Finding My First Job in Tech
The psychology of uncertainty is the biggest challenge when searching for a job. There’s ups and downs and lots of rejection. In this article, I will describe my approach to job hunting, including goals, tips and techniques I used.
I landed my first job in technology after about a year and a half of learning to code, including a 4.5 month coding bootcamp. I was lucky to have a career advisor / advocate through the coding bootcamp that I attended. But even so, the process was difficult, long and unpredictable.
TDLR; Having an effective resume, using LinkedIn and actively networking are the most important tools for finding a job in tech. Here are the stats:
1. The Resume
Creating a great resume in four different formats is essential: one page resume — both for a human reader and a machine readable version — and also a two page resume — both for human and machine. Since I have a background in fine arts and design, I created something myself using Adobe Illustrator. If you don’t have design skills, then it is safe to rely on online templates but remember to customize layout for your specific strengths. For example, if you have little to no work experience but good projects, then list your projects at the top and the work experience at the bottom.
A less ethical hack is to copy, paste and hide / mask the job description with all its keywords directly into your resume so that when the resume is parsed through a machine reader, your resume will pass any screenings. Because I don’t know the efficacy of this hack, I wouldn’t recommend it. Also, I tried it and it didn’t seem to help so don’t waste your time.
Any introvert knows that this is the worst part about finding a job. I went to several job fairs and struggled through them. These job fairs did not lead directly to a job offer but I believe that in some mystical, intention-setting way, they helped me find a job. I would only recommend a job fair to someone who has researched every company that will be in attendance and someone who had a solid set of business material to hand out and a confident mastery of their own skills and what they can offer to a company. What this means is that you know how to sell yourself, or to put it another way, you know how to describe your skills and goals as a professional in your field. If you are less confident about yourself, but can still BS your skills, then give it a try. But it is essential that you research all companies in attendance and genuinely want to work for them.
Here’s the thing about networking — it’s a reflection of the wildly inefficient system that networking remains the best and most vital way to find a job. You have to know someone to get your foot in the door. So this means that applying to jobs through online portals without knowing anyone at the company is useless. It sucks to hear/know this, but it’s true.
As a hardcore introvert, it took me a long time to realize what networking really is. I work best one-on-one. So ‘networking’ was always a nightmare. Here’s the basic idea though: Let’s say you want to meet and interact with 100 people. Doing this one person at a time will take awhile… Let’s say that at 1 person per day, it will take 100 days (since you gotta walk around and find a person willing to really speak with you)! But if you use networking and meet 5 people and get to know them well, then you can leverage each of those 5 people’s networks in order to gain access to a myriad of other people. Let’s say each of those 5 people you met has an average network size of 50, then you gain access to 250 people with only the amount of work it took to meet 5 people! Magic! That’s only 5 days to meet 250 — whereas with the one-by-one approach it took 100 days to get 100 people. It’s obvious that this method of leveraging people’s networks is more effective.
Okay, so now that I explained how important networking is, my last two tips are about networking.
You have to get LinkedIn Premium (or free trial of it) in order to be able to send messages to people. Aim for contacting one person a day about opportunities at the company they work for. But you have to be strategic about it. Don’t just copy/paste generic messages in bulk to randos.
Here’s the strategy I took with LinkedIn. I applied to a lot of jobs through company websites, not knowing what I was doing. But for each company and job that I was really excited about I hunted down a person from that company and sent them a message using LinkedIn. I either found a HR person or a data person since that’s the field I was entering. I asked to speak in person with them, inviting an interview opportunity and showing confidence and initiative.
This method of cold-calling someone is controversial. But I was able to get interviews this way.
4. Friendship / sanity
Like I said before, the job hunt will test your sanity and morals. Making friends with other job-hunters is a good way to keep yourself from isolation and depression. Just having someone to speak with about the struggles of job hunting is the best way to cope with the emotions.
I was very lucky have friends from my bootcamp. I organized an ‘accountability buddy’ group with friends who were also searching for jobs. We met in person once a week to sit together in a café and apply to jobs and talk. I would recommend doing the same or at least having a mentor or someone to talk with about your process.
Lastly, and most importantly, you must give yourself time to go through the process of finding a job. And it is a process.
The best piece of advice I ever got was from a former art teacher. “Favor yourself with your time”. Give yourself plenty of time to go through the process. You’ll get better results and, although it is hard because your livelihood is on the line, trust that everything will work out in the end.
Spoiler alert — the job hunt never really ends.
Thanks for reading!