Many of us transition into the tech industry after hearing about the incredible demand for tech talent. Recruiters will chase me? Sign me up! But breaking into the tech industry for the first time can be more challenging than you expect, with many talented new technologists finding it difficult to find their first job.
Hi, I'm Jess! I've been doing career mentorship for several years now and wanted to share some of the advice I find myself giving most often. Let's look at some general tips for your first job hunt along with one semi-automated trick for painlessly keeping up to date with the companies you would be most excited to work with. This article was written for developers in mind, but the advice within should be widely applicable across the tech industry, with some of this being useful in the wider world of work.
First, I want to appropriately set your expectations for your job hunt as you look for your first job in tech. So many employers are desperately looking for talent, but in many places, many employers frustratingly focus on hiring experienced developers. This means that at the same time as tech employers struggle to fill middleweight and senior roles, junior developers in many markets struggle to find an entry-level job.
I don't want to discourage you, but many career-changers I've spoken to have reported their first job hunt taking them several months or more. When I was looking for my first tech job I applied for over 100 roles before landing something. Many people do have an easier time than this, but I would rather prepare you for a more difficult journey than you need to face than surprise you. If you are finding your first tech job hunt difficult I want to reassure you that this isn't your fault. This is a common problem for entry-level tech talent.
General Job Hunt Advice
I won't waste too much time on general advice for your job hunt. There are a lot of resources covering these points and many of you already know about them. But if you're not already...
Customize Your Resume/CV for Each Application
You don't need to fully rewrite your resume for each application, but it can be valuable to spend a few moments adjusting the language in your resume to reflect what the job description is asking for. For example, if a job is asking for specific technical skills, make sure that you list all the relevant or similar technologies you've worked with in your skills section. Try to mirror language contained in the job description in your resume where possible. And always make sure to rewrite your personal profile section to talk about why you're interested in this specific job. If you're writing cover letters to accompany your application, writing similarly tailored cover letters will have a much bigger impact.
Keep Track of Your Applications
If you're customizing your resume and cover letters, you'll want to keep track of what language you used in each. I recommend keeping a parent folder for each job hunt, with child folders for each company or application. I save the resume and cover letter I used for each application to a child folder with the company's name. I also save a screenshot or cached copy of the job description to each child folder. This lets me review the job description before an interview and keep the tailored resume and cover letter to hand during the interview process.
Before going into any interview I like to review the job description and re-read over my resume and cover letter. I then write out what questions I think I'm likely to be asked so I can practice my answers to these. I also like to write out what questions I'll ask the employer.
While tech companies hiring through their networks perpetuates bias, many companies prioritize candidates that are introduced or recommended by a current employee. If cold applications aren't enough, you might want to also make time for some calm, friendly online networking.
Remember that networking doesn't have to feel like business transactions. You're looking to make gentle internet friends with people in the companies and spaces that you're interested in working in. Try following and chatting with them on social media, asking for advice where appropriate or engaging with content they publish. Remember that while your job hunt is obviously very important to you, folks your networking with may have a lot of competing priorities in their lives. Ask for help in lightweight ways that allow others to gracefully decline.
Tooling to Make Your Job Hunt Easier
- If you're going to be scheduling lots of calls and interviews as part of your job hunt, I like to use Calendly to make booking easier.
- You can connect your video chat software accounts (like Zoom) to your Calendly account to make booking calls even easier
- If you're a MacOS user, I like creating snippets of the text you find yourself repeating (introductions, descriptions of your skills, etc) with Alfred to quickly paste them into emails
One Weird Trick to Automate Your Job Hunt 👀
Over the years I've developed a habit to automate job hunts to make them a little faster and less painful. I build a list of places I would like to work and then use a tool to automatically load all the web pages listing job openings for each of the companies. I do this at a set time (Weds morning over coffee, for me) every week, even if I'm not actively looking for work. By making this semi-automated scan for jobs at my favorite weekly, it takes away the pressure of constantly checking their sites to see if my dream job* is being advertised. By making this a regular part of my weekly schedule, I also know I'm unlikely to miss my dream job when it does finally go live.
Let me share my "spreadsheet trick" with you.
- Start making a list of companies you would like to work with in an online spreadsheet, an online repo, or some other browser-accessible place. Include the name of the company, a link direct to their job openings, and space for any notes you may want to add later. To get you started, I've started a repo of companies that hire globally remote as an example, if you want to start with these.
- Find a browser addon or plugin that allows you to open all the links on a webpage at once. Firefox users might want to try SnapLinks Plus, which I've enjoyed using for this purpose.
- Pick one time each week to use to browser addon to batch-load all the links.
- Relax with some tea and look over the open jobs at the companies you like. If there are any that are a great fit, make a list of these and apply for a few each day, starting with the most interesting ones. If there aren't any jobs on the list you love, check back next week.
- Add to your list as you find new companies you're interested in, so that you'll have an ever-growing list of roles you'll want to apply to when you check back each week. If you're not finding success in the spaces you're looking at now, continue to add new companies to your list till you find a good fit.
Looking for your first job in tech can be rough. But with the core skills and the determination to keep searching, you can be successful in your hunt. These are the approaches I use the most, but I would love to hear what's worked for you! Hit us up on Twitter or in our Discord.