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How I Found My First Engineering Job Before Graduation

April Polubiec, Jan, 7 2020 | 5 min read

  

 

 

This summer, I enrolled in Tech Talent South’s Part-Time Coding Immersion, Javascript App Development, and Intro to Web Design courses. My plan was to finish up classes and then give myself two to three months to land my first engineering job. However, through a healthy mix of persistence, mindset and networking, I landed an apprenticeship before classes were even over and 3 months later, I’m officially a Junior Software Engineer at Scandy. 🎉

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My job hunting approach was somewhat counterintuitive and heavily inspired by my background in recruiting (and by background, I mean a grand total of one year). Below are the three mantras that I lived by to land my first engineering job before graduating from Tech Talent South.

1. Don't be looking for a job.

Okay, I know this makes no sense… in order to find a job you must not be looking for a job? Hear me out.

I’m not saying to not look for a job, of course you are - we all are! What I am saying is to change the way you think about interviews or any situation which could potentially lead to a job. 

When you walk into an interview thinking,“This is my one and only opportunity to show them how talented I am and convince them to hire me,” you’re bound to turn into a bundle of nerves, complete with word vomit, brain farts, shaky hands and sweat stains (...that’s not just me right?). 

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Instead, reframe your thought process. Think of every interaction, whether it be a technical interview, a phone interview or a cup of coffee with an employee, as simply a conversation between two people getting to know each other. 

After all, that is all an interview really is…and I repeat:

 🗣 an interview is just a conversation between two people getting to know each other

Most interviewers are not looking to trip you up (and if they are, you probably don’t want to work for them) - they are there to see how you think through problems and whether or not they can stand being in the same room as you for 40 hours a week. 

So, the next time you attend a Hack Night, TTS “Speed Recruiting”, or an interview, try not to focus on how badly you want the job. Focus on enjoying yourself and getting to know the people around you.

2. Be open to almost any job

There are two distinct types of job hunters: those who know exactly what they want and will settle for nothing less, and those who are “open to anything”. Don’t be either of those people. 

If you focus too hard on a specific career goal, you can wind up sabotaging yourself by missing out on interviews and conversations that may lead somewhere unexpected. It is not uncommon to apply and interview for one position with a company but wind up being offered a different position which is better suited to your goals and preferences. 

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That being said, one of the worst things you can say to a recruiter or an interviewer is “I’m open to anything”. Even if that is true, it makes it hard for the interviewer to get a sense of who you are, which in turn makes it hard to envision what role might be best suited for you.

Instead, try to find the perfect balance between these two. Be open to every interview, but be clear about your goals and preferences. If the company likes you, they will find a way to work with your goals, whether that be by creating a position for you immediately or contacting you in the future when that role is available.

3. The LinkedIn Message

This is hands-down the best thing you can do to improve your chances of getting a job interview and is how I got my current job. Any time you see a company or job post that piques your interest, go to LinkedIn, search by the company’s name and connect with as many employees as possible.

Make sure you connect with at least one person in HR (think HR Manager, Director of People, Technical Recruiter, etc) and do NOT hesitate to connect with CEO’s and Founders. Once you get a connection, send a message saying something along these lines:

“Thanks for connecting, <Person>!

Reaching out because I came across a posting for a <position>. I’m currently a student at Tech Talent South and will be starting my job hunt in a couple months. I’m mainly interested in [quick synopsis of your interests]. 

I admire/love/am interested in... [insert some compliment about something specific that company does]. Although the timing might not be right for this particular position, I’d love to sit down and chat to learn more about your company and any opportunities where I could get involved.

Do you, or maybe a member of your team, have some time to chat next week?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best, [your name], [your phone #], [attach your resume as well]“

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This message perfectly encapsulates points 1 and 2. It expresses an interest in the company and an openness to explore opportunities while also detailing your personal interests and not seeming desperate for a job.

If you can’t get in touch with somebody higher up in the chain, message a current developer to meet for coffee and pick their brain. Or ask around to see who is the best person to speak with. Seriously, don’t be afraid to message people - you can’t get what you don’t ask for, and the majority of people are very willing to help (especially when you throw a little ego-stroking in there).

At the surface, this may seem like a minute, negligible task but do not underestimate the power of a LinkedIn message - You are three times more likely to get a response on LinkedIn than to a regular email

All recruiters know this and that is why they pay good money for premium accounts. 

A vast majority of applicants take the route of least risk when applying to jobs - they find a job posting, fill out an application, and cross their fingers that somebody will reach out. These applications easily slip through the cracks, especially with entry-level jobs where most applicants have little to no industry experience. The simple action of sending a casual LinkedIn message shows you are willing to put in just a little more effort than most and separate you from the pool of applicants the hiring manager is likely drowning in.

I'm sure you've heard all of this advice before: Network! Vamp up your resume! Push projects to your Github! The three tips above offer unique and specific actions you can take to improve your chances of landing a job. Hopefully this advice gives you the extra boost you need to succeed - they sure worked for me!

Take the first step towards your dream tech job today.

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