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How to Get a Job in Tech Fast, Even When the Economy is Terrible

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Job hunting can be stressful, and it can be even more overwhelming to try to figure out how to get a job during a global pandemic. At the end of March 2020, 7.1 million people were out of work in the U.S. alone after the highest monthly increase in unemployment in 45 years. And the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that the equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs could be lost worldwide in just the second quarter of 2020.

That said, this article is NOT about scaring you—it’s about helping you see a path forward for your career.

First and foremost, know that you’re not alone. Every one of us is affected by the situation happening now, though it’s hitting some harder than others. If you find yourself in a difficult position, it’s absolutely not your fault, and you have zero explaining to do.

Second and also very importantly, there is plenty of hope.

While the unemployment numbers are up, some industries are busier than ever, which means there are companies hiring now (yes, now!). So, it’s totally possible to get hired during the crisis.

But how can YOU get a job in these uncertain conditions?

Well, for starters you will have to take your job search online (even more than before). Now more than ever it is important to have (or learn) the technical skills you need to get the top jobs. In this article we’ll spell out how to find work remotely and make sure you’re qualified to do it. We’ll cover:

 

For more on how to get a job during an economic crisis, check out the webinar (with Q&A) on this topic with Skillcrush CEO Adda Birnir and Director of Operations Caro Griffin.

📌 How to Find (Remote) Work in Tech – Even During the Crisis (watch the replay below)

 

What the most in demand jobs are now

You know from your own day-to-day life that “business as usual” has been anything but usual lately. With almost everyone needing to stay home, many companies and organizations have been forced to shut down, temporarily or permanently.

But Katharine Zaleski, Co-founder and President of PowerToFly, a platform for women to connect with hiring managers virtually and upskill via live chats, points out, “there’s case after case of companies who’ve actually seen terrible moments in history as opportunities to focus on research and development and technology.”

Many industries — like cybersecurity, insurance, healthcare, business services, online education, and digital entertainment — are even stronger than before. And they’re also hiring. In fact, Brie Weiler Reynolds, Career Development Manager and career coach at remote and flexible job employment service FlexJobs, reports a four percent increase in remote job listings from February to March this year.

Since technology is key for many of these recession-proof companies, the roles they’re looking to fill are often ones you can land if you have digital skills.

Despite the economic downturn, many people with technical skills will find they are still in-demand. Since the pandemic has forced so many in-person processes into the online space, building and maintaining websites, apps, and a solid online presence is crucial for companies and organizations. That means there’s work for everyone from front end developers to digital marketers.

You don’t have to be a backend developer to stay busy in this economy. Tech-adjacent roles are also in high demand. Weiler Reynolds notes that customer service roles are particularly important now, especially as more businesses move to online support. And keep in mind that roles in operations or admin are necessary to keep companies running, especially during exceptionally hectic times.

And remember, you don’t have to land your absolute dream job while the world is in crisis. Your goal is simple: find a job. Of course you should make sure your new employer will pay and treat you fairly. But stay open-minded and consider roles which might be more of a “bridge job” between your past experience and what you’re hoping will someday be your “forever job.”

💡 Bonus tip: Stay flexible when it comes to the type of work you’re looking for too. In this economic situation, companies might be more eager to hire for part-time, contract, or temporary roles that can also work for you in the short-term.

And, if you’ve always dreamed of working remotely, the majority of jobs right now are remote. As Zaleski says, “I think this presents a tremendous opportunity for women who can’t or don’t want to live in large cities or tech hubs.”

If nothing else, you can take this chance to learn how to work remotely. Caro Griffin, Skillcrush’s Director of Operations, says that if you need to go back to an office later, you’ll be able to say “I worked remotely 5 days a week during a global pandemic when we were all freaking out! So, really you should let me work from home, at least on Fridays.”

How to get a job in the current job market

Since we’re an online tech education website, our focus is on jobs in tech. Fortunately, jobs in tech are still in demand, but where can you find them?

