take.
Computer Science Degree
Firstly, you can attend a computer science degree program at a traditional college or university. This approach will allow you to explore the computing industry in-depth, and build a more complete picture of what computing science is all about. In addition, you’ll earn a degree at the end of the program, which will set you up for attractive tech careers in the future. However, this approach has a few drawbacks. It can be expensive to pursue a degree—you may spend over $15,000 per year on your education—and also time-consuming, as most degrees take four years or more. If you want to go to university to learn about computing, research computer science degree offerings at local universities or any institutions you find interesting. Then, think about whether that program will help you get to where you want to be.
However, there are other options available. Coding is less traditional than in other industries. While many managerial positions in the industry require university degrees, many positions do not have any requirements around having a degree. In fact, companies like Apple and Google no longer require candidates to have a degree to apply for jobs at their companies. Why? Because in this field, your experience and skills matter more than your credentials. Thus, if you’re halfway through your life and you don’t have a computer science degree, you don’t need to worry—there are other options out there which you can use to get the training you require.
Many software engineers decide to teach themselves about programming, and work their way up the ladder in tech companies. This is an attractive approach because you’d be able to learn at your own pace, and you can learn exactly what you need to know to succeed. If you’re interested in going down this path, there are many resources you can use. There are thousands of tutorials, videos, and free online courses about web development, software engineering, and more, which you can use to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals.
However, this approach has a couple of flaws. The main one is that it’s easy to accidentally skip over some key ideas or concepts because you have no teacher or mentor to guide you along the process. On top of that, teaching yourself how to code does not give you any credentials, which may make your job-finding process more difficult.
That said, there are ways to overcome these barriers. There are many comprehensive guides that cover everything you need to know about a particular field in tech which you can use to make sure you don’t miss anything. You can also use one of many online mentoring platforms such as Codementor and MentorCruise to find a mentor who can guide you along your journey. And in tech roles, there is no need to have a credential—many people successfully find jobs without one. In substitute for pursuing a degree, you can build a portfolio to showcase your skills to employers, which will help you present yourself to employers.
Coding bootcamps are another option for you to learn about computer science. Bootcamps are short, intensive, employment-oriented programs designed to help you break into a career in technology. During a bootcamp, you’ll learn everything you need to know about a specific field in technology and build a portfolio to showcase your skills to employers. You’ll also get access to a range of career services from the bootcamp, which will help you find your first job in tech. These services often include career workshops and introductions to prospective employers.
Many people decide to go to coding bootcamps because they can learn what they need to in only a few months—most programs typically last three to nine months—instead of the four years they would spend in a university. Bootcamps also allow you to specialize in a particular field in tech and spend more time learning about the specific skills you need. For example, many bootcamps offer courses in niche topics such as cybersecurity and user interface design, which allows you to specialize in the field and prepare specifically for a career in that field.
However, coding bootcamps do have a few drawbacks. Coding bootcamps can be intensive, which means that unless you are able to fully commit to the rigorous schedule, you may prefer another option. In addition, coding bootcamps can be expensive—the average tuition for a bootcamp is around $13,584—which means they can be out of reach for some people. That said, many bootcamps offer Income Share Agreements as a method of financing, where you’ll pay for your education as a percentage of your post-graduation income, only if you earn over a certain amount.
Each path is for different people, and you should spend a lot of time thinking about which one is for you. When you have chosen which educational path you want to pursue, then you’re ready to enroll in a program and acquire the skills you need. After you have started your new education, you can move on to the next stage of the career transition—building your public presence, and preparing for the job search.
Step 5: Build Your Presence
While you are learning the skills you need for your new career in technology, you should start to build an online presence. This presence will soon become your personal brand—how people see you when they discover you on the internet. Your personal brand will reflect your experience, interests, and the way you communicate.
The best way to build your online presence is to start a personal website. Having your own website is like having a home on the internet—a space where you can build and design freely. Personal websites give you a professional profile to link when people ask about your work and collate all of your experience into one place. So when someone—perhaps a prospective employer at an event—asks you, “Where can I find you on the internet?”, you will have something to share with them.
Your personal website should showcase your growing knowledge and abilities. Every time you work on a new project, add it to your website; when you learn a new skill, update your website. Thus, your personal website will become a living document showcasing your skills to the rest of the world. And when you are ready to start looking for jobs, you can use your personal website as a portfolio to showcase your practical skills and past experience to employers.
In addition, it can be helpful to start a blog on your website where you talk about the skills you are learning. Writing about what you are learning is not only a great way for you to reinforce your skills and revise material, but also allows you to teach other people in the process. When you’re ready to start looking for a job, you can show your blog to an employer, which will give them a quick indication of who you are both as a candidate and a person. Your blog will convey your communication skills, your learning aptitude, and give an employer an insight into how you think about the world.
Your online presence should tell a story—the story of who you are, where you have come from, and who you want to be. On your portfolio, talk about your past experience, even if it does not relate to technology—that experience will still be valuable in the eyes of an employer. Also, talk about your long-term goals, and what type of projects you enjoy working on. This will give the world a better sense of how you work and will help employers evaluate whether you are the right person for their team.
