Lessons from a Job Search

What I’ve Learned So Far in My Hunt for a Software Engineering Position

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Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash

This week marked three and a half months since I graduated from the Flatiron School and officially declared my job search. It’s been an eye-opening three and a half months, filled with exciting opportunities, a lot of studying and coding, networking, and many challenges (and maybe a few minor meltdowns). In this time I’ve applied to well over 200 Software Engineer positions and have reached out to almost as many HR professionals and recruiters. While I am still in the process of landing my first Software Engineering job, I’ve learned a lot in my journey thus far and wanted to share a few things I’ve learned.

Mindset is Everything

The most important thing I’ve learned these last few months is that mindset is everything. The way you choose to think about and speak about yourself and your job search is so important. While rejections and ignored emails to recruiters are an inevitable part of the job search, you do have a choice of how to frame this in your mind and how to move forward. It’s all too easy to get burnt out and to feel a sense of sadness and hopelessness after so many missed opportunities, but is wallowing in despair and making yourself feel badly about yourself going to get you your dream job? Probably not. Let yourself feel whatever feelings you’re feeling in the moment — be it sadness or anger or disappointment — but then take a step back, remind yourself of how hard you’ve been working and how capable you are, do something to destress, and then come back to the search with a clear mind and a renewed sense of purpose.

It is important to remind yourself of all the work that you have put in so far and to recognize all of your accomplishments, no matter how small. You are more than capable of being a successful Software Engineer — don’t let the dreaded Imposter Syndrome creep in and take hold. After a rejection, I let myself feel sad for a moment, but then I delete that email and just move forward with the lessons I learned. I find it comforting to think of the job search as a sort of matchmaking process: there are many, many jobs out there — some of them grab your attention right away, some of them require competitive rounds of interviews and complicated algorithms, and some of them just aren’t for you — and every rejection brings you closer to the job that is best suited for you. You will get the job you want, just keep doing what you’re doing!

Another situation in which mindset makes a huge difference is the interview process. Interviews within the tech industry are notoriously intimidating, and it’s normal to be nervous before and during an interview. However, I find that if I frame the interview as a conversation between two people instead of as a recruiter evaluating me, I am more relaxed and can present my best self and my best work.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

You Are Your Best Hype Person

When it comes to the job search, you want to make sure you come off confident, but not arrogant, and sometimes it can feel like a fine line between the two. However, don’t be shy. Remember your worth and what you bring to the table and make sure to communicate that to potential employers. It can be helpful to sit down and write down a list of your relevant accomplishments and achievements — try to make these as concrete and specific as possible. This makes it easier for you to be mindful of the value you bring to any company and to be able to demonstrate it to your interviewer. Now is not the time to play coy and downplay your achievements — brag a little bit!

Put in the Work

As nice as it would be, your dream job is not going to just fall in to your lap. There’s a lot of competition out there and you have to put in the work to make sure you stand out in the sea of candidates. The work you put in is up to you, but it determines the number and type of opportunities you get. Make sure you allot the necessary time to studying, brushing up on important concepts, and learning new things. I have been taking Udemy courses to keep my JavaScript and React skills sharp as well as to start learning Python. You’ll also want to make sure you are studying data structures and practicing algorithms — they will most definitely show up in your interview process some way or another, and there is no substitute for studying and practicing. I have been using Interview Cake for this and would highly recommend it.

Most importantly, keep coding! Reading up on coding and watching tutorials can be helpful tools in learning, but in the field of Software Engineering, doing it is the best way to learn and to solidify what you’ve learnt. Keep your GitHub active with meaningful commits and contributions. I aim to do at least one commit a day, with a mandatory, self-imposed break on Sundays.

The Human Connection

An essential, inescapable part of the job search is networking and reaching out to people. Nowadays, people are way more likely to get jobs through some connection rather than through a regular job application. Companies are inundated with job applications for every position and make use of AI to filter through the candidate pool for qualified candidates. If you haven’t landed many interviews during your job search, it’s most likely that your resume hasn’t even been seen by human eyes. In addition to sprucing up your resume and making sure it’s the best reflection of you and your skills, you’ll want to make sure that your resume contains certain keywords that the ATS (Application Tracking Software) is looking for. A good online tool for this is Jobscan.

Once you’ve gotten that taken care of, you can maximize your chances of having your resume seen by recruiters by reaching out to them directly. A good strategy is to follow up every application you send out with a LinkedIn message or email to the recruiter to reiterate your interest and skills. I’ve found that this strategy is very useful in showing how serious and dedicated you are, and in getting recruiters to notice you. Most of the interviews I’ve been on have been the result of my reaching out directly. I like to aim for the goal of reaching out to at least two recruiters a day — by spreading the work out throughout the week, I have time to craft a personal statement that speaks to how I would be a great asset to the company.

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Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

Networking is also an essential part of the job search process. While the mere mention of networking can be daunting and off-putting to many folks, it doesn’t have to be this way at all. Put your best self forward, but keep it casual and just be your genuine self. The more you network, the easier it becomes, and the more genuine connections you’ll make. Every connection you make is a potential opening for an opportunity.

With the current state of our society, networking looks a little (okay, a lot) different nowadays. But take advantage of the fact that you can now network from the comfort of your own home. Try to aim to network once or twice a week. There are a bunch of different sites that make virtual networking easier — a few of my favorites are Lunchclub, Mintbean, and Meetup.

Keep At It!

No matter where you are in your job search, it’s important to stay focused and motivated. Be organized, make a schedule for yourself, and hold yourself accountable. Keep at it and know you are good enough and you are not alone. You will land that job sooner than you think and I can’t wait to hear about it!

Fullstack Software Engineer based in NYC. Passionate about creating social change and making a difference through innovative, powerful technologies.

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