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3 Tips for Students to Fill the Tech Talent Gap

Employers are fighting over students fluent in code, design, and analytics.

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Unemployment averaged 13.7 million people in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, but despite the available workforce, companies say talent for key roles is in short supply.

Ambitious start-ups and major players will be fighting for top software, design, analytics, and E-commerce talent in 2012, Keith Cline, founder of the recruiting firm Dissero, writes in his Inc.com article, The 5 Hardest Jobs to Fill in 2012.

[Find out where the engineering jobs are.]

These tips can help job-seeking students stand out and entice employers to compete over them.

1. Get your code on: Google and Facebook buy entire companies to find "code-literate" employees, according to a CNN article by technology commentator Douglas Rushkoff, valuing them at up to $1 million.

Programming whizzes hoping to fill a growing demand for software engineers and Web developers should be well versed on in-demand programming languages like Python, Ruby on Rails, HTML5, and JavaScript, says Cline, the Dissero founder.

Regardless of your background, understanding even basic coding is a huge differentiator for job seekers in nearly every field, Cline says.

[Find out which schools have the Top Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs.]

To wrap your head around some basic computer science, enroll in an introductory programming class in your university's computer science department or volunteer to help on a faculty member's programming or research project, says Alan Sahakian, chair of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

If you can't squeeze another class into your schedule, join New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and pledge to learn computer code by the end of 2012 via Codecademy, a free tutorial website.

"Codecademy is not going to make you a tried and true engineer … but it can give you some insight and know how," Cline says. "The more people know about it, the better off they'll be."

2. Socialize, virtually: Companies drool over prospects with social media savvy and an understanding of viral marketing, Cline says.

"How people market their company and brand has completely changed—it's all social," he says. "It's still hard for companies to find people who really understand social media."

But simply knowing your way around Facebook won't cut it. Students serious about social media and marketing need to build their personal brands, Cline says.

This means building and maintaining a blog focused on your target field and using Twitter to engage with industry influencers.

"Out of 10 applicants … that one person who has a personal blog and a social media presence, that's the person they'll hire," Cline says.

[See why social media can help and hinder job searches.]

3. Take stats—stat: Data is everywhere, and companies are tracking every piece they can get their hands on.

To do this successfully, they need someone who can break the data down and interpret it with a business mindset, says Vijay Subramanian, chief analytics officer for Rent the Runway, a website where customers rent high-end designer fashion.

"Someone who can get the data out of all these systems, piece that together, make sense of it, and actually have a meeting and present to the business owners … that skill set is incredibly hard to find," Subramanian says.

[Learn three steps to establish your 2012 career strategy.]

To cultivate this elusive combination, students need to understand analytics and data optimization, but also have strong presentation skills.

"Take statistical analysis, get a good understanding of SQL [programming language], and get into the weeds of Google Analytics and the power of what it can tell you," advises Dissero's Cline.

Internships can help technically strong students build soft skills like presentation and communication, Subramanian adds.

"At the end of the day, I'm looking for someone who can do everything," he says. "My goal is to find that sort of soup-to-nuts individual."

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