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This is why I decided to become a teaching assistant for a web development boot camp early in my software engineer career. I know what it's like to feel imposter syndrome, to be rejected by companies you passionately want to work for, and to doubt your ability to get hired in tech. In this article I’ll cover:
- Identifying the Job Type that Suits Your Lifestyle
- Researching Your Dream Job's Skill Requirements, and Building Projects with Your Dream Job's Tech Stack
- Creating Community Around Your Development Niche
- Develop an Online Presence for Your Work
- Applying to Jobs as if it's Your Full Time Job or Side Hustle
1. Identifying the Job Type that Suits Your Lifestyle
Let's break down tech jobs by four specific types:
- Part Time
- Full Time
We'll break down the two different company types in technology as well:
- Established Companies
Each job type poses their own particular perks and challenges.
Remote Job Perks
You can work from anywhere. In your pajamas at home, at your local coffee shop, at a co-working space. You can set your own schedule as long as you meet your deadlines. You can move across the country. Most importantly, you can avoid those office politics altogether. Remote jobs give you ultimate freedom and flexibility.
Remote Job Challenges
It might be challenging to find a quiet place to work if you have roommates, a bored spouse who wants to hang out with you, or kids running around the house. Not being in the same physical space as your coworkers means longer communication times, and more potential for miscommunications. There isn't a manager or supervisor to motivate you to work hard. You must be self-motivated to meet those milestones.
Freelance Job Perks
A lot of the perks and challenges of a remote job can also be said for freelance jobs. The following are a few perks and challenges that can be unique to freelancing.
You can choose who you want to work with, and what you want to work on. No one will assign you projects or tasks except requests made by your clients. That being said, you get to decide how you want to execute those tasks. Freelance salaries are only limited by your desire to make more money.
Freelance Job Challenges
As freelancers, we all have a story of working with a client from hell. They come in all forms. Clients who make requests outside of the scope of your job title, and that are not covered within your written agreement. Clients who are never pleased with your work, aren't shy about making it known, and demand outrageous amounts of revisions from you. Clients who think they know your job better than you. Clients who are absent during crucial decision making processes, and clients who never submit their deliverables on time, extending your deadline.
Part Time Job Perks
With a part time job, you have the time and space to work on your side hustle. You can build an app. You can start an eCommerce store. You can do freelance work. Or you can continue to study your ass off until you land your desired full time job.
Part Time Job Challenges
Part time income may not be enough to pay off your student loans early, or eat out as often as you'd like. The biggest challenge is the lack of benefits as a part time employee. If you're making enough with your side hustle or eCommerce store to pay for those benefits out of pocket, then this downside may not matter as much to you. But for a majority of us, it does matter a lot.
Full Time Job Perks
Full time salaries and benefits as a developer are nice. Aside from building cool things, and being a part of a great mission to bring more happiness in the world via tech, that pay grade is a big reason you got into tech, right? And healthcare. Healthcare is very nice.
Full Time Job Challenges
Work life balance is very difficult to nonexistent when you're working full time. Say goodbye to your social life. If you have a side hustle, then quality time in your relationships will suffer. It's the price you pay to climb the corporate ladder.
Now that you've thought about what type of job you'd like, let's cover the two type of companies often found in tech:
Startups come in all shapes and forms. There are startups who are at the first stage of developing their products. They haven't gotten customer validation yet. There are startups that have started making revenue, but they need to raise money through venture capitalists in order to scale. Then, there are startups who aren't quite established yet, but they are well on their way to be.
If you want to work for a startup, be prepared to wear many hats. Also be ready to go without some of the perks of full time positions at well established companies. You probably won't get many benefits if the startup is super young. Also, your salary might be below the average market rate for your area. If you are risk-averse, then this is probably not the company for you.
However, if you are entrepreneurial minded, and don't mind the lack of security, then a startup could be your chance to get promoted quickly. You'll have more ownership over your projects, and will have the opportunity to help shape the startup in its early stages. There is more potential to get a higher pay raise should your company start to grow exponentially.
It's most junior developers' dream to work for these big companies: Apple, Facebook, Twitter, IBM. These companies will definitely give you all the benefits you expect from a full time job in tech as a software engineer. Along with the benefits, you’ll learn the best practices of the industry, and use the hottest trending tech.
But the big players aren't the only established companies in this industry. There are smaller companies just as sophisticated in building elegant digital solutions to modern problems. Working for a company that's withstood the test of time and changing markets would make any engineer's resume stand out from the rest.
2. Researching Your Dream Job's Skill Requirements, and Building Projects with Your Dream Job's Tech Stack
This is not the time to send a generic resume and cover letter to every company you apply to. You must study each job listing, and make sure to use the same keywords in your cover letter and resume. Research who the recruiters are, and address your cover letters to them.
