Switching to a career in tech: Tips from an ex-headhunter

By Maggie Hunt

The past year has seen a significant increase in people thinking hard about their career. And there has been a huge digital upskilling drive as people look to become more employable and fill their time.

Research by PeopleCert found a quarter of people have been attempting to upskill after the ‘career wakeup call’ of the pandemic, with one in ten retraining for an entirely different job. Technical skills are a priority as recruitment firm Indeed has found 86 per cent of businesses are struggling to source tech talent.

These trends aren’t short-term responses to the pandemic. They’re here to stay. Microsoft estimates technology jobs will increase nearly five-fold by 2025.

Now is the time to be a ‘career changer’ and embrace a new technical role. Yet that doesn’t mean you need to change everything. As upskilling existing employees is often preferable to (and less costly than) making a new hire, it’s common to switch roles within your current organisation. In fact, when I decided to get into tech, my first technical role was an internal move, with people I knew I loved working with.

I’m now an analyst in PA’s digital team, but a year ago I was an associate at a leading executive search firm. I made this move because I sought the challenge of constantly learning and love a good gadget or problem to solve. It wasn’t easy, and there were moments where I doubted my ability to do it. But it wasn’t impossible, and it was very rewarding.

So, how do you secure that coveted job offer? It’s not an exact art, but here are three strategies to integrate into your game plan:

1. Prove your commitment to learning more

The first step is to learn new skills – not least to discover what area you want to work in. There are plenty of ways to upskill, including programmes like AWS re/Start and the courses we run with Code First: Girls, but online courses are also a great starting point. Try anything and everything – nobody ever regretted being more informed.

But upskilling alone doesn’t get you the job. The key is proving your enthusiasm. So, keep your eyes open for entry-level certifications you can complete so you have a tangible outcome on your CV.

Once you have the job, stay curious. You won’t have all the answers – nobody will expect you to. Constantly asking for help, training and feedback will prove you’re serious about working in tech.

2. Show your transferable skills

After upskilling, you need to find the right role – and that’s where your transferrable skills come in handy. Tech professionals don’t work in a vacuum, so there are plenty of jobs out there that will align with your existing skills.

Don’t hold back on highlighting your 'soft’ skills. This will give you an advantage over other candidates, who may be more technically qualified but less experienced in other areas. You can demonstrate how effective a team member, project leader or salesperson you are, for example. Success in any previous role proves you have valuable skills.

3. Build your network

To land the right job, networking is crucial. And it’s something you can always do, even before upskilling. You’ll learn so much about the industry and where you might fit in from the people who already live that reality. And you’ll discover new opportunities by asking the people who know.

Networking is tough at first but being good at it makes you stand out. And having a strong network will be crucial to career progression – building a good reputation and having people in your corner who can vouch for you is key to any career move.

Remember that with passion, hard work and the right support, anything is possible. Persevere, be bold and be authentic, and you’ll be well on your way to a new, fulfilling career in tech.

About the authors

Maggie Hunt PA digital expert

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