Remote work was already fast-growing, but the coronavirus pushed it into high gear. Still, Weiler Reynolds says that the best place to look is at companies that were already operating remotely before the crisis started. “We find that the companies that are most likely to still be hiring right now and are pretty active are the ones that already had pretty strong remote work programs before.”

But what are the best sites for finding remote work?

Technology consulting firm hatch I.T. has noticed companies and recruiters using more “creative” places to post jobs, like Reddit, Slack, Gitter, and Discord. Since so many jobs have to be done remotely now, you can be sure to come across plenty of them on remote job boards too. We keep an updated list of our favorite remote job boards in our blog post The 25+ Best Sites for Finding Remote Work Online. The article also includes a growing list of places you can get a job during the pandemic, and you can take a look at these too:

70 Flexible Companies Currently Hiring Remote Jobs (by FlexJobs)

150+ Remote Startups Hiring in April 2020 (by Remotive.io)

28 Companies Still Hiring During COVID-19 (by PowerToFly)

Companies Hiring during Coronavirus (by The Muse)

Companies Hiring Support Professionals (by Assembled)

Coronavirus Job Resources (by Indeed)

Startups Actively Hiring during COVID-19 (by Jai Sajnani at New Enterprise Associates)

Talent Connect (by Torch Capital)

Still Hiring (by Hamza Khchichine)

Hiring Freezes (by Candor)

WFH But Hiring (by Free Agency)

Remote Work Jobs Portal (by Remote Work Summit)

Creative Community x COVID (by Becky Simpson)

The Corona Hiring Sheet (by Florian Feichtinger & Paula Monteiro)

💡 Bonus tip: When looking for job boards, try Caro’s favorite job search hack. Instead of just googling for a certain job title, get super-targeted results by searching for [location]+[industry]+job board. (For example: remote digital marketing job board) And you can find more remote job listings by changing the word “remote” in your search to one of these 19 ways to say work from home from FlexJobs.

Freelancing is Working Too

Another great option for finding work in the short-term is always freelancing. You don’t need to get a full-time remote job to be earning income during the crisis. You can make money even with “minimal” tech skills like HTML and CSS.

If you’re feeling uncertain about taking on a client, know that you don’t need to be a pro to get a freelance gig. As Skillcrush founder and CEO Adda Birnir says, “you just need to know how to do something that someone else doesn’t know how to do”— like formatting someone’s resume or building a simple website.

Caro points out about most freelance clients, “they are hiring so they don’t have to do it.” So, reach out virtually to your friend who asked you to help with a resume refresh or your neighbor who is scrambling to set up a site for her bakery that’s now doing home delivery.

How the hiring process is changing

Before you start your job search, take a minute to get to know the changes happening in hiring so you know how to get a job online during the recession.

Just like jobs have gone remote, so has the hiring process. Zaleski says, “Look at this as an opportunity to be able to find a role that might not have been available before because so many companies are changing how they hire and where they hire.”

Networking Remotely

One way it’s changing is that you obviously can’t network in person. Instead of making contacts irl, you can connect with people in your industry by:

  • Joining and participating in LinkedIn groups or Facebook Groups
  • Following related hashtags (and interacting with) on Twitter
  • Commenting on their work on sites like GitHub or Dribbble
  • Joining Slack communities for your areas of interest
  • Attending virtual job fairs or some of the many meetups, conferences, or professional events that are now being held online

Interviewing for Jobs Remotely

Job interviews will all be online now, too, of course. Before you go out and catch the attention of hiring managers, start prepping for remote job interviews, which will almost definitely be done virtually.

Weiler Reynolds has seen companies move more towards video interviews (instead of just phone) for that “added layer of getting to know somebody,” so she recommends you get to know video conferencing tools (like Zoom or Google Hangouts). Test out your equipment and set up your surroundings to make a professional impression.

It’s also a great idea to practice with a friend and think through your answers to the most common tech (and remote) job interview questions.

