So you’re looking to land your first job in tech…Great!…And why not? The IT industry is innovative, it’s sexy, and it’s blossoming with world-changing companies and opportunities. With the national unemployment rate for IT professionals at an incredibly low 1.6% – 3.9% (depending on the state), it goes without mentioning that diving into your first job will be a job within itself. So how are we supposed to do it?
I had the opportunity to connect with a few of the awesome folks from my group of career coaches here at Galvanize who decided to help answer these two questions:
1. What are the toughest obstacles in landing your first tech job?
2. How do we overcome these obstacles?
James Conti, Career Services Manager for Galvanize, Denver
“Perfection is an Illusion”
One of the largest obstacle facing recent career changers is typically themselves. When entering a new industry, we as individuals, want to always present ourselves in the best light and as close to the ‘perfect candidate’ as possible. The problem is, in the strive for perfection, we often let it slow or even stall our application processes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard job seekers explain that they haven’t looked, applied, or interviewed at companies because they are waiting for some piece of their job search deliverables to be ‘perfect’. It can be a number of things, from raw deliverables, such as having an up-to-date resume, portfolio, etc. to just feeling prepared (i.e. re-hashing curriculum, whiteboarding, practicing mock interviews, etc.)
I just wanted to share that perfectionism is an illusion, that you may never be perfectly prepared – and that’s okay! Overcome your self-criticism and don’t let anything, especially yourself, get in the way of your career. Once you’re at a point where you’re comfortable with your work, own it, be confident in it, and start putting yourself out there. The job application process doesn’t happen overnight and you can always go back to refactor code, style a new interface, and really own your work.”
Gina Hinton, Career Services Manager for Galvanize, Seattle
“The first thing that came to my mind was maintaining motivation, which requires setting realistic expectations for how long your job search might take, doing what is required to get a job, and not burning out in the process.”
“Everyone wants to get an offer a.s.a.p., but, unfortunately, not everyone does. It might take 3+ months. So, plan accordingly by having enough finances in the bank to get you through that time and creating a plan of how to spend each day (hint: applying, networking, and sharpening your technical skills, not playing video games). But! It’s also important to not go overboard; treat your job search like a full-time job, but also take evenings and weekends off to recharge. Slow and steady wins the race.”
Her statement is a great starting point for anyone jumping into the job hunt. Whether you’re fresh out of school clutching your brand new four year degree, or if you’re coming out of an accelerated learning immersive like Galvanize, the hustle to find your first job is going to be a grind. Let me repeat that, bold that, and underline that: The Hustle To Find Your First Job Is Going To Be A Grind! Plan accordingly!
Nicole Hartings, Career Services Manager/Partner Relations Manager for Galvanize, Austin
“How to tell interesting stories!”
The biggest disservice you can do for yourself is to go into an interview without preparing the story (and stories) of “You”. No one, besides maybe your momma, knows you better than YOU. Prepare your stories. Tailor them for the opportunity you are looking to interview for. Read their company website, their job description (aka the answers to the test they call an interview), and prepare to tell interesting, yet appropriate, anecdotes! The soft skills portion of the interview is extremely valuable for an entry level tech job…they already understand that you will need to be ramped up on the tech. Your interviewers want to make sure that you are an awesome person who will fit in with the company “culture” – not just some boring robot that can only crank out code but lacks the other components of being a human. Leave them with something memorable…what made you stand out (in a positive way) from the rest of the people who interviewed for the same position.
Maria Montoya, Career Services Manager/Partner Relations Manager for Galvanize, Phoenix
“How to talk about your portfolio of projects”
“discerning organizational red flags in the interview process – it’s important for anyone to assess right company/culture fit for them, and they need to know if they are being set up for success (or disaster).”
Two huge nuggets of information here. How are you talking about your portfolio and your projects? Can you speak to a non-technical professional, such as a recruiter or an HR manager, and communicate effectively the technical components of your project to a deep-tech illiterate? Can you sit in front of a team of senior developers and explain to them the specifics around how utilized all of these technologies (can you talk their talk)? Can you explain to them “why” you used these technologies, and how the different technologies complement each other? This will be extremely important for you if you would like to remove yourself from the “aspiring tech professional” bucket and place yourself in the “current tech professional” bucket. If you worked on a group project, you better believe they are going to ask about your individual contributions, how you divvied up the work, and how you were a productive member on the team to reach your final goal. These questions should be a layup for you in your interview. If it’s on your resume, your LinkedIn, your GitHub, your personal website, etc…you better be able to talk about it.
Discerning organizational red flags is sometimes tough for someone looking to crack into the workforce. You just want any job…right? Well, no. Taking this approach can be a dangerous way to get burned out in a company that you, in an ideal world, would have no business working with, or for.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You’re new to the tech field, so expect to make a few concessions on your first job. You aren’t going to land your dream job (most likely) – and that’s fine. Your goal is to find an opportunity where you can continue to learn, grow, and are excited about getting out of bed every morning for 40+ (or 50+) hours out of your week.
Here’s a secret that people may not share with you. An interview goes two ways. Shhh…crazy idea, right?
If you find yourself interviewing with a company that seems disorganized, seems not to care about their employees (either because of pay, benefits, career growth, day-to-day work tasks, etc), it’s okay to say “thanks, but no thanks.” Follow your gut. If something seems off with the company during the interview, the feeling most likely won’t just go away after you sign the offer letter. The last thing that you want to do is set yourself up for a disastrous work experience. Your value in this market is too great to end up at an opportunity that does nothing but pay the bills for you. We aren’t just talking about your first technical job. This has a lot more to do with your overall tech career. Are you setting yourself up for success? Are the people you will be working with going to help set you up for success? Are you only interviewing for this position because you have to get a job? If you’ve answered yes to any of these three questions, take a step back and reevaluate the steps you are taking when finding and applying to opportunities. It’s a dangerous rabbit hole to fall in if you’re there just to get paid. You’ll feel it. Your co-workers will feel it. Your BOSS will feel it.