When you’re not sending a lot of tailored cover letters and portfolios, you’re networking on LinkedIn. Yes, you want to send your application through the submission form provided by the job listing, but you also want to send your application directly to the recruiters for the company you want to work for. Find out what their work email is and email them. It’s more likely that your application won’t get buried in the hundreds of applications they receive.
Finally, make sure you’re building side projects that use the exact tech stack your desired job uses. You want to provide examples of your ability to succeed in this role. A great resume and cover letter says a lot, but your experience in programming says more.
3. Creating Community Around Your Dev Niche
I would have never gotten the jobs I’ve had without my community. My current job is at a beauty tech startup. During my web development boot camp, I got married to the love of my life. We had our ceremony after I had completed a group presentation, and assessment earlier that day. One of our wedding guest's date is a UX designer. After I graduated from my boot camp, the UX designer, whom I’m now good friends with, referred me to her client who’s now my employer.
Don’t bother yourself with networking. Networking can come off as opportunistic. Focus on making genuine friends in the tech space. Those friends will make up your community, and a good community never lets you fail.
The following are a few ways to build community if you don’t know where to start:
Join Tech Stack'd if You're a Minority
I’m currently a part of this great group called Tech Stack'd. Tech Stack'd was founded by a women of color who works at Google. They have a super active Slack, and they provide office hours to coach you during your job search. Lastly, they give you access to workshops as well as multimedia tools and resources to aid you as you go through the motions of behavioral and technical interviews.
Connect with Fellow Engineers on LinkedIn
LinkedIn should be the most frequent social media platform you log into while you’re job seeking. Make sure to update your LinkedIn as you would your resume. A lot of recruiters scout LinkedIn to find potential hires. You can find a lot of job listings on this platform as well.
Go to Events via Meetup and Built In
If you’re lucky to live in a city that Built In caters to, then you have access to company profiles that outlines their culture, tech stack, job listings, and benefits. Aside from Built In’s company profiles, they post a lot of meetups in your area. If you don’t have a Built In for your metropolitan area, then don’t fret. Meetup is the king of meetup listings. You should be able to find a meetup for your city there.
If you live in a city or town so small that you can’t find what you need on Meetup, then consider finding an online community, a Facebook group, or using the old school community board at your local cafe to find geeks near you. Who knows, maybe y’all can start a study group.
Attend a Boot Camp
While this is the most expensive route to building community, a lot of boot camps provide the option of deferred payments until you’ve landed a well paying job in tech. Sure, you can learn on your own, but the connections you receive from going to a boot Camp are priceless. Many boot camps have hiring partners in the top tech companies, and exclusive access to job postings you may not otherwise find. In addition to all these benefits, boot camps often offer career coaching to help you improve your application and interview skills.
4. Developing an Online Presence for Your Work
Building a body of work online is an absolute must if you are to land your dream job in tech. Here are a few digital places where your work should live:
- Professional Portfolio
Having your work on GitHub is mandatory, and holds the same amount of importance as having your resume, and links to your work on your LinkedIn and professional portfolio. Many recruiters will write you off if you if you don’t have many commits and repositories on your GitHub. You must showcase your work.
DevTo and StackOverflow are great platforms for teaching and learning from other developers. You may make some friends in the forums, and comments of articles you read and write. Win win.
5. Applying to Jobs as if It's Your Full Time Job or Side Hustle
Set a Schedule
Do yourself a favor, and open up your favorite calendar app. Create a job searching schedule for yourself, and set reminders for your events to help you stay on track. Stick to your schedule like you would stick to a work schedule. You would never fail to show up at work. Job seeking is your job now, and you better act like it.
Track Your Applications with Airtable
You need a way to keep track of all the jobs you’re applying to, and manage all the contacts you’ll acquire as you go through job applications. It’s important to follow up with all of your job prospects if you haven’t heard from them after a week. As my wife always advises me, be a squeaky wheel.
Lastly, in order to optimize your progress, you’ll need to create data to analyze. Within your Airtable spreadsheet, you can leave notes for each application submission, and mark at what point in the interview process you were rejected. Not getting initial phone interviews? Tweak your cover letter, resume, and portfolio. Not making it past the first technical interview? Practice coding more. Failed your second technical interview? Perhaps it’s time to hire an interview coach.
6. Keeping Your Head Up
Never give up. I know it’s discouraging to get rejection after rejection, but you must keep going. Perseverance is key if you’re going to accomplish anything great. Your dream job is worth it. You are worth it. You've just got to believe it.