The stack to earn a tech job
Success in everything is a stack.
Swimming, programming, driving cars, and farming are all multi-part stacks of skills and activities.
Michael Phelps had to learn to hold his breath, propel himself in the water, accept coaching, turn fast, eat well, train effectively, and more to become an Olympic champion.
Farmers have to consider crop future value, farming yields, soil conditions, weather, and harvesting needs — before they begin to prepare soil, plant, and nurture a crop.
While these examples may seem obvious — earning a tech job is another stack. The “earning a job” stack is poorly understood by job seekers. Here are the primary disconnects.
Hard skills — let’s get to this right up front because it seems to be at the core of job-seekers misunderstanding. Hard skills are table stakes. Unless your skills are very, very rare they are only a small part of the stack an employer wants. In some contexts hard skills may even be a flexible need for an employer. Writing code is only a small part of the reason an employer wants to hire a software developer. Experience with SalesForce, Google AdWords, and Medium for sales and marketing are not actuallycritical to success (you can learn them quickly).
Curiosity — if you are a knowledge worker curiosityis one of the top 2 skills to cultivate. You need curiosity to solve bugs, design new features, learn the latest development trends, and find out what makes your customers happy ( or sad ). Curiosity is what started Google, Apple, Pixar, Alibaba, LinkedIn, etc. Employees who leverage curiosity for and within their company are a gold mine. Employers who understand this are continuously pushing ahead of the market. Employers who forget this become footnotes in history. The world is changing fast, if you don’t leverage curiosity to keep up — your benefit to a company will shrink.
Persistence — aka grit is the ability to work on understanding and solving problems over the long run.
People with grit stick to it when they can’t solve a bug in 3 minutes. People with persistence sift through raw data, question assumptions, and look for outliers. These star employees are invaluable contributors to scalability, sales, and community growth. These are the people who keep struggling and then pivot into a gold mine.
Empathy — for a job seeker, having empathy for the challenges faced by recruiters, coordinators, interviewers, and hiring managers is very helpful. The team is trying to help you get hired. They want you to succeed. You can hear them or you can push them away and make it hard for them to help you. Have some empathy for their struggle.
Relationship building — arguably the #1 skill for any job seeker. I’ll go on a limb that 85% of your success getting a job is based on your ability to build relationships. When you are good at building relationships the worst interview ends with “May I refer you to another team here? You would be perfect for them!”.
When you leverage relationship skills, you have friends referring you into companies. You benefit from personal recommendations and can shortcut the interviewing path.
Relationships skills put you in the driver’s seat in interviews.
Decent resume — not perfect, just decent. There is no “perfect” resume.
Good resumes are all you need. A good resume piques curiosity, shows possibility, and makes the reader want to know more about you. It’s the trailer for the best highlights of your career. A good resume is targeted at the company and position you are seeking. A good resume is personally delivered by a friend to the hiring manager (relationships matter). The resume is last in this stack because it is only one small part of the stack and all the other parts are required for your hiring success.
Which of these pieces are you strongest at? Where do you need to improve? Which have you never considered??
Interviewing — the last piece of the stack.
An interview is the place for you to show an employer that you can be supremely valuable to their company. It is the place where the curiosity about you that started with your resume gets some answers. It’s the place where you demonstrate your human qualities to a hungry audience.
If you don’t consider the whole stack, it’s a tough road to getting a job.
I’ve heard a lot of developers talk about the difficulties in getting a job — and about all their prep on APIs, libraries, and coding problems. If that was the whole game, they wouldn’t have problems. The data is clear, programming is only a small part of what tech hiring managers need.
Master the stack.
Master your job search.
Master your career.