Step 6: Build Your Network
Career transitions are difficult, and you don’t want to be going through it alone. One important part of going through a successful career transition is having a network of other people with whom you can talk and seek support. Whenever you need help, your network will be there to support you; whenever one of your friends encounters a problem you have seen in the past, you’ll be able to help them. Aside from including your friends and family in your career transition, you’ll also want to connect with others who are already working in the industry you want to venture into.
Sign up to Twitter and LinkedIn, and use these platforms to connect with people who work at your dream companies. You may be thinking that having a Twitter account is not relevant, but in actual fact, Twitter is a great tool for developers—indeed, many people find their dream jobs after messaging people on Twitter or, at the very least, build great new connections. You should reach out to people on these platforms and ask if they would be willing to chat with you briefly about their experience.
The main goal of these discussions is to learn about what it’s like to work for that company and work in the position you are interested in. Tell the other person why you want to work at that company and in the field, and ask them for any advice they have. This will allow you to get a sense of what you can expect in the future from someone who has been through it all before. These discussions will allow you to learn about common mistakes made by beginners like yourself and learn the best ways to make yourself stand out. You may also want to ask:
- Do you know of any helpful resources that could assist me in my learning?
- What books do you recommend?
- Could you tell me more about your technical interview?
- What is the culture like at X company?
- What can I expect when I start applying for jobs?
- What does the day-to-day work look like as a Y?
After you’ve spoken with the person, follow up via email as soon as you can. Talk about what you learned, say thank you for their time, and what advice you found particularly actionable. Do so in only a few paragraphs to make sure the other person can easily read your email. Then, you should start following their advice. For example, if they have told you about a few great resources, check them out and figure out whether they are for you. Keep the person in the loop when you make progress, and thank them again if their advice proved useful over the long-term.
If the person you’re talking with is working at your dream organization, following-up can be a great way to build a lasting impression. Who knows, perhaps they may be involved with hiring at that company when you apply. The more you keep in touch with the other person about your progress, the more they will be able to learn about who you are, and how dedicated you are to making a career transition.
These connections can lead to introductions to other companies who are hiring, internal referrals, sharing jobs which may not even be public yet, and useful advice that can guide you through your transition. Great things can happen after only a few of these interactions. So, while your learning about a particular industry, research a few people who are already employed in-field (ideally at your dream employers) and ask if you can meet up with them to discuss your transition.
Step 7: Don’t Quit Your Job Immediately
It may be tempting to quit your job when you start learning about a particular job, or when you start your new job search, but that’s not always the case. If you’re attending a full-time bootcamp, you’ll need to quit your job; if you have found a new job, you can quit. But if you are still deciding about your path into a job in tech, and have not yet chosen a training program, then you don’t need to quit your job. Or if you are teaching yourself how to code, you shouldn’t lose a steady source of income.
Career transitions do not happen overnight. They will take months of hard work and tireless effort to make a reality. And during this process, it’s helpful to have a paycheck you can use to pay for essentials, even if it does mean working in a job that you ultimately want to leave. There is still a lot you should be able to learn from your current job. After all, life is the result of a series of choices you have made—the jobs you have applied for, the job you keep showing up for—and until you are ready to quit and move on, you should probably not leave. In the meantime, try to learn as much as possible about your current role. Take on a few new responsibilities, and make the most of your time.
When you’re ready to move into a new job, then quit your current one. It is advisable to put resigning on hold until you are sure that you are ready to transition into a new career.
Breaking into a Career in Technology
Deciding to make the career move can take a while, but if you’re looking for a fulfilling and worthwhile change, look no further than jobs in tech. Indeed, tech jobs will allow you to access good prospects while working on interesting and challenging problems. And if you work hard, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to work for your dream company within a few years of making the career transition. If you’re ready for a new challenge, a career in tech may be for you.
There are a lot of decisions you’ll need to make, such as where you go to learn the skills you need, or what career in tech you want to pursue, but that’s a natural part of any career transition. And if you need assistance, Career Karma is here to guide you. We’ll provide you with access to mentorship, coaching, and a community of your peers who can assist you along your journey toward breaking into a new career in tech.
Are you ready to break into a new career in the technology industry? Awesome! Here are the steps you need to take:
- Prepare for the change—ask yourself why you want to transition careers, what matters to you in a job, and what your long-term career goals are.
- Research jobs in technology—research job descriptions from your dream employers and other companies to figure out what’s out there.
- Choose a career—think about your interests, and consider which job in tech most aligns with those interests.
- Learn the skills—decide whether a coding bootcamp, college degree, or self-learning is right for you, and get started on your learning journey.
- Build your presence—create a personal website and write about your learning journey on a blog.
- Build your network—reach out to people who are already employed in the career you are interested in, and ask them questions about their work.
- Don’t quit your job until you are ready
After you have acquired the skills you need, you’ll be ready to write a technical resume, cover letter, and prepare for your technical interview. Luckily, Career Karma has guides to support you with all of those stages of breaking into a career in technology. You can find our directory of career guides here.
Pursuing a career in technology can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. You will be able to learn about how the technology you use every day works and get involved with building that technology. Whether you want to work in a technical role or a non-technical role —like marketing or sales—you can have a big impact on a company and their technology. There has never been a better time to break into a career in tech—get started today!
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.