No work experience? You can get your first tech job without it!

No work experience? You can get your first tech job without it!
Get Our FREE Anatomy of a Tech Career Guide

Get Our FREE Anatomy of a Tech Career Guide

Find out how to go from Step Zero to getting hired and moving up in a tech career.

One of the scariest things about transitioning into tech is the feeling that your skills don’t match up to what job listings are asking for.

But if you’ve been working in the “real world” in one way or another, you have skills. Maybe they’re not all relevant, but there’s a good chance that some of them are. Meaning, when first starting out in tech, you’ll need to put emphasis on the skills that are transferable.

Luckily, there are certain skills that span industries and are desirable in all candidates. And then, of course, there are the technical skills—some of which are easier to learn than others.

Before I embarked on a career in tech, I started out at a Thai think tank working in their economic development department. Not exactly a logical transition into the world of WordPress development. But that didn’t mean none of my prior experience transferred. I had experience in communication, analytical and research skills, problem-solving and innovation, and plenty of other “soft” skills that gave me an edge in the world of tech.

To give you a hand, I’ve compiled a list of 14 different skills that you can add to your resume, LinkedIn, or even portfolio despite having no “tech” experience. I have categorized them into two groups: soft skills (that are transferable across industries) and tech skills (ones that are easier to master).

(Transferable) Soft Skills

1. Communication

Having communication skills means you can listen, write, and speak effectively. And it’s something that is mentioned in a range of job listings across industries.

It’s important because distilling complex tech/business concepts and being able to explain them to others is a valuable skill. If you can do this, you will be able to connect with all kinds of people in your career, from the super techy to designers to managers to non-technical clients.

However, on your resume don’t just say you have “excellent communication skills.” (It’s an overused phrase and just empty words.) Show it. Communication skills can take many forms: writing, teaching/mentoring, negotiating, and more.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Consider mentioning any reports, white papers, presentations, etc. that you assembled (or how much time you spent communicating back and forth with clients through writing)
  2. If you’ve ever mentored or taught someone/a group, you can include this
  3. Have you ever negotiated or settled contracts? That could be something to talk about too

Example: “Mentored new members in the ___ program*”

* Keep in mind that this “program” could be in the workplace, or as a volunteer.

2. Analytical/Research Proficiency

These kinds of skills deal with your ability to assess a situation and gather more information if needed. Essentially, you are able to look across numerous sources and take into account various perspectives.

For example, you may be responsible for monitoring your small team’s budget. Beyond just an Excel sheet of figures, you also create detailed reports that show how certain expenses have made an impact within your team and budget suggestions for the future.

When it comes to tech, being able to look at data and draw conclusions from it is useful in a range of ways from monitoring website traffic to website performance. In fact, there are entire careers that revolve around monitoring this kind of data and prescribing solutions based on your findings.

Similar to communication skills, analytical and reasoning skills are important across industries.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Mention tools that directly relate to research/analysis (i.e. Microsoft Excel, Google Analytics)
  2. Describe work experience where you used analysis/research skills: analyzing data sets, compiling reports, writing articles for a tech website, etc.

Example: “Analyzed client’s* metrics across social media platforms for weekly reporting”

* Remember, a “client” could be your BFF, cousin, brother-in-law, or yoga buddy.

3. Ability to Manage Multiple Priorities

You can take on multiple responsibilities at once and set priorities around them. But beyond that you are able to adapt quickly.

In many careers we have to decide which projects or tasks to take on given our team’s goals for the month and/or quarter. (Oh…and budget!)

Being able to manage tasks, assignments, and budgets is important in tech because there are often bug fixes/updates to make—some of which are more critical to your company’s bottom-line than others. Being able to prioritize these is a crucial skill to have.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Mention specific project management/productivity tools you are familiar with (i.e. Asana, Basecamp, Evernote, Google Drive, etc.)
  2. Showcase work experience where you took on a leadership role in project/team management—especially if you had to handle multiple things at once

Example: “Managed social media scheduling across platforms with Buffer as well as formatted all upcoming blog posts in WordPress”

4. Creativity/Innovation/Problem-solving

Essentially, it’s important to be innovative because it equips you to find creative solutions to problems. Instead of staying “inside the box,” you take forward-thinking approaches to solve problems or even prevent them from happening in the first place.

