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Laying the Foundation for your Technical Job Search
If you are looking for a new job — experienced or not — it’s critical to go back to the basics and work backward. Prior to updating your resume, before crafting your cover letter, weeks before applying, and ages before your next interview, you must start by laying the foundation for your next job
Whether you’re an experienced engineering leader with 15+ years of experience under your belt or a recent coding boot camp grad looking for your first role — the job search process is one in the same.
If you are looking for a new job — experienced or not — it’s critical to go back to the basics and work backwards. But, what does that mean? Prior to updating your resume, before crafting your cover letter, weeks before applying, and ages before your next interview, you must start by laying the foundation for your next job.
There are thousands of different jobs within any one industry with no common naming convention. How do you pinpoint the job types that interest you without spanning too broad or leaning too narrow?
Here are my 5 steps for laying the foundation for your next tech job:
1. Get to know yourself
The first step is to do an in-depth self-evaluation. In this stage, you need to have an honest conversation with yourself about what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at. This could be as simple as making a chart where you outline projects that you’ve been proud of and take note of ones that you’re not going to put on a pedestal. Make your strengths the driver of your search.
For example, if you’re a front-end focused engineer and are applying for a full stack position with a backend lean you will be less likely to get a response. Your application would be much stronger if you applied for front-end engineer-focused or full-stack roles.
This may seem obvious, but you would be shocked by the number of people who clutter their search with dead-end opportunities. Once you have a strong grasp on your strengths you will be able to filter through the noise and dedicate your time to the applications that will lead to a job.
You also need to take a look at the non-technical side of things and consider your values and the type of work environment you want to work in.
I encourage you to ask yourself these questions:
- Is a start-up environment what you’re looking for? - Is the company working on something meaningful? - What size team do you want to work with? - How do you feel about people management? - What type of leaders do you like working with? - Do you want a remote, hybrid, or in-person role? - What tech stacks do you prefer?
Go deeper than this list, it should serve as a starting point. If you can’t discern some of these answers from the job description/company website, take notes to ask during the interview process. There are millions of jobs out there and properly setting expectations from the get-go will help you prioritize where to spend your time.
2. Look at similar roles
Once you’ve been really honest with yourself about where your strengths lie, you should look at the roles that encompass those skills. Go to the LinkedIn job board and filter by your strengths. Click on the various jobs that pop up and flag the ones you're interested in. Paste the links to these jobs in a google sheet to come back to. Once you have 50 (yes, 50) jobs in your google sheet you can call it a day.
Pro tip: if you’re interested in a specific industry and/or company, make sure you are flagging jobs from this space. If the company isn't hiring for this role you can look at who currently holds the position you’re interested in and place that in your sheet.
Once you have your roles flagged, it’s time to get to work. Head to Wordclouds.com and copy and paste those job descriptions.
If you’re dealing with a profile, you can copy and paste the role description from their experience section.
Your Word Cloud will tell you which words appear the most in the job descriptions you're interested in. These should be the keywords that you use to drive your search.
3. Customize Your Resume/LinkedIn
Now it’s time to bring all that hard work to life. If you followed the exercises in step one