Are you a newcomer in Switzerland (e.g. with a refugee or migrant background) who is keen to learn digital skills and find a position in IT? Or do you want to get ready to apply for one of our programs? We have drafted this content for you and will continuously update it.
In the digital workplace, life-long learning is essential. As technology is continuously developing further, it’s required that you keep educating yourself. Hence, also employers are looking for self-starters (people who have started to learn digital skills on their own).
Maybe you’ve already started learning digital skills – or maybe you’re at the very beginning of this journey and quite lost.
You wonder where to start?
Python is often the first programming language of choice if you’re interested in the backend (what’s not visible to the end user).
You could also qualify by completing a particular certification (such as ISTQB® for Testing, AWS/Microsoft/Google/Cisco certifications for Networking, Salesforce Administrator Certificate, and many more – for most you’ll have to pay to get certified)
Alternatively, you can decide to specialize in a (nice) technology. Make sure to get a proper foundation if you do so (e.g. don’t jump into Machine Learning before you have solid experience in data science).
Of course, there’s no one size fits all. Best if you do your research on IT positions and industries (see topic below) and choose what motivates you the most.
The IT field is big and you don’t know where to start? Read up about the various tracks you could get into and see what interests you the most.
A simple Google search will give you answers. Platforms like Medium, LinkedIn, and GitHub also feature many relevant articles.
Read up job ads (likely for Junior positions / internships) to find out which programming languages, certificates or other requirements are most sought after (but don’t get intimitated, just start somewhere).
There are also quizzes you can take to give you hints which field might be best for you, e.g. this one from Codeacademy.
In short: start to immerse yourself in the digital world and surround yourself with information and people who are related to it.
To start learning and working in IT, you need a device that allows you to learn and build your skills. You can start learning with your smartphone – however, eventually it’s recommended that you learn with a computer.
It doesn’t have to be the most recent version of a computer for starting, but a device that works well for your needs and a stable internet connection are essential pillars of a successful (self-)learning environment.
We recommend to use a laptop with the following requirements:
Memory: at least 4GB RAM (better 8GB)
Processor: at least i5 or Ryzen 5
Hard disk: at least 256 GB (ideally SSD)
We recommend looking for used devices, because the price of used equipment is much more moderate than that of new equipment. Have a look at various second hand markets in Switzerland, e.g. Tutti / Anibis / Ricardo, and ideally look for offers near you / in your region. The initiative “Wir Lernen Weiter” supports people that need a device to learn new skills – you can also have a look at their website. If you receive social welfare / are with RAV/ORP, you can also ask your social assistant whether they are working together with “Wir Lernen Weiter” or they could support you in purchasing a (2nd hand) computer. Powercoders also have some equipment to borrow for limited time, reach out to us if you were not successful with trying the suggestions above.
It takes more than digital skills for a successful career in IT. From our experience, language and social & business skills are just as important. Companies are often ready to hire based on potential – as long as good communication skills, learning abilities and the right mindset are in place.
In the next section, we will give you an overview of how to improve your language, social and business skills independently with online courses.
English is essential in the IT field, particularly because many learning resources are in English. Here are some resources than help you practice your English:
VoCHabular: Self-Learning tools to get started in Switzerland (check out their online self-learning book and app)
The local language (German / French) is also very important in many teams – sometimes as the working language, other times for the social integration into the team (e.g. as everyone speaks German during the coffee break). Similarly, look out for apps and courses, research the offers in your neighborhood or ask your social assistant for support.
Like for learning digital skills, also for language it helps if you fully immerse yourself into the new language: watch TV shows and movies, and listen to music, radio and podcasts. You could also find yourself a practice partner (sometimes that’s known as building a language ‘tandem’) – potentially you can teach the other person your language.
Social & Business Skills
What are relevant social & business skills?
These are the key social & business skills necessary to succeed in your IT internship & career. Needless to say, we all keep building them continuously over the years.
Self-reflection: Regularly think about and evaluate your behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, motivations, achievements and desires. Assess whether you’re headed in the right direction and what you need to adjust to achieve your goals.
Active Listening: Fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. Techniques include to listen attentively, ask questions to clarify, repeat & paraphrase to make sure you understand, etc. Defer from quick reactions, judgment & advice.
Time & Task Management: Estimate your workload well and plan accordingly; schedule / decline / delegate tasks; be on time; define SMART goals.