Say you’re an elementary school teacher and you find that all your students are not turning in their required forms. You come up with a ticket/reward system to encourage them to get their forms in on time without penalizing students when their parents forget to sign something.

As unrelated as that problem seems, those forward-thinking skills are super applicable in tech. What if, rather than waiting till your coworker has a meltdown, you develop a system for asking for help when you know you won’t finish a coding project on time? Or what if you solve some broken CSS in a way that no one else on the team considered?

With creative skills, you can troubleshoot issues in ways that other people may not have thought of even if you’ve never encountered the specific problem before and bring a fresh perspective to a project or team.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Highlight different creative/innovative ideas you’ve implemented in previous roles
  2. Briefly discuss problems you solved in a way nobody else thought of

Example: “Developed a new website analytic tracking process to better monitor website growth and revenue streams”

5. Teamwork

Nowadays, even if you’re not in a physical office around your coworkers, teamwork is still important. Even if you are a solo freelancer, you will still have to work with clients and be responsive to their needs. (Sometimes even training them to use or understand a new tool or method you are implementing.)

Regardless of what field you are in or the nature of your job, you must be able to work with others professionally while attempting to reach a shared goal.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Give mention to specific teamwork-related communication tools you have used in the past (i.e. Slack, HipChat, Skype)
  2. In any job where you worked as part of a team, highlight the collaborative aspects of your duties

Example: “Collaborated internally with coordinators, as well as communicated progress externally with customers”

6. Planning and organizing

You can manage deadlines and plan effectively for them. For certain tasks, you have a “process” that you’re able to explain, instead of just winging it.

You are “that person” at the office with the detailed desk calendar who plans their entire quarter before it even starts. You also have ready-to-go templates and checklists for recurring tasks—like when you start a new budget report.

Essentially, you are organized and professional in thought, communication, and workflow.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. (If a freelancer) mention your new project workflow
  2. Reference specific organization tools you utilize (i.e. Asana, Basecamp, Trello)
  3. Mention any management processes you’ve used (like Scrum)

Example: “Worked alongside the content marketing manager to establish and execute a schedule for upcoming blog posts”

Bonus way to demonstrate planning/organization skills: If you’re a freelancer/consultant especially, you can display your project workflow visually on your portfolio. See how Stacey Baldini shows her design and illustration process here.

7. A positive attitude

You don’t need to be glowing 24/7 or be bringing cupcakes into work every Friday.

But an overall positive attitude or pleasant disposition is key. Hiring managers want to bring on people that are easy to work with.

For example, when your code breaks 2 hours before go-time, are you going to be the one who throws in the towel? Or will you be the one who rallies the troops and helps them come up with a solution?

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Talk about positive ways you have interacted with clients or colleagues
  2. When you discuss problems you’ve solved, keep the tone upbeat. Mention that you welcome challenges

Example: “Developed one-on-one client relationships to ensure their satisfaction and represent the company in a positive, professional way”

Bonus way to demonstrate your positive attitude: Feature testimonials on your LinkedIn and/or portfolio site. Having people publicly sing your praises is a form of social proof.

8. Presentation creation/delivery

Presentation skills could mean making PowerPoints for office meetings or speaking at conferences: in essence, expressing your ideas to one person or a group. Maybe you’re suggesting a direction to take in a website redesign or simply trying to land a new client.

Moreover, presentation skills come in handy in a variety of ways, i.e. pitching an investor for your startup.

And no matter what industry you’re coming from, chances are, you’ve had to present an idea to a group and convince them to go with it.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. If you’ve ever presented ideas/sales pitches to potential clients or customers—include that
  2. Consider listing specific presentations/talks you’ve given (this could be outside the workplace, like at a conference or Meetup)

Example: “Spoke at the __ Meetup about the importance of women taking a larger role in venture capital”

Bonus way to demonstrate your presentation skills: If you speak or present often and are good at it, consider adding video footage of talks to your portfolio site. Again, showing you can speak is much more effective than saying you are a “great speaker.” For a real life example, see how Jessica Hische incorporates speaking engagements on her personal site.

(Relatively Easy to Learn) Digital Skills

9. Image editing

This could be with Photoshop or even a free tool like Canva. Image editing skills can be helpful in a range of positions—not just for design jobs.

