I got that question from someone from LinkedIn recently and I found it to be a great question and very common. A lot of people graduating from their courses have similar issue regardless if they are doing Software Engineering or Social Worker; starting a career is an enormous effort but there are ways to break-in and start the career.
The first step is to understand the Software Engineering market or any market that you want to break-in. Specifically for Software Engineering, we need to make sure we understand the players in that area:
- Hiring Manager
- Technical Recruiter / Normal HR Recruiter
- Future Co-Workers
- Your Competition
Each player is looking for something specific and being able to tackle their questions and provide what they are looking for is key to success in breaking in to the industry. Also, understanding the hierarchy and career progression as a Software Engineer will help look after the opportunities that allow you to get a job quickly and in the right space.
|Players||What they are looking for||What can you offer|
|Hiring Manager||They are looking for skills, cost and culture fit and it is that the person who can solve my today's problem once onboarded? Will he stay?||Being able to showcase experiences and skills is a must, but also conveying that you understand his problem and why he is hiring is key|
|Recruiter||Recruiters are rewarded by each new hire and the best ones are the ones that are able to choose what they hiring managers are looking for||If the position is right, you have to ally with the recruiter to help you sell your skills and position you as the best candidate; being able to work through the technicality and ask question to recruiters is key|
|Possible Coworkers||In many organization, people ask Coworkers to evaluate candiadtes; Being able to show case skills but also create rapport to those Coworkers is key for receiving favorable comments from them about you||First always focus on the job and the skills and experience you bring to the table; then find a common topic that both enjoys to discuss professionally to find the common ground and build rapport|
|Your Competition||It's not easy to know what companies are looking for but it's key to understand what kind of profile other people have and that gives you some hints about how you may better position yourself||Listen and ask questions to the recruiters and interviewers so they can give you information that is valuable for your to prepare yourself|
|Yourself||Getting desparate for a job and forgetting about the basics of job searching||It's important to study the company and get ready for the interviews; with preparation, you are increasing your odds of succeding in an interview and getting a job|
After knowing what each person is looking for, another "homework" is to search for other professionals on sites like LinkedIn to see how is the career progression of people in the industry. For example, if a person got into the Software Engineering market is through a start-up; that may indicate that there is a path to get into that are by following similar paths. Not that actually works all the time, but it is important to understand other people's career paths in order to see what other options are out there to break-in.
Not only, it provides some thoughts and ideas to follow some proven paths but we can also make an effort to reach them out directly and ask for advices. It is also a good idea to see the language and structure of how people position themselves in the area so we can emulate and adjust what we have in our resumes.
In most cases of Software Engineering, most people break into the industry by doing the following major paths:
- Being able to join a company who needs a software engineer (that is the most straight path)
- Starting to show case programming skills via collaboration to open sources work on GitHub or show case your portfolio of apps you've created via GitHub and then use that as your experience portfolio
- Getting an internship position in the area and programming language of your choice
- Joining meet ups for programmers in your preferred programming language and you will be able to meet with peers and other people so you can ask for jobs and see what other people are doing to succeed in the area; those events may also have recruiters too
Finally, having constant dedication to look for job and treating job searching as a full time job is key for success. It takes a lot of practice and patience to get a job but at the end, most of the people who persist in the process end up getting a job regardless. By following my recommendations and approach, I strongly believe your changes of breaking into the industry will happen.