It’s a daunting place out there for young people looking for their first job after education. As if the lack of jobs isn’t enough, jobseekers will often find that there’s a big difference between what they learned at university and college, and the reality of the modern workplace. This is especially true in the technology sector.

If you hope to enter the world of software development, then you must do everything you can to stand out from the crowd, in an era of massive global competition. The sad truth is that your Honours Degree or A’ level in Computer Sciences isn’t necessarily your golden ticket into this career path.

In this article I’d like to offer my top advice for anyone hoping to make their first break in what is a highly competitive, but lucrative, exciting, and evolving industry.

1. Put yourself out there

Real, practical experience will put you head and shoulders above all the other competing new graduates. And one of the best ways to achieve this is by taking part in an internship or work experience. Summer term breaks throughout the length of your course are an ideal time for this, but it’s also possible during term time or after graduation. While these positions are low-paying or even unpaid, the benefits are enormous, and you may get your foot in the door with your host as well.

2. Create a start-up, demonstrate your business acumen

Few things will impress a business more than an applicant with the initiative to create their own start-up company, expand their business acumen and learn more about the ‘Art of the Start’. This might seem like a daunting task to those with no business experience, but it has become easier than ever before. In software development, creating and testing apps has become easily affordable in recent years thanks to cloud hosting. Incubators, local support, lean start-up models; there is lots of support out there! So if you have an idea and the ability, try to pursue it – aside from looking impressive on a CV, who knows where it might take you?

3. Get involved in the community

There are a wealth of opportunities to get involved in your local tech community, such as Hack events, Geek Nights and other tech meet ups. Manchester, in particular, has a fantastic tech scene, and is home to some of the most innovative technology companies. Initiatives, Meet-ups such as MadLabs, ThoughtWorks’ GeekNights and LeanStartup Manchester are a great way to start; these events will give you a great feel for the community and the industry at large, and tech companies often scout them for new and fresh talent.

4. Be passionate, continue to learn, and engage

Coding languages are an important skill-set, but it is your passion and enthusiasm for technology that will serve you best. Universities can often focus on learning specific language sets, but the tech world moves a mile a minute and these are quickly outdated. Businesses should drive language and technology, rather than the other way round. Make sure you keep abreast of any emerging trends or technologies, reading blogs, joining forums and throwing yourself with vigour into the community.

The language, technology, infrastructure of today isn’t guaranteed to be around tomorrow, and you probably know of a lot of examples here. For the first time in history, anyone, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection and a hunger for learning can learn from world class educators. Therefore, a keen interest in learning, engaging and evolving your craft will continue to keep you in the game. Education does not end once you get your degree, but is a lifelong endeavour.

5. Think global

Global citizens have better ideas, based on their experiences in a myriad of cultures around the world. The emerging economies are a big market now, and understanding global constraints are a necessity in the work force.