For instance, even as a content marketer you may need to make blog post images or tweak an image the designer you work with sent your way.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Any relevant certifications or courses, like a Photoshop class
  2. Listing specific tools you are familiar with (i.e. Photoshop, Illustrator, Canva)

Example: “Created graphics to help readers visualize complex concepts for articles on the company blog”

10. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)

HTML is the foundation of the web, and is found (in one way or another) on every website online.

Because of this, HTML has become a skill that spans the tech industry, from designers to developers to digital marketers to growth hackers. HTML even comes in handy for people formatting articles, like on WordPress.

The good news? You can learn HTML and practice it in your current job, whether you’re formatting a newsletter or tweaking something on your company’s website.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Include specific certifications/courses (like your Skillcrush Blueprint)
  2. Include a link to your Github profile (but only if you have project repositories on it!)

Example: “Created HTML table-formatted email newsletter designs to be used in marketing campaigns”

Bonus way to show off your HTML skills: Remember to show, not tell. And samples don’t lie. (Even if it’s a pretend project!) No time to build out an entire pretend project? You can always use CodePen or JSfiddle to whip up a quick demo to show off.

11. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

While HTML is like the skeleton of the web, CSS is like the muscle and skin that finishes it off and creates the form to go along with the function.

Because they go together, they are usually learned simultaneously.

While it’s not as commonplace as HTML, CSS still has a lot of use cases for designers, developers, and even digital marketers. (Such as being able to quickly tweak some styling on a site.)

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Again, showcase relevant certifications/courses
  2. Include a link to your Github profile
  3. Talk about a time you practically implemented your skills

Example: “Added extra CSS styling to the WordPress theme as a way to heighten the site’s aesthetic appeal and professionalism.”

12. Responsive design principles

Responsive design means designing for all devices: desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and of course smartphones.

An example of responsive design is knowing how to use CSS media queries, which dictates how the page will look on different screen sizes.

This is something to learn after getting HTML and CSS basics down. Nonetheless, being familiar with responsive design is beneficial for both web developers and designers. And luckily, there are a ton of great resources out there—from books to online classes—that can help you practice responsive design before you get the job.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Certifications/courses
  2. Github profile (if you have one)
  3. Links to practice projects you’ve done for yourself or a family member

Example: “Hard-coded the responsive WordPress theme for…”

Bonus way to show off your responsive design skills: Again—demos don’t lie. Include one in your portfolio.

13. Search engine optimization (SEO)

(Almost) every company has a website nowadays. Online businesses are booming compared to brick and mortar ones, meaning every company should care about SEO.

SEO affects how a website ranks in the Google search results. Considering that there are over 40,000 Google searches every second, it’s critical.

And you don’t have to be working in a dev job to start tinkering with SEO. Ask your current boss if you can check out the Google Analytics for your company site to start getting insights into user behavior.

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Certifications or courses taken
  2. Specific tools (i.e. Moz Pro, Yoast SEO plugin, SEMRush)
  3. Results!! For example, if you were able to increase traffic on a website using SEO strategies (even if that website was your own or a pal’s). Show the numbers; quantifying matters

Example: “Provided Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services that increased site traffic by 40% over a two month period”

14. Git (and Github)

If you’re working on a team as a developer, designer, or even QA—there’s a good chance you’ll be using git (version control) and possibly Github.

It’s a tech skill, yes. But it’s also a collaboration/workflow tool that has lots of utility and allows you to work with a team of developers without stomping all over each other’s code.

Even without a team, you can start working with GitHub. You can use it on freelance projects (even solo ones), contribute to open source projects, and even create your own little projects that other people can use (such as a WordPress theme, CSS library, small JavaScript plugin, and more).

How to demonstrate this on your resume:

  1. Include a link to your Github profile; this is probably the best way to *show* you can use git and Github
  2. If you have any personal projects you’re mentioning on your resume, link to their corresponding Github repository

Example: “Managed the website using version control (git) and Github. See the repository here: [link to repository]”

What are you waiting for? Add these skills to your resume today.

Even if you have no experience in tech, you can incorporate at least some of these 14 skills into your resume, LinkedIn, or online portfolio today.

And remember: the very best web designers and developers once had zero experience, too. You’re in good company.

 

LAURENCE BRADFORD
Laurence is a self-taught freelance web developer, focusing primarily on front-end technologies. In her spare time she manages learntocodewith.me, a blog geared to beginners teaching themselves how to code. Laurence is addicted to side projects and travel.

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