While students are at Lambda School they learn all of the essential skills they need to succeed in tech jobs. But getting one of those jobs can still be daunting. Job hunting is time-consuming and can be stressful, even under ideal circumstances. And if you are currently looking for a job in a new-to-you field, it may seem even more challenging.
Fortunately, some of the things that make the job search anxiety inducing (Social media profiles to maintain! Online job boards with thousands of listings!) can also make that search more productive and focused.
You can narrow down your search using a few techniques, and set alerts on your favourite job boards so you only have to deal with listings that are relevant to you and your employment goals.
At the same time, there are still pitfalls to avoid, like recruiters who don’t have your best interests in mind -- or even straight-up scam artists. Here is a guide to getting started with your search for your first job in your new career.
Your job search will be more successful if you start it off with the right marketing materials: a great portfolio site, up-to-date GitHub and LinkedIn profiles, and a concise and scannable resume.
Your portfolio site doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep the layout clean and easy to navigate, and ensure you’re featuring your most impressive work. Link to all of your projects, including ones done for hackathons, open source, and as a freelancer or volunteer. For now, do your best to showcase work that highlights your abilities and your progress. As you become more experienced and improve your skills, you can remove projects that are older or less representative of your current capabilities.
GitHub is another useful place to showcase your work, and one that recruiters and hiring managers will often ask to see. Having a GitHub profile is an opportunity for you to show your code to potential employers, as well as for you to develop your own skills by contributing to other projects and showcasing your own.
Also, most Lambda students probably have an active account on at least one social media platform, but for job hunting there’s one in particular that matters: LinkedIn.
Think of your LinkedIn account as your digital resume. When done right, it’s a great way to display your professional identity and find potential employers and job opportunities. Fill out your profile as completely as possible, complete with an appropriate headshot and a bio line that includes key information like “Data Scientist” or “UI/UX Designer” -- having clear, descriptive terms in that bio will help you come up in searches. And connect both to people you know in the working world, and to companies you’d love to work with -- following their LinkedIn profiles means you’ll get notifications when they post job listings.
Finally, you still need an old-fashioned resume. Keep it simple and save the snazzy touches for your portfolio site and your projects; hiring managers want to see a resume they can quickly scan to assess a candidate, and many resumes are first scanned not by a human but by a machine looking for keywords related to the position.
Use clear job titles and section headings, and keep it concise and related to the position at hand -- you don’t have to include the entirety of your employment history. You can tailor your resume to specific positions, but it’s helpful to have a base resume handy that you can send off quickly if requested. Save a PDF on your devices and in your Google Drive so it’s always handy.
Everyone’s job search is different depending on their track, interests, and life circumstances, but if you are making a significant career pivot you should focus on junior-level roles requiring fewer than five years of experience. Keep in mind that even entry-level roles often ask for 2-3 years of experience, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply if you are just starting your tech career. A position’s listed requirements are a wish list; aim to meet 50-80% of them, and don’t be discouraged from applying if you aren’t an exact match.
It can be tempting to take the first job you can get your hands on, but even as you’re beginning your career it’s worth thinking about what a job that’s the right fit looks like for you. Are you willing to relocate for the right position? Do you plan to stick to a major city, or would you rather be outside the major tech hubs? How much do you need to make in a particular job market to live within your means? All of these questions will help you focus your search and use your time job hunting wisely.
Some tech positions are remote, and while such jobs can have their perks, at Lambda School we recommend an in-person role for your first opportunity after graduation. Having a workplace to go into regularly gives you access to peers, mentors, training opportunities, and a professional and personal network. It also makes you more visible to people in leadership roles in your field, which can pay off down the road -- especially as people move to other firms and think about who they want on their team.
That said, remote opportunities do make sense for some people: those who have more work experience or a more established network, those with restrictive schedules, or those in areas with limited employment opportunities. In tech, many people don’t need to be physically present to do their jobs, and there are valuable remote opportunities for the right candidates in sectors like web dev, mobile dev, UX, and data science.