How to get a job during an economic crisis

Emphasize remote work experience on your resume

Once you find a position you’d love to land, you need to make sure your application materials are digitally up-to-date. When it comes to your resume, besides the always important tips to update, proofread, and tailor it to the role, Weiler Reynolds also says you should emphasize any background you have working virtually, whether it was on a fully remote team, taking an online course, or collaborating from your office with teammates in another location. And you can find even more top tips in our Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Resume.

Polish your online presence

To best position yourself for being hired, spend some time creating a consistent online presence. In Caro’s opinion, this is the secret to locking in a job in our increasingly digital world. You don’t have to be a social media maven spending all day posting and curating your sites. But do refresh your LinkedIn profile, come up with a compelling online portfolio or personal site, and make the social media accounts you do use consistent and professional.

Wondering what kind of online presence you should present? It’s simple: Be yourself as much as possible. Of course there are things you might want to keep private (which you can do by being intentional about your privacy settings on all social platforms). But feel free to talk about your hobbies, interests, and passions. You’ll stand out in potential employers’ minds if your personality comes across in your online presence.

Nail your cover email

For some jobs, you may need to write a traditional cover letter, especially if you’re applying through an application form. If you’re applying via email, the important part is the email itself.

As a hiring manager myself, I can’t emphasize enough how a cover email (or the free-form “Tell us about yourself” section of some online applications) can make or break your chances of being chosen for an interview. We’ve got you covered (pun intended!) here with our Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Email Cover Letter that has the full rundown on how to make yours stand out.

But TLDR; go for a short, specific, tone-appropriate email that tells who you are in a memorable and unique way, what you’ve done that’s relevant to the role, why you’re the best candidate, and where they can learn more about you online.

💡 Bonus tip: Caro is so passionate about what a difference your online persona can make that she’s written a whole guide on how to update your web presence to get hired. So, be sure to dig into this treasure trove of tips to make sure you’re job-ready!

What tech skills you need to get hired

The big question is how much technical knowledge do you need to qualify for a tech job (or even a tech-adjacent) role? If you want to be a senior developer, you’ll need to put some time in, of course, but there are plenty of jobs you can get with even foundational tech skills.

You don’t need to be a rockstar developer or a guru designer to make money in tech. Basic skills can be learned in just a few short weeks, and, as Adda says, “It’s really not about taking months and months to learn tech skills before you can start to make money. You can start to make money right away” by taking freelance jobs and building up from there.

Learn HTML & CSS

But, what foundational skills should you learn? Here at Skillcrush we recommend first learning HTML and CSS. These building blocks of the web will let you do everything from creating digital newsletters and marketing landing pages to customizing SquareSpace pages or tweaking the back-end of WordPress sites. From there, add Git and GitHub, and some design fundamentals, and you’ll be able to level up quickly.

Check out this list of jobs you can do with just HTML and CSS for more ideas.

Learn Next-Level Technical Skills

The next steps we usually recommend are to start adding to your front end developer toolkit. That means learning some JavaScript and React for developing in-demand interactive, multimedia websites. To be, in Adda’s words, “bananas in terms of marketability,” you can pick up some Python for building web apps and data visualizations.

While learning the above skills is a solid plan, remember you can always respond to demand you see cropping up. Maybe that means you’ve noticed clients needing help with specific areas of expertise, or your company has a demand for people with certain skills. Or, maybe you’ve just noticed in the news that certain industries are booming. Zaleski stresses, “If you’re thinking about how to position yourself in this economy, you have to start thinking about where the world is going. There will be people who will do very well from a career perspective if they’re on that wave.”

Wherever you end up, starting with the basics (HTML & CSS) is the right place to start. Our students at Skillcrush have shown over and over that it’s possible for you to go from beginner to your first tech job. For example, Sarah went from homeschooling parent to self-employed web developer, Bee from educational aide to designer and developer, Nathalia from office manager to digital marketer, and Amanda from architect to UX designer.

