How millennial tech grads should tailor their resumes

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If you've just graduated from college and are looking to land a job in IT, here are four emerging trends you'll want to highlight for prospective employers.

You’ve recently graduated and now it’s time to start applying to jobs -- but what skills and experience should you highlight on your resume? To help you decide, CompTIA released the results of its 2016 IT Industry Outlook report, which surveyed 673 IT industry companies in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and found that millennials have certain skills businesses are clamoring for in the coming year.

“Recent grads have grown up in an age of evolving technologies, particularly the Internet Age. They’ve not only developed a unique way of problem solving and critical thinking, but they are also acutely aware of new technologies that may increase operational efficiency in a business,” says Gene Richardson, COO of Experts Exchanges.

Take advantage of the millennial edge

Millennials are quickly becoming the largest generation in the workforce as baby boomers hit retirement age. “The composition of the workforce is changing, and changing fast. In 2012 Baby Boomers accounted for 44 percent of the total workforce; Gen X, 21 percent; and millennials, 35 percent. By 2022, Millennials will make up the majority of the workforce at 52 percent, followed by Baby Boomers at 26 percent and Gen Xers at 19 percent,” says Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA.

That’s great news for the bulk of recent graduates, who typically fall into the millennial category -- and for all the bad press this age group gets, it turns out your generation might also give you a leg up in hiring. That’s because millennials are considered “digital natives,” meaning, they’ve grown up with technology for most of their lives, and are assumed to have a deeper, more inherent understanding of how it works.

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Ultimately, what the data suggests is that your millennial status will help, rather than hurt, your chances of getting hired for technological jobs. Especially when it comes to roles where you’ll need to have a thumb on the pulse of emerging technology. Whether you’re skilled in security, analytics, hardware or software, you’ll want to emphasize the fact that you have an eye on what’s coming down the road, and how businesses should prepare for new technology, according to the study.

Born for digital transformation

Companies are recognizing digital transformation takes more than just technological knowledge. It requires a fundamental understanding of emerging tech, business acumen and agility. “Just as the approach to technology has dual parts of operations and strategy, workers need a dual set of kills. Both technical skills and business skills are needed to turn a company’s vision into reality through technology,” says Thibodaux.

What that means for recent graduates is that you’ll want to emphasize all of your experience with technology, but highlight your “soft skills” as well.

CompTIA identified five key skills that businesses are looking for to help expedite digital transformation, and surprisingly, few of them had to do with hardware or software. Of those polled, 39 percent of companies cited analytical skills as well as innovation and problem-solving, 37 percent also listed flexibility, 34 percent included project management in that list and 31 percent point to teamwork.

And as a recent graduate, that’s good news -- employers aren’t expecting you to have hardware or software experience under your belt, but rather, a slew of soft skills that prove you’re up for the challenge of digital transformation.

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“Having grown up as digital natives, these candidates have a more intuitive ability to adapt to new technologies and troubleshoot issues when they enter the workforce. Their learning curve is much smaller, providing them an excellent opportunity to make an impact quickly,” says Richardson.

Security needs are everywhere

Along with digital transformation, businesses are staring to zero in on improving security as data breaches become more prevalent in the business world. In fact, the role of cybersecurity analyst experienced the most growth out of any other IT role, according to CompTIA’s research. And businesses have shifted their view of security -- it’s “no longer narrowly defined in the traditional sense of firewalls and antivirus, but rather, a broad suite of tools and safeguards designed to combat the ever-expanding universe of security threats,” according to the study.

Even if the IT role you have your eye on doesn’t focus on security, security will still be a part of your job, so it’s important to emphasize any relevant skills. “When I interview a candidate, I am interested in knowing if the candidate knows why security is important, how the candidate may apply different types of security to different types of data -- such as login password security versus PII (personally identifiable information) – and if there are ways to have different types of access rights depending on your role in the company,” says Richardson.

If you’re trying to get into an IT role with a security focus, you’ll also want to ensure that you demonstrate a take-charge attitude around security, according to the study. Businesses want someone who understands security in a deeper way than “firewalls and anti-virus.” Security is now more about compliance, data privacy, getting ahead of hackers and hiring someone who can help other non-tech executives understand intricate technology. Employers are also looking towards the future, with an eye on emerging trends like IoT, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars and drones, which “loom large as regulatory bodies have a number of thorny issues to work through,” according to CompTIA’s data.

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“Employees who can demonstrate that they have even a rudimentary understanding of how to conduct business safely and securely in a digital environment will have a leg up on those who don’t. That means things like understanding how to create a secure password, recognize a phishing email or securely access a public Wi-Fi network,” according to Thibodeaux.

More real world experience than you think

For recent grads, it might feel frustrating when hiring managers expect you to have real-world experience right out of college. You might scroll through “entry level jobs” that require a year or two of experience -- but don’t let it get you down, it doesn’t always mean experience in a business setting. Rather, you can pull from any experience you might have to emphasize your background. “Consider what volunteer work, or extracurricular work that [you’ve] done to demonstrate that [you] have the skills to meaningfully contribute to a project that helps the company fulfill its business goals,” says Thibodeaux.

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Any relevant projects you completed in school, even if it was for a class, can apply to your real world experience. The same goes for any summer jobs or internships -- but if you can’t apply those, try creating a digital portfolio to demonstrate your work, or even taking on a new project personally in your downtime to demonstrate your skills. Whatever you do, it will show a hiring manager that you’re invested in the career

“No matter how intelligent and educated a recent grad is, the one thing that usually sets him or her back is the lack of real-world experience. Beyond the resume, grads should aim to demonstrate their knowledge in the context of the real world. Having a great online portfolio, whether through a personal website or presence in an online tech community, will set candidates apart from the average graduate,” says Richardson.

This story, "How millennial tech grads should tailor their resumes" was originally published by CIO.

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