Graduation is Over… What Next?

Recently, I was a speaker at an event at a local Bootcamp.  The cohort I spoke to was focusing on front end development.  They had other speakers, all focusing on technology topics.  I thought I would change it up, and spoke about the hiring process – what a company is looking for, what you are looking for in a company, and how to find a good match.  The topic was very different for the cohort, and they were very interested.  I got lots of questions after the session, and even for weeks after, and have stayed in touch with many of the students.  Most of them have been placed.  The ones that did not, had one universal question – “What do I do next?”  Here is a quick review of what I covered in my talk – 1) what are you looking for in a new job, 2) what are you looking for in an employer, 3) remember why people leave, and 4) what a good company looks for in a new employee.  Then I dive into next steps – 1) introspection, 2) search for companies, 3) search for jobs, 4) apply, apply, apply, 5) prepare like it’s your final exam, and 6) follow up.

Am I A Match – A Quick Review

What are You Looking For in a New Job?

Everybody is looking for a great job… but what does that mean to you?  A big salary?  More responsibilities?  Working with a new skillset or the newest, best technology?  Or is it cool projects that are in the public eye?  Maybe it is working for big brands or large Fortune 500 companies.  Knowing what it is in a job that excites and motivates you is important.  There is no right answer.  But there is more to it than just that…

What are You Looking For in an Employer?

For me, I take pride in the work I do.  There is lots more to a job than the roles and responsibilities.  Part of that is where I work, the product I am a part of, what my employer stands for, how we give back.  Some other things that matter to me are the work itself, my future career growth at the company, opportunities for continuing my education, the cultures and behaviors embraced, work life balance, management support, and employee empowerment.  You have heard the phrase before – “Do what you love and you never work a day in your life.”

Remember Why People Leave

It is important to know why people leave their current job… you should focus on these for your new company, or you wont be any happier than you are now.  This is based on this article.  People leave their current job because of 1) a lack of trust, respect, or autonomy, 2) not being appreciated or recognized, 3) a lack of opportunities, challenges, growth, or development, 4) they are underutilized, 5) that have a bad manager or poor upper management, 6) they are overworked, stressed, or a poor work life balance, 7) a toxic, negative, unfocused culture or coworkers, and 8) you don’t have the room to breathe, do things your way, or try new things without blame.

What a Good Company Looks For  in a New Employee

I have been a hiring manager for a long time.  Each company I have worked for has their own strategy for hiring.  Smaller companies have looked at the short game – hire what we need to deliver our current projects – skillset, smarts, speed.  Larger companies keep their sights on the long term vision.  My current mantra is “raise the bar” – hire people that are better than our current pool of developers.  Someone the team can learn from and grow as a group.  When evaluating candidates, I look for 1) experience and current skills, 2) are they a technologist or just a coder, 3) is there a culture fit, 4) are they a disruptor – will they come in , question the status quo, ask questions, and improve our current environment, an 5) are they an innovator, staying on top of new technology, trying new things, and have an arsenal of tools for new situations.

Next Steps

Introspection

Now is the time to decide what it is that you are looking for – in a position, in a company, and in your career.  Short term, long term, needs and wants, for you and your family.  Make a list of what you are looking for, and list them in priority order.  You will need this to evaluate your happiness and fit.  Once you have an offer in hand is way too late.

Search For Companies

Once you know what you are looking for, you can find companies that match.  Do your own research.  There are a lot of resources to use in your search.  The ones I like are Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, and Google News.  You can also look at the research that someone else has done.  This may or may not be a good fit for you, so take these with a grain of salt – Fortune 500 list, Fortune Best 100 Companies, GlassDoor Best Places To Work, Forbes World’s Best Employers or Forbes America’s Best Employers, and LinkedIn Top Companies List.  I am sure there are many other lists that may be important to you – best companies for families, best companies for women, best companies for innovation, and many others.  The point is, do your research, and make a list.