Other Skillcrush students have gotten these jobs (and more): lead visual designer, HTML email developer, UX research assistant, associate Salesforce administrator, front end developer, Ruby on Rails developer, content strategist, project manager, front end engineer, technology instructor, WordPress developer, and the list goes on.

All of this to say, even if you’re starting from scratch, you can do it too.

💡 Bonus tip: Read more Skillcrush student stories and successes to see where you can go with tech skills. And start learning those skills and getting the inside scoop about tech careers in our free Coding Camp.

What to do if you need to get a job fast but don’t have the right experience

Even if you’re invested in learning technical skills, you might need to get a job ASAP in this economy, especially if you’ve suddenly found yourself laid off or otherwise out of work. Here are some ideas for landing a job with the experience and skills you already have.

Reframe your experience

The “need experience to get experience” phenomena can feel like a fight you can’t win. But according to Weiler Reynolds, there are entry level roles available now in addition to all the senior level positions companies are looking to hire for.

And, “years of experience” requirements in job postings often don’t refer to literal years of experience in full-time jobs. Instead, that can mean the equivalent skills that you would get from working full-time for those years. You might have gained those skills working part-time, freelancing, doing your own projects, or even studying. The point is to show (in your cover letter, portfolio, and interview, for example) that your skills and experience are relevant to the job.

Show you understand what the job entails (and are prepared to do it)

On that note, another way to combat an experience deficit is to show that you understand what all is involved in doing this work. Client testimonials or supervisor’s references are great for this. And Weiler Reynolds says it’s definitely worth highlighting the specific skills that can make you a good remote worker, like communication, focus, self-management, and savvy with remote work tools like collaboration software, document sharing, chat tools, etc.

Apply anyway

Even if you don’t feel like you meet all the requirements for a job, you can still apply, especially if it seems only a few years out of reach, or you think you just need a few more skills to qualify. Adda says, “The best thing you can do is embrace rejection and see it as practice. I really encourage you to put yourself out there. The biggest mistake I see students make time and time again is that they wait too long.”

It’s definitely scary to go through interviews and face rejection, but “you don’t know if you don’t ask,” Adda says. “Better that you take a risk, because really there’s no downside right now.” The worst that can happen is you don’t get the job…and if you’re looking for work, you’re already out of a job!

Start getting the experience you need now

And, you can build your experience now so that you’re ready for future roles. You can freelance or do contract work, which will also help you keep earning. But, if you have time for a side gig or if you’re unemployed now, you can even do unpaid “client” work for friends and family (no one needs to know you have a personal connection), open-source projects, personal projects, internships, or online hackathons.

While we usually recommend you always get paid for your work, no matter how recently you started learning technical skills, the pandemic is a unique time. You can get experience while giving back to your community by working on volunteer projects or in unpaid roles for companies, charities, or other organizations using tech to help during this global crisis. Zaleski is also a believer in the possibilities that pro bono work can bring you. “People need doers like crazy right now,” she says.

According to Zaleski, “in many ways, the playing field has been changed dramatically. There are tremendous opportunities to go in and remake things. What keeps me going every morning is knowing that, if we hire more diverse women, the country will grow back stronger faster.”

 

Learn more about FlexJobs, the leading job search site specializing in the best remote, part-time, freelance, and flexible jobs available, here.

Learn more about PowerToFly, a global community dedicated to diversity, inclusion, and transparency at work via virtual events and remote jobs, here.

guide coding for beginners

Get Our Free Ultimate Guide to Coding for Beginners

Make a plan for learning the tech skills you need to land a new job with this 60+ page FREE ebook!

Kelli Smith

Kelli worked in international logistics and then freelanced for years as a corporate language trainer and translator before following her passion and making a career change into tech - in her mid-40's!

She was both one of the first Skillcrush students and one of the first Skillcrush team members, starting as our customer support manager and now serving as our Operations (aka HR) Manager, a writer for our blog, and a career counselor.

Kelli is a Texan living in Finland who loves tech, podcasts, Corgis, emoji, gifs, and, most of all, practicing for and going to catalan style line dancing events all around Europe.