Getting a Graduate Job in IT and Tech

Here's some basic knowledge to help you plan for your career in the IT and technology industry.
Nurhuda Syed
Editor, gradsingapore

Technology used to create, store, communicate, exchange and use information is considered part of the IT sector. Given the widespread application of IT in a broad range of industries, graduates are not limited to working with IT-based organisations or software development houses and consultancies.

Financial services and manufacturing companies, for instance, are heavily reliant on the use of technology, and will typically invest in an in-house team to help them maintain the company’s IT infrastructure.

In an effort to transform herself into a knowledge-based smart nation, Singapore will need the help of talented IT personnel to help her sustain its technology movement.

Work experience

Recruiters hire talented graduates from a variety of backgrounds. Work experience, though not necessary, may greatly improve your chances at securing a position. Additionally, it does not have to be computing-related experience, as work experience in any form testifies to your transferable skills – something that IT employers look out for when hiring.

Most large organisations, such as Microsoft, IBM, and Google, have graduate programmes and training schemes that help graduates pick up the necessary technical and soft skills.

Smaller businesses may provide mentorships.

Application process

More often than not, you’ll be directed to an online application system, although some employers may still request for a CV and cover letter. Like most recruitment processes, graduates will have to go through a series of interviews, whether phone, face-to-face, video, or panel.

There may also be further forms of assessments, such as group exercises, presentations, or programming tests, to determine your level of experience with C++, C# or .NET, for example.

There is generally no one fixed recruitment period for IT professionals because of how it overlaps with other industries. For this reason, the best way to keep tabs on recruitment cycles is to check each organisation’s recruitment schedule instead.

Technology internships and graduate programmes within financial organisations, particularly major investment banks and accounting firms, tend to have early application deadlines. In contrast, IT organisations often hire throughout the year.

Qualifications and skills

Employers hire from all disciplines but a qualification in computing-related fields, including computer science, IT, and computer engineering is necessary for graduates looking to apply for technical positions such as software developer, programmer, and systems analyst.

Singapore is in need of IT specialists and professionals as it launches the Smart Nation initiative to turn the country into a knowledge-based smart nation. Graduates with relevant knowledge, including programming languages (e.g. C++, C#, Java, Linux/Unix, .NET, etc.), will find plenty of job opportunities even during an economic downturn.

Besides programming languages, core technical skills needed for this sector are operating system expertise, network and infrastructure knowledge, and software development skills.

Positions in hardware development and research and development may require graduates with qualifications in physics or electronics engineering.

Graduates from a non-IT-related background need to display a keen interest in IT to pursue career opportunities in the industry. Such graduates are often hired for roles in consultancy or business analysis, where they use broad technical knowledge and commercial awareness to help clients improve their IT systems and achieve their business goals.

There are also corporate roles such as marketing and finance.

In addition to technical skills and good business acumen, employers also require graduates to demonstrate several soft skills:

  • Teamwork and interpersonal skills: You will be working in teams during projects, so it is important for you to be able to get along well with your teammates.
  • Good communication skills: Aside from your teammates, you may also need to communicate with senior management and clients. It’s important to be able to convey ideas or explain projects without resorting to jargons.
  • Organisation and planning skills: Most IT professionals work on several projects simultaneously, so organisational and planning skills are necessary to ensure that deadlines are met with satisfactory results.
  • Problem-solving ability: Troubleshooting IT issues is a key part of being a specialist – having quick problem-solving skills will thus make you an asset to your company.
  • Commercial awareness: Keep up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry and find ways of acquiring new skills to remain relevant in a quick-changing landscape.
  • Recruiters also appreciate highly motivated, adaptable quick learners.

Work life

Expectedly, work will mostly be desk-bound but you may also be expected to liaise with clients, suppliers and vendors. Working in IT also involves a lot of teamwork.

Due to the wide range of roles available for IT professionals, the job scope is highly dependent on your position and the sector you’re in.

For instance, programmers may have less client-facing moments, but they are often exposed to many types of projects from different industries, with different requirements and needs.

Consultants, on the other hand, will meet plenty of people because of their travels, which leads to plenty of networking opportunities.

Working hours are fairly regular but occasionally, you may need to work overtime to meet tight deadlines. Many employers have flexible working policies, so you may be able to make arrangements to suit your personal schedule. Freelancing is also a viable option to consider.

IT companies tend to have modern and interactive workspaces, with many investing in the latest technologies to promote employee development. Many also have comprehensive wellness programmes and employee benefits such as gyms, fully-stocked pantries, and gaming facilities.

Training and development opportunities

Graduate programmes will familiarise you with sector knowledge, technical proficiency and basic professional skills such as communication, presentation, and negotiation.

Graduates hired directly into a specific role will receive on-the-job training and be able to pick up specialised skills and in-depth knowledge.

For example, a junior developer will pick up the necessary programming language and technical skills required when he dives straight into designing new and maintaining existing software products.

IT companies generally do not have a structured training plan due to the unpredictable nature of the industry. However, precisely due to how fast technology evolves, IT employers are immensely aware of the value of training, and are often willing to invest in their employees.

Employees will thus need to have the initiative to propose programmes to acquire new skills. Most employers tend to be supportive if you wish to pick up specialised qualifications (e.g. vendor certifications like Microsoft and Cisco, or specialist papers).

Internationally-recognised accredited training programmes are available for technologists keen on working abroad.