Search For Jobs

Now that you know what you are looking for, and you know what companies fit your criteria, you can start to look for job opportunities that match.  I like to use LinkedIn and Indeed, but you can use Dice, or Monster, or any other job board.  I recommend completing the profiles or online resumes for each of the job boards you use, as this will help them find you a matching position.  You can also look directly on the web sites of the companies you prefer, but this will take longer, and most job boards scrape them all anyway.  Sometimes you will come across a great job opportunity that is not for the companies you have researched already.  Be sure you find out more about them, to see if they fit what your expectations are.  If they do, that is great!  If they don’t, then start a list of companies you are not interested in, and do not apply.

Something else that you can do is reach out to some of the large consulting companies and staffing agencies for a job.  if this fits the kind of work you are looking for, this can be a great way to get variety, exposure, and experience.  Some of the larger consulting companies I have worked with in the New York Area are Accenture, Deloitte, PwC, EY, KPMG, Bain, Cognizant, and more.  There are also staffing and placement firms, like McKinsey, Harvey Nash, Spencer Stewart, TEKSystems, Matlen Silver, and many others.  Reach out, meet with them, and let them help you find a great position.  They work with their account companies to get a percentage cut, so they will make out by placing you at a great gig.

Something you should not discount is networking to find a position.  There are networking events where you can meet other professionals in your area.  You can also go to tech meetups or local user groups to not only keep your skills sharp, but meet new people and hear about open positions.  And don’t be afraid to use your existing contacts to get references inside their companies, or make additional connections to other influential people who might have a job, too.  Remember the game “Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon”?  Time to play “Seven Degrees of Job Offers”.

Apply, Apply, Apply

Time for you to apply to all those jobs that were a match.  Use your profile to automatically apply, or if that doesn’t work, complete the application manually.  Customize your cover letter and polish your resume to the position, as much as possible.  Do your best to address the cover letter to the recruiter or hiring manager.  Make sure you read up on how to write a resume – be results focused, use active tense verbs, keep it to a page or two, and make it easily readable by ATS software with tools like jobscan.co .  Your mileage will vary, depending on the level of the position, demand in the market, connection to your network, and countless uncontrollable factors.  Do not be discouraged.  You will most probably complete 10 to 20 applications to get an interview, and complete 10 interviews to get an offer.  But stay diligent, and those offers will roll in.  And now that you have identified what is most important, you should use a rubric to compare each offer to each other, and to what is most important to you.

Prepare Like It’s Your Final Exam

You have been scheduled for an interview.  It could be a discussion with HR, or an over-the-phone interview, or an on-site in-person interview.  This is your chance.  You have to be prepared.  Get a good night’s sleep, be sure to eat beforehand, bring copies of your resume, dress for success, and be positive.  But there is more to it than that.

Research the company – size, market cap, products, history, culture, reputation, competitors, strengths, weaknesses.  Know the job description.  Do mock interviews. Practice the tech, situational, and culture questions.  Have some situational stories from your experience ready in your mind to answer questions  And remember – this interview is two-way.  While you are there to be interviewed, you are also interviewing them.  Look for the good signs, and the red flags.  And come with a list of questions, focused on what is important to you.  I would also come to the interview with the questions written out, practice asking them, don’t shy away from the tough ones, and list them in priority order.  If you run out of time, you asked the most important ones.

Follow Up

did you submit your resume, and didn’t hear back?  Did you talk on the phone, but no on-site?  Idd you go to an on-site interview, but have not gotten an offer?  Don’t be afraid to follow up.  Don’t bombard them, but don’t shy away from finding out where they are in the process.  Ask for feedback all along the way – you will constantly learn and improve yourself.  And don’t be hard on yourself if it doesn’t work out.  Rejection is tough.  But finding out now that you and the company are not a match is loads better than finding out after you have accepted an offer, started the job, and have not been set up for success. Stick with it, and you will find the right company and the right job for you.

Conclusion

This is the basic routine I followed when I was on the hunt for a new job.  Research the companies I liked; find the jobs I thought I fit; apply, apply, apply; prepare for the big day, follow up, and be positive throughout the process.

I am sure there are details I have missed out.  What else do you recommend?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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