Project Management: Plan and deliver a project from A to Z, from defining its goals to breaking major tasks down into smaller tasks, and delivering everything on time.
Team Collaboration Skills: Define roles & responsibilities, communicate actively, address irritations, give & receive feedback, know how to solve conflicts.
Effective Business Communication: Give & receive feedback; communicate proactively when you face a challenge / uncertainty / have a suggestion; make effective presentations & updates; make small talk conversations, write professional letters & emails.
CV & LinkedIn: Your CV & LinkedIn profile highlight your qualifications & experience at a glance, nicely formatted; you have started to use LinkedIn to build your personal brand / expand your network. Expand your professional network by attending meetups, etc.
Interview: You can effectively introduce yourself in a short time (pitch), you can effectively answer most common interview questions and know how to use the opportunity to highlight your motivation, qualifications & experience. You know the do’s and don’t of interviews (what to wear, when to show up, what kind of questions to ask, how to follow up afterwards).
Transcultural Competence: Apply curiosity instead of judgment when facing intercultural/-personal irritations. Know how to act or speak up when faced with discrimination.
Self-Confidence: Know your own worth and be able to express your achievements (in life, this year, this month, today); feel comfortable to approach people / initiative conversations / ask questions.
Personal Wellbeing & Health: Be able to sleep well / concentrate; know how you can refuel your energy; have strategies at hand when you’re feeling anxious / overwhelmed / stressed, and notice your body signals indicating that you feel well / unwell.
How to learn social & business skills?
Typically, social & business skills are not learnt from simply studying them online. The prerequisite is typically to be self-aware and self-reflected – this is a great nurturing ground to continuously improve yourself. Openness and asking for feedback is equally helpful.
When looking for a job, potential employers will look for your online profile. Make sure you have a LinkedIn profile and keep it updated.
In the IT field, many employers will also look at your Github account – make sure you run your (learning) projects through it, and you have regular activities displayed there.
Build a professional network
The more and better professional connections you have, the better you are informed about the latest trends and developments – and job opportunities. It is still often the case that jobs are filled without being officially announced.
How can you expand your professional network?
Attend events where you find like-minded people (e.g. via Meetup.com or through your local community organisation).
If you already have some skills, consider volunteering (e.g. in one of the associations listed above).
Use LinkedIn. Once you have met someone, connect to them via LinkedIn by sending a personal invitation & message. On LinkedIn, there is also the possibility to “follow” people you are not connected with – like this, you get to read relevant updates. There are also LinkedIn groups on relevant subjects (search with the keyword and location (e.g. “Testing Switzerland” or “Web Zurich”).
Meet people personally. Do you have friends who work in IT? Or do they someone who could spend 10-15min with you for a conversation with you? Try to meet with IT professionals and learn from them: how did they get there? what did they learn on the way? what would they recommend? Asking for feedback and recommendations often is more effective than asking for a job.
There are various platforms you can use. Always use different keywords for your field (e.g. “manual tester” / “junior software tester” / “junior QA engineer”). Also, consider internships or hour-based contracts in your search. Applying for jobs can be very exhausting, especially if you receive negative answers or none at all. At the same time, it is often the only way to introduce yourself to potential employers. Without sending applications, employers will not take notice of you.
Typically, an application is composed of your CV, cover letter, and reference letters/certificates.
For successful applications, it is recommended that you take time to understand what the company is looking for, and then adapt your cover letter and CV accordingly. When recruiters see that you sent them a standard letter that is not personalised, you are likely quickly being rejected. You can find more advices about applications on the Website of University St. Gallen.
Check before you send
Before you send the application, briefly double-check: Do you follow the process as it is outlined in the job ad? Did you address the cover letter to the right person? Did you make sure there are no spelling mistakes? (you could use a browser-based tool like grammarly to make sure). You could also ask Chat GTP to give you feedback for a specific application, ideally you provide it with as much company & job related information as possible to achieve the best results.
Or: Get a Referral
Today, still many positions are filled without being officially announced. People who are referred for a position by a company’s employees have higher chances to be hired.
… and keep trying!
Job searches can be very time- and energy consuming. It may take weeks or months, and countless attempts, till an application, is successful. Stay on it!
Keep yourself informed
Do you want to be informed if we have updated information or specific offers for our community? Submit your details:
If you are waiting for our response or waiting for one of our programs to start, we strongly encourage you to continue to keep practicing your coding and language skills. We recommend the following (free) resources: