One of the most prevalent issues that job seekers face in the tech industry is how to gain work experience. Companies won’t hire you without experience, and you won’t get work experience without being hired. It’s a dilemma.
Even entry-level tech jobs that can net you experience still require some form of experience. So how do you get the experience you need to get hired?
Fortunately, there are several ways to gain work experience that will appeal to recruiters and help you land your first big tech job.
What counts as tech work experience?
What counts as acceptable work experience can vary widely. However, any interesting project in your field that you have dedicated your skills to will be considered work experience by most employers.
It doesn’t have to be a 9 to 5 job, or you get paid for it. As long as you put a lot of time into it and used relevant technical and soft skills to solve relevant problems, it counts as relevant work experience.
That being said, here’s how to gain enough work experience to get you through the recruiter’s door.
1. Join open source projects
Participating in open source projects is one of the most popular ways to gain valuable experience in the field of technology. There are endless opportunities in just about any tech niche. The best part is that the open source experience is highly valued by even some of the most prominent tech employers.
While participation in open source projects seems to be an exclusive reserve of programmers and software developers, the opportunities available are more diverse. Because people tend to focus more on contributing code, many other technical roles are overlooked. This is an opportunity you can take advantage of for work experience.
Do you want to gain professional experience in technical writing? You can write documentation and procedures for open source software projects. Need branding and digital marketing experience? Open source software also needs branding and promotion. You can gain elite level experience by helping to customize some of the most innovative open source software.
Some of these open source software projects have had a lot of success along the way. References from your involvement in extremely successful projects can provide important work experience on your CV. As more tech companies embrace the open-source movement, there are more and more opportunities to contribute. It’s a gold mine for work experience there.
How to add open-source contributions to your CV
Can you add open source contributions as work experience on your resume? Yes.
The best way to add open source contributions to your resume is to break down the details into the profile, professional summary, and project description sections of your resume.
- Include the link to your open source contributions, like your GitHub link, in the profile section. This should usually be right below your LinkedIn profile link.
- In the summary section, indicate that you are an open source contributor and highlight some of your most important contributions.
- Finally, in the project description section, list the open source projects you have contributed to, briefly describe the nature of your contributions, and provide a link to each project.
2. Start freelancing
One of the easiest ways to walk through the door of a recruiter is to start freelancing in your tech niche. This is perhaps one of the most targeted ways to gain the experience you need in just about any tech industry.
Thanks to popular freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Freelancer, you can gain specific experience in a short time. Upwork, for example, frequently offers jobs specifically aimed at beginners. You will find these jobs marked as requiring entry-level experience.
While these entry-level roles don’t always come with an attractive salary, every extra hour you put in is a plus on your resume.
Sign up with reputable freelance sites like iFreelance, Toptal, Freelanced, Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer to start your freelance journey.
If you are confident that you have honed your skills to a significant level of mastery, Toptal could be a great place for you. The platform is reserved for some of the best freelancers in certain fields. Therefore, listing platform-independent experience can weigh favorably on your CV.
However, Upwork is the best option to gain beginner level experience. It is suitable for beginners and can provide you with considerable experience with a lower barrier of entry. To get started, register with Upwork and complete your profile.
To get entry-level jobs on Upwork, add “beginner” to your search query whenever you search for a position in your niche. If you prefer using Fiverr (which is also a bit beginner-friendly), keep your rates as low as possible to get as many jobs as you need to gain experience.
How to add freelance experience to your CV
Can you add freelance activities as work experience on your resume? Definitively!
There are two popular ways to incorporate freelance experience into a resume:
- You can create a separate section to list all your freelancing activities.
- Or, you can neatly link your freelancing activities directly into the work history section of your resume.
For the second option, the best practice is to give yourself a job title that best describes the type of work you have done as a freelancer. Ideally, preface your job title with a qualifier such as “Freelance”, “Contract”, or “Consultant” to indicate freelance work.
3. Run a personal blog or website
Blogging about your tech niche is an effective way to demonstrate your skills and put your skills to good use. Running a blog where you share relevant ideas and valuable content focused on your tech niche allows you to actively use your skills and gain experience.
If you need technical writing experience, for example, running a blog can be particularly helpful. There’s no better way to demonstrate your writing prowess than by directing recruiters to a website full of your work.
However, it’s not just about writing, and you can gain experience in areas such as branding, digital marketing, programming, financial technology and several other technology areas by managing a practical blog. In programming, for example, you can share tutorials for different types of programming projects. This means that you will actively build a wide range of real-world projects and also gain hands-on experience.
How to Add a Personal Website or Blog to Your Resume
To highlight experience running a website or blog:
- Add a link to your website in the profile section.
- Be sure to briefly describe what you do on your blog or website in as few words as possible in the summary section.
- If your website has facilitated an interesting project, it might be a good idea to highlight it in the project description section of your resume (if your resume has one).
4. Volunteering with non-profit and humanitarian organizations
Volunteering is an important, but often overlooked, way to gain technology experience. According to this LinkedIn Poll, one in five US managers hired a candidate because the volunteer work listed on their resume. Volunteering is not just a work experience; it also gives you an edge in your job search.
There are thousands of non-profit and humanitarian organizations that need volunteers for their activities. From global organizations like UNICEF to local charities in your community, you’ll find organizations that need a helping hand with technology.
Microsoft TEALS Program, US Peacecorp Volunteer Program and the United Nations Volunteers program are reputable volunteer programs that you can use to start your volunteer journey. There are also several online platforms where you can find remote tech volunteer opportunities in a wide range of tech-related fields.
How to add volunteer work to your CV
There are two ways to list your volunteer work experience on your CV:
- First, you can list it in the work experience or work history section, just like you would any other work experience.
- Or, you can create a “volunteer work” section to list all of your relevant work experiences, each, followed by a bulleted list of your roles.
Experience is an asset in technology
The tech industry places a lot of importance on work experience. Due to the more hands-on nature of tech jobs, recruiters generally need someone with hands-on experience. Don’t wait to get hired to gain experience.
Go ahead, take advantage of these experiential opportunities and put yourself ahead of the pack in your job search.
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