8 Tech Job Search Mistakes I Won’t Make Again

Juniors In Tech
Mar 26, 2019 · 7 min read

Please don’t do what I did.

Image description: Keziyah Lewis sitting on a balcony overlooking the city. Comuna 13, Medellin, Colombia.

(Originally posted on the Juniors in Tech blog. Written by Keziyah Lewis.)

I got laid off recently. And of course that means I suddenly have to find a new job. That sucks. I can’t overstate how much I hate that I have to find a new job. It has not been fun so far, and I predict that my mental health is only going to get worse the longer this process gets.

But one thing I do have now, that I didn’t have last time around, is experience with the horrible, soul crushing tech job search process. I know what worked for me last time around, and what didn’t work. So, here are 8 mistakes I made during my last job search.

1. I didn’t ask for help

I have this stupid pride thing that keeps me from asking for help sometimes. Anyway, don’t be like me. Ask people you know. Ask people you don’t know. Ask for informational interviews to get a sense of what someone’s job is like. Ask if they can help you out by making an intro. Ask someone to retweet your job search tweet. You can’t do this alone. At the very least try to connect with other job seekers so you can support each other.

2. I didn’t use Twitter (the way I should have)

Twitter isn’t the only way to network in tech, but it’s a damn good way. Two years ago when I was job searching, I used Twitter to talk about my frustrations with the job search process. And that’s totally fine. But there are other things you can do. For example, write a tweet about what position you’re looking for (and where) with a link to your portfolio, and ask people to RT. I see people do this all the time. I did this, and it’s been extremely helpful in getting warm leads.

Otherwise, try to build up your brand and following by doing things like tweeting about your job search or tech journey, participating in Twitter chats (like the #CodeNewbie chat), using hashtags like #100DaysOfCode, or even helping/giving advice to others.

If you post a job search tweet, tag @JuniorsInTech and I’ll retweet it.

3. I just submitted applications and hoped for the best

I applied for over 200 jobs last time around, and only heard back from a small percentage of them. Chances are, most of those applications weren’t even looked at.

For every job you apply to, see if you can get your resume in front of a human. This is unlikely to happen if you just submit an online application and do nothing else. If you can, see if you can get in touch with a person who works there. Can you ask if anyone in your Twitter or LinkedIn network can intro you? Can you reach out to someone via a Slack community for a virtual coffee chat? Get your name/resume to an actual person. That’s how you get interviews.

Also, don’t forget to follow up with someone if it’s been several days since you submitted an application or had an interaction with the company. Keep track of who you need to contact (and when) in your job search spreadsheet or tool.

By the way, maybe it would take too much time to do this for every single job. In that case, make a list of your dream jobs/dream companies and use this strategy with them, while continuing to submit your resume for other job listings that aren’t as important to you.

4. I didn’t study for code interviews

I fucking hate Hackerrank/Codewars/CTCI/whiteboarding style interview questions. That shit has nothing to do with how most of us devs do our jobs. And I’m so glad that more companies are deciding to not interview that way. But some of them still do. Knowing this, I still decided not to study for these types of interviews because I just hated it.

This time, I’ll make some time to study. Actually, I think I’ll try to target companies who don’t interview that way so that I don’t need to worry about it. But just in case it comes up, I guess I’ll spend a little time on CodeWars and reviewing things that I’ve probably forgotten since bootcamp.

Here are some websites that you can use to help you prepare for code interviews:

5. I didn’t take care of myself

As I was saying on Twitter, job searching gives me a ton of anxiety. Because of that, I ended up doing nothing but job search tasks every day for months. I couldn’t even think about anything else.

This is a really easy way to get burnt out and make your mental health suffer. This time, I’m going to get enough sleep, keep up with an exercise routine to relieve anxiety, and do fun things that will distract me from the job search for a little while.

Check out the conversation we had on Twitter about mental health and job searching.

6. I spent most (or all) of my time applying for jobs

All I did all day was write cover letters and send resumes. You’re supposed to do that during a job search. But there’s so much more you should be doing. If you spend all of your time in front of your jobs spreadsheet, then you have less time for meetups, studying, your portfolio, Twitter networking, coffee chats, and other things. Try creating a schedule that makes time for these other aspects of the job search.

7. I didn’t demand what I wanted

I guess this is hard when you’re trying to find your first job, because you might be a little desperate, so you feel like you should just take anything. Any job, any salary, at any company.

But think about what you need and want, and ask for it. Make a list of things you want in a job, tell people what you want, and seek out jobs that provide these things. You can also apply to jobs that aren’t as appealing, at the very least to have a backup plan. But just remember than you don’t necessarily have to settle for anything.

And when it’s time to negotiate, do that! (I dropped the ball on this last time, smh). You can negotiate more than just salary. Want to work from home a couple days a week? Need more vacation time? A signing bonus? Ask for what you want.

8. I didn’t ask questions about the financial health of the company

In late 2017, after a 7 month post-bootcamp job search, I was excited to get my first (remote!) dev job with a great company and I honestly (naively) thought everything was cool, and just assumed that the company’s finances were fine.

If you think a company will just volunteer information during the interview process about how much runway they have, for example, please think again. If you don’t ask, like I didn’t, you won’t find out those things until after you get hired. And it will make you go “Oh holy shit. What did I just get myself into.”

Don’t assume that because a company is hiring you, or other people, that finances are stable. The Telltale layoffs come to mind. Some of those folks were just hired when the layoffs happened.

Don’t assume anything about a company’s financial stability because they’re launching new products or new programs, or because they seem to have grown, or because the company, or anyone on the team, has a high profile.

Just don’t assume anything, ok? Ask during the interview process. I’ve been asking this question recently and so far everyone has been willing to tell me about how their company is funded.

And if you don’t find out about the financial situation until after you get hired, and your instincts are telling you that you should start looking for another position, do that. Go. Bounce. And don’t feel bad about it. Take it from someone who just got laid off. No matter how great the company is, it doesn’t matter if you’re not getting paid. There are other jobs out there.

If you’re interested in more tech job search advice, as well as job listings for juniors in tech, subscribe to my newsletter at juniorsintech.com.

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