Have you ever found yourself needing more experience for a job role than you currently have? Perhaps you thought if only it had a little more of this or that, then I’d be more qualified for the role. Well, you know, it didn’t use to be this way for a long time. On the job. Training was a real thing and a lot of professions where your experience didn’t matter, but your hunger or willingness to perform the task was more important.
On today’s solo segment, we’re talking about job training, how previous generations had it somewhat easier and what kinds of training young professionals can do today to get ahead of the curve and impress hiring managers, especially when entry level jobs ask for years have already existing experience.
Job training before the internet
Let’s talk about the historical context for a second. Our parents had it easier than most millennials on the job. Training was available for a lot of entry level roles, which required little to no existing experience. Professional culture in the US was focused more around retaining employees, post hire rather than Cherry picking the right candidate for the job. But today, retention efforts for employees under 35 are dwindling, especially in tech where most people are staying at their jobs that only an average of 12 to 18 months.
But it’s a feedback loop, right? Companies aren’t willing to put in more financial risk when turnover at organizations is so high, but I think that’s exactly what we need to return to on the job training programs that retain employees for longer and make organizations of beacon for hope rather than just another paycheck. So how do you get job training today?
Well, if you’re interested in a job in tech, a lot of new training programs, bootcamps and accelerators are popping up everywhere. They are shorter programs that can promise you a new career with a decent entry level paycheck. And masters programs are still the norm for a lot of leadership roles, but a lot of online programs are growing just as well. Going for bootcamp can be a great way to gain the job training you need fast. But what matters to most recruiters is experience. And if you can’t land a job right away, you have to make your own experience.
Faking it till you make it is an apt phrase for the mentality you have to have when you’re looking for a job that requires more training or experienced than you currently have. A lot of jobs will turn you away because your resume doesn’t have a lengthy list of experience. But don’t worry because your resume isn’t the only material you can reference.
Why portfolios matter
Portfolios and websites are super critical for landing a job. Even some product designers argue you should have a different portfolio for every single job you apply to. Okay, that said, it’s important to note that portfolios allow you to shape and craft the image and experience you want to showcase to potential employers. There are no unwritten rules about needing to showcase real work. You can put up whatever work you’d like to reflect your experience, and to me this means you can showcase as much spec work as you want.
Creating spec work for your portfolio is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in tech.
So spec work means work done “on-spec,” which comes from speculative for speculative work. And sometimes this is called free pitching in advertising because you’re pitching your marketing idea to a potential client with work you weren’t paid a single dollar for. So spec work is done a lot by advertising agencies, but it can be done by individuals too. Creating spec work for your portfolio is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in tech.
The idea is to basically turn your passion projects into portfolio case studies that looked like real world experience because at the end of the day, no one will know at first glance whether it’s real work or Spec work—and first glance by recruiters is paramount.
So we know on the job training has almost disintegrated and often today job candidates have to find innovative solutions to get years of experience. In the world of product design, the joke goes: “there are lots of entry level design roles that ask for 16 years of experience,” but there’s truth to some of this humor. Recruiters are always looking for top candidates, and today being at the top of the group means that not only do you have to stand out creatively, but you have to appear like you have years of experience.
Train like the best
In essence, it’s about perfecting your skills faster than others, like training for a marathon. You can do a little every day or you can make it your full time focus. If you want to be amongst the best, you have to train like the best, so focus on creating work that gives you experience. Continue to learn something new every day and challenge yourself to go above and beyond. While previous generations had this given to them on the job today, we have to create it on our own.