Applying for a job is necessarily a time-consuming process, even if you’ve narrowed down your list of dream companies to two or three. It’s important not to get discouraged or intimidated, especially at the beginning of a new year when so much opportunity abounds.
Some technologists think that the way to an ideal job is to bomb the industry with hundreds of applications and résumés. This isn’t a good idea. Instead, think about the skills and roles that excite you. If you’re interested in working for a particular company, you can review their open positions.
Whatever your route, you should always tailor your application materials to fit the role. For example, if you want a job as an iOS developer, your cover letter and résumé (as well as any other materials) should focus not only on your iOS skills, but how you’ll use those skills to positively impact that specific company. Study the job posting to figure out which keywords and skills to insert into your résumé, always keeping in mind that relevancy is key and “keyword stuffing” is really, really bad.
Your cover letter is especially vital in this instance, as it’s your best opportunity to explain what attracts you to that specific job, so always remember to write one. If you’re applying for your first job, a cover letter will allow you to craft a narrative that transcends any gaps in your experience or skillset.
Profiles and Résumés
Companies are keenly interested in your skillset. The best way to demonstrate those skills is to create an online profile (or set of profiles) that emphasizes your knowledge and previous projects. Many technologists have spun up a website devoted to their past work and current interests, often with appropriate links to code repositories such as GitHub.
Even if you don’t build out a personal website, you can use your social-media handles to link to previous projects, list your skills, and demonstrate that you have an intense interest in tech. If you’re pursuing an opportunity, you may want to edit your profiles and social media to emphasize the specific skills that employer wants. For example, Dice’s profiles allow you to show many years of experience you have with a skill or tool, which underscores your value.
Virtually every job application demands a résumé. As mentioned above, the key is to edit your résumé to fit each individual job. Every line in your experience and skills sections must show how you’d benefit your potential employer.
If you’re applying for your first full-time job and you don’t have any formal experience, don’t worry. It’s acceptable (and even encouraged) to list your relevant classwork and other educational experiences that are pertinent to the position. By mentioning your personal projects, such as a website or app you’ve built, you demonstrate that you have a love of tech. That sort of passion will intrigue hiring managers.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted in-person networking, face-to-face meetups will surely resume once things return to normal. In the meantime, there’s greater emphasis than ever on virtual networking.
First, start local and small: If you’re seeking your first job, build out your online profiles. Make a point to interact with online groups and subreddits devoted to your interests. Blogging and posting on social media about technologies that interest you will pull in like-minded folks. Hackathons are likewise a good place to create tight bonds with other technologists—plus, you can pick up new coding techniques!
Reach out and connect with thought leaders and experienced technologists, who can often become sources of advice once you build the relationship. Explain that you’re just starting out and could use some information. Never follow up an introduction with a request for a job; the goal here is simply to learn as much as possible.
Recruiters are also invaluable, as they can give you solid insights into the state of the industry and which companies are hiring. Show your interest and aptitude to learn, and chances are good that the recruiter will keep you in mind for future opportunities.
Once you land that first job, work on solidifying connections with your new colleagues. Your teammates can serve as excellent resources for everything from continuing education opportunities to new contacts. Although you might not have the same deep bench of company contacts as a long-term employee, creating strong bonds with just a few employees can pay off.
Interviewing for your first job is intimidating, and that’s okay! Even experienced technologists have the jitters when they sit down with a hiring manager to go over a position. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do ahead of time to prepare for your job interview, whether in-person or remote.
One of the most important things you can do at the outset is research the company. Start with its official website, particularly the “About Us” page. You’ll also want to check out any mentions of the company on Google News, Apple News, or another news aggregator, which will provide valuable insight into the company’s strategy, latest maneuvers, and technology stack. Some companies maintain a blog that breaks down new developments and products; read every entry from the past few years.
It’s a sure bet that the interviewer will want to walk through your résumé and have you explain your experiences, such as previous jobs or classes you’ve taken. Before you head into the interview, sit down and shape your narrative. Think about how everything on your résumé could contribute to the job that you’re trying to land. For instance, if you’re applying for a job as a mobile developer, and you’ve listed “iOS and Android skills,” be prepared to talk (briefly) about how you earned those skills and how you’ll use them if hired to help the company’s goals.
Crafting stories is another huge help. Interviewers like to hear about challenges you’ve faced and overcome, so have a few of those kinds of (relevant) narratives ready. They’ll want to get a sense of your grit and perseverance(and hopefully they won’t ask you any “gotcha” questions).
Again, it’s key that your responses show why you want that job. What about this company and its current projects interest you the most? The hiring manager needs to know you view the job as a unique opportunity, not just a paycheck. This is where all your earlier research into the company will come in handy.
Certain kinds of job interviews will come with a coding test. Sometimes these tests are take-home; sometimes you’ll do them on a screen with an instructor watching; and sometimes you’ll need to take an erasable pen to a whiteboard and diagram out a coding problem. Whatever the testing methodology, it’s more important to work the problem and show your thinking process than provide the right solution (although right answers are always appreciated). The interviewer wants to see that you think through challenges in a way that will meld well with the rest of the team.
If you’re hired, you’ll spend the first few weeks figuring out the particulars of your new job. You’ll meet your new colleagues and get a better sense of the team’s workflow, projects and challenges. Make a point of introducing yourself to everyone you meet, because you never know who will come in valuable later.
An informal meetup or coffee will help you quickly establish relationships with the colleagues on your team. If your role is a remote one, a video chat will help cover similar ground. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as possible: you need information, which means you need to ask things. It can help to find an onboarding buddy who can act as a clearinghouse for information.
On your first day at your new job, your company will present you with a welcome package. As part of that welcome package, there should be a visual diagram that shows how everyone at the company connects to one another. If you’re working remotely, have it in front of you as you’re interacting with colleagues on video calls, so you can connect names with faces. (If you haven’t received such a diagram, make sure to ask for one!) That'll make your onboarding that much easier. Here's to a great 2021!