Lessons on succeeding in the professional world are introduced early at Lambda School in order to build the confidence students need for the marathon of the job hunt, regardless of your technical skills. We even created a team of career coaches and job placement experts specifically to ensure you’re successful in your search because we are so invested in your success. We realize, though, that what success means will be different for each of our students.
However, when you are starting a new career in a new field, it can be hard to know what success looks like in that first job. Do you have to land a position with a tech giant? Should you be working long hours in a startup? Will you have to relocate, and can you afford to do that?
All of these questions can be daunting and while it may seem like focusing on them will distract from our job search, the reality is that figuring out what you want from your first job, and your career long-term, is key to making that initial job search successful.
Think about your job search like building a new web page: you can’t just dive in and start anywhere, or tackle the project all at once. The process is broken down into different stages, with steps within each stage. Your job hunt will be more successful if you take a similar approach rather than trying to do everything all at once.
Part of this process is considering not only the position you want, but all the surrounding factors. Where do you want to work and live? What kind of work environment appeals to you? Do you need to care about the mission of your employer? And what are the benefits that you need to have associated with your job?
Figuring this out can be difficult, but the time put in is worth it. Here are seven things to consider during your job search that will help you narrow in on those priorities, and focus your efforts to find that first post-Lambda job.
Both large and small companies have advantages. At a larger company, your role may be more structured and focused. You could also have access to a wider variety of supports and experiences: more projects, different locations, additional options for training and mentorship. On the other hand, a smaller company can give you the chance to work in a variety of different roles and to take on additional responsibilities -- to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.
But it’s not just about company size -- you can get similar experiences on a larger team within a smaller organization, or on a smaller and more focused team within a larger organization. Whichever of these scenarios most appeals to you will depend on your personal experiences, personality, and goals.
Having a valuable benefit package is part of the appeal of a full-time job, and some tech companies have impressive offerings here. Part of evaluating these packages is deciding which benefits are non-negotiable for you, and which are a bonus.
For example, if you do not have health insurance coverage for yourself or your family, this may be the most important benefit you could get. If you or a family member has a chronic health condition, coverage may have to include particular benefits or insurance levels.
But health insurance, while important, is not the only potential benefit to evaluate. Flexible hours can be valuable if you need to care for a child or other family member, as can the ability to work from home when needed. A transit pass or gas reimbursement can offset the costs of a long commute. And of course, benefits like ample paid vacation time or reimbursements for educational and recreational expenses might show up on your “nice to have” list.
Your ability, and willingness, to relocate or take on a long commute will play an important role in your evaluation of any particular position.
First of all, which city or cities are you willing to look into for employment? In major metropolitan centers like the Bay Area and New York City, you may find many opportunities,but also a lot of competition. There are pros and cons to focusing your search on a major tech hub, whether you currently live in one or are looking to relocate to one.
On the other hand, Lambda School trains its students in skills that are needed at organizations around the country -- even the world. If you want to stay in a smaller community, or one with a less developed tech industry, that can be a viable option as well. If this sounds more appealing to you, research opportunities in your area and look at where your skills will be in demand.
But location isn’t only about the city you work in. Think, as well, about where in your community you hope to work relative to where you live and how you could get from point A to point B. Commute time and distance is an important lifestyle factor for many people. When evaluating opportunities in your community of choice, consider the following questions:
All of these factors are important to consider and will matter to different degrees to everyone.
Think about what you need to stay engaged in your work. Do you like to be working on something new all the time? Are you comfortable with working on projects that are new and untested, or do you enjoy being someone who helps problem solve -- the kind of person who loves to be a beta tester or to dig in and clean up code? Or would you feel more comfortable working on more established projects and products? If that’s true, you might feel more comfortable working at an older company on established projects, versus at a new one building things from the ground up.
Consider, as well, the stage an organization is in. Startups can be exciting and offer the opportunity to get in at the ground floor of an operation, but they can be hectic, frequently changing, and require long hours. A more established company can offer more stability and predictability, but for some, the opposite is part of the appeal of a startup.
We’ve discussed the importance of building your network, and this is one situation where that will come in handy. Think about who you already know, and where they work or have worked. Friends, family, current and former coworkers, fellow Lambda students, and other professional connections could all be the path to your next job. Your professional and personal network is the most powerful tool in your job toolkit, and you should use it early and often.
Reach out to your network and let them know that you’re job hunting. Tell them what you are looking for in a position, and ask them about roles and organizations that interest you. If you are connected with current or former employees of companies that interest you, ask them for information about the workplace: the pace and environment, expectations for the role, departments for which the company might be hiring in the near future.
In addition to evaluating your needs and desires for an organization’s size, stage, benefits, and locations, think as well about what they value -- and what you value. The things that drive you can be an important catalyst to finding the right position. Look into organizations doing the kind of work that matters to you, or with the values that you are drawn to.
If an organization’s end goal matters to you, or if you care about how the company you work for supports efforts like community engagement, diversity, or volunteer activities among employees, then look into that when you are doing your job search.
Don’t limit your search strictly to tech-focused companies or the big players in the field. Look at your local economy, or the economy of communities you are interested in relocating to: which fields are growing, or where are there labour shortages, and how might your skills fit in there?
It can help to pay attention to local news, including business news, as well as focusing on news in particular industries that interest you. Are new companies coming to your town, or existing ones planning to expand locally? This can give you important clues into where you should focus your search.
Considering all of these factors is meant to help you create a strong foundation for your job search from the start of the process, in order to avoid missing key steps or information critical to long-term success. Finding a job is like a marathon, one that takes four months on average, so preparing to do your due diligence during that marathon, while also maintaining perspective, is important. Approaching your job search in bite-sized pieces will help you stay motivated to find the best match for you.