If you’re looking for a job, spread the word! Mark yourself as available for opportunities on your LinkedIn profile, and share your GitHub link on social media. Send your portfolio and resume to connections, and tell the people in your life that you’re looking -- you never know who might know someone hiring for a position that is a great fit for you.
Don’t restrict your job hunt to people you already know. Look for opportunities to meet new people in your industry: hackathons, conferences, meetups, job fairs, and other events are great networking opportunities.
And if you find networking overwhelming or awkward, you aren’t alone. It is for a lot of people! Revisit your notes from Lambda School networking lessons to refresh yourself on ways to build your professional network -- other than having an impressive portfolio, networking is the most important thing you can do to help launch your new career. Building those connections can lead to referrals from others who hear about an open role and let you know about it before it’s posted, or even recommend you as a candidate to the hiring manager. Some of the best Lambda graduate success stories have come from people going out on a limb to recommend a Lambda School grad to a friend!
As important as in-person networking is, don’t discount the value of tracking and applying to open positions through the leading job sites like LinkedIn, Built In, Startup Jobs, and Stack Overflow, as well as through postings listed by specific firms. Focus on high-quality sites like this, as well as ones focused on your industry, instead of larger employment clearing-houses like Monster or Indeed; those sites are less focused and may include closed and outdated positions. And use the features of these job sites to save yourself time during your hunt by narrowing your search and setting alerts that will ping you when a job fitting your parameters is posted.
In addition to networking and directly applying for positions, recruiters can be a valuable job-hunting resource. There are two main types of recruiters: retained and contingency.
Retained recruiters work for a single company and source, screen, and communicate with candidates specifically for that company. Often these recruiters are the first person to speak with you at a company, for example for a phone screening of potential interview candidates. They may also be involved in setting up interviews and job offers. They are great resources on their employer and can provide information about benefits and compensation, corporate culture, and specific teams at their employer.
You may have heard of contingency recruiters referred to as headhunters -- they usually work with staffing agencies but may also be independent, and they are hired by companies as a third party to find and screen quality candidates. Instead of working with just one company, contingency recruiters work with several different ones; even if you are initially working with them about one company or position, they may be able to connect you with others. They also often work on commission, so getting you a great job is in their best interests. However, because of that commission they may be more focused on getting you a job rather than the right job. It’s important to be clear on your wants and expectations, and to advocate for those. Additionally, recruiters may focus on contract positions versus full-time roles, so ask questions to be clear on what you are signing up for.
Staying up-to-date on industry news helps your job hunt in a variety of ways. First of all, keeping track of the ups and downs for particular companies, geographical areas, and industry sectors can tip you off to upcoming job opportunities before the postings are even up. Has a company you’ve been watching just announced an influx of funding, for example? They could be hiring soon!
Additionally, keeping track of industry news will help you when you get to the interview stage. You will sound informed and interested in the field, because you are, and knowing about the latest big development or newest announcement relevant to the position can provide you with talking points during the interview.
This process doesn’t have to be time consuming -- just a half hour a day devoted to catching up on industry news will make a difference. Subscribe to relevant newsletters. Set up a Twitter list of relevant accounts, and check it every morning to see what is being discussed and shared.
Along with being time-consuming, job hunting can consume a lot of your mental energy. That said, make sure to carve out time to continue building and applying your skills. You’ll feel better able to outline those skills in an interview if you’ve kept them fresh, and you may be able to tweak and improve upon your portfolio projects as you continue learning.
But continuing your learning has another benefit. Job hunting can take a while, and you may be unemployed while you’re searching -- continuing to practice your skills and build new projects to showcase can fill gaps in your resume, along with giving you something to talk about when networking and interviewing.
With all those tips in mind, here are a few things to watch out for:
We hope incorporating some of these tips into your sourcing strategies will help you land a job that’s a great fit for you. Happy hunting!