Many of my mentees are trying to land their first job in the tech industry. If you are new to the tech job search process, it can be difficult to know where to focus or how your skills will stack up against different types of roles.
One of the exercises I encourage my mentees to use is a skills audit. This helps them evaluate where their existing skill set overlaps with the roles they are pursuing, as well as gaps they may need to address.
This is the outline for the skills audit process.
1. Select 1-3 job titles to audit
You can choose similar job titles if you have a more narrow focus, or choose roles from a variety of focus areas if you are still in the exploratory phase of your job search.
For example, if you want to get into front end development, you may choose "Web Developer", "Front End Developer", and "React Developer". If you know you want to get into tech and aren't sure which role is the best fit, you could try a mix of roles like "Technical Account Manager", "Technical Recruiter", and "Data Analyst" and see where you might have some overlap in skill set.
2. Read at least five job postings for each title
Find active, recent job postings for the roles you're auditing. If you have an idea of what industry, company size, or other attribute you're looking for in a company, you can filter by these criteria, but don't worry if you're not there yet.
LinkedIn is an easy source to find many job postings, but there are also job boards focused on certain role types or locations, like this job board for Atlanta startups. Then there are job boards that focus on companies with diverse hiring practices like DiversifyTech.co and Women Who Code.
You can also research companies you like and check their website directly.
3. Write down all the desired skills from the job postings
Don't just focus on the technical requirements. Make sure to also include “soft” skills or criteria like “self-motivated”. If there is a requirement or preference for years of experience, notate it, but remember that a lack of direct experience can be mitigated by showing you have the same skills as someone with equivalent years in the role.
I’d recommend using something like a spreadsheet for easy tracking. For even better insights, you can also note things like the frequency a skill appears or whether the job posting lists it as required or just preferred.
4. Compare the desired skills to your skills
Review all the items from your research and compare against your own comfort and experience level with that skill.
If you’re using a spreadsheet, you can even color code each skill to better represent how much overlap you have. For example, green for “strong overlap” and orange for “some exposure” to the skill.
Identify all the desired skills that you do not yet have or do not plan to have. You could also color code these, maybe yellow for “plan to have” and red for “no plan to have”.
5. Evaluate your fit for these roles
Ideally, you’ll have a majority of the desired skills for your preferred role type. Even better if you see a lot of strong experience or knowledge for 75% or more.
If that’s the case, you are now prepared to move forward with your job search and determine how to best present your skill set.
If there is not a lot of overlap between your skills and the desired skills for the roles, you have some options.
Create a plan to address the gaps in your skill set
This could mean taking courses, building a project, or getting a certification. Different factors will affect which skills you prioritize.
For example, if you need to find a job quickly, you may prioritize developing skills that are easier to learn in a short time frame. If you have more flexibility, you may consider committing to a course or certification for a topic that is highly desired but takes more time to learn.
Apply for jobs anyway
Another option is to create a plan to highlight the skills you do have while mitigating the gaps and apply for jobs anyway.
This will make your job search more difficult, but you could push forward and try to find roles that are more flexible on their requirements. You’ll want to make sure you have a strong narrative in your resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio to highlight the skills that you do bring to the table.
Consider other roles to pursue
If you are not overly committed to a particular role and are still exploring, you can repeat this process with some other roles and see if something else better suits your existing skill set. However, keep in mind that if you are brand new to the tech industry, you will likely need to do some level of skill development to meet the needs of most roles.
In addition to checking your readiness for a specific role in the tech industry, this process can help you create a learning roadmap so you feel more confident moving forward with your journey into tech.
Regardless of the results, you should come away with a clearer plan for your next steps -- whether it be a learning plan, a change in direction, or a renewed focus on getting the job of your dreams.