Engineers: Why Your Job Search is Broken

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Engineers. The lazy job hunters.

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A software engineer’s inbox is often flooded with job descriptions. Recruiters with stacks of open positions cold-call and email daily. One would think the problem of too many job opportunities is a good problem to have. After all, job hunting and resume crafting is hard work. The downside is that it can cheat engineers from landing some of the most fulfilling jobs.

How does this happen? To be fair, it’s the culture of the job market that cultivates laziness in engineers. It’s the heavy demand for developers, combined with the inadequate set of job search tools (i.e. job boards and recruiters). Having job openings dangled in your face makes it too easy to warm-up to a “hot” gig with an impressive new salary.

A recruiter’s first priority is to their hiring companies. It’s not to find the most fulfilling job for a hire. It comes as no surprise that shortly into the job–after the financial excitement and newness wears off–most realize the other aspects of the job are less than ideal. The work-life balance is cumbersome and the ‘problems to solve’ were never that challenging. So the process starts over and it’s time again to look for a new job–perpetuating the cycle.

A better plan.

Package managers such as homebrew or apt are great for saving time when setting up a server. Yet when it comes to your job search it’s often better to skip the hand-holding and compile from source. I’ve outlined the steps to roll your own improved (and hopefully more genuine) job hunt. Warning: May require more effort than emailing a recruiter your resume.

1. Determine what a good next career move looks like.

This is an important step. It’s too easy to get blindsided by the next big salary jump. Data has shown that pay level is only marginally related to job satisfaction. So take some time for honest introspection and determine what attributes, beyond money, are meaningful for your next career move.

Start with the concepts of work-life balance, company size, and what for you are compelling problems to solve. This is also a good time to look at what current skill sets you would like to level-up, or what new skills you would like to develop. Be careful not to get caught up with fads though., i.e., don’t pick up data science unless you are truly passionate about statistics.

2. Research which companies are a good fit with your goals.

  • Technology Space: Look into who is doing interesting work in the space. Use the same sources you would use to stay up to date on the technology to discover which companies are most involved: Meetups, podcasts, discussion groups, etc. Get plugged-in, if you aren’t already, and connect with the active players in that space–and their companies.
  • Size: If company size or the ability to make direct contributions is important seek out startups pushing the envelope in the technologies you are passionate about. Learn about a company’s size from their website or profiling apps such as CrunchBase.
  • Work-Life Balance: It’s hard to get an accurate picture of work-life balance before interviewing with a company. For clues again check the company’s website. Companies that value work-life balance will often say so. On the contrary, companies where 80-hour weeks are common won’t be advertising taht fact.

3. Spend a little time learning about their hiring process and what skills they value in a candidate.

If you are feeling that your dream company is out of reach, don’t give up just yet. A little hustle can go a long ways. Don’t be afraid to job-stalk your dream company. Learn about their core competencies. Follow their employees’ github repos, or mingle with them IRL at Meetups.

One of your strongest moves is to create code that demonstrates your knowledge in their core domains. You will also get the added benefit of sharpen your skills in the areas they are most interested.

4. Apply

If you’ve found your dream company–great–simply apply directly. Either through their website, or even better have a current employee submit your resume, if you have access to one in your network. Don’t forget to mention projects you’ve worked on, even side-projects for practice, which highlight the skills of the role you are applying for.

5. Don’t give up

Even Google encourages applicants who are not offered positions to apply again in a year. In fact, they like to see people who can improve with each repeat application.

Owning Your Career Development.

By now you might have realized that the tables have turned. You may be the one working to get noticed, where before a random group of companies were jockeying for your attention. Yet, when you consider the bigger picture–the number of hours of your life spend at your job–the extra effort to maximize your fulfillment is worth it in a big way.

Own your career development. Compile from source.

About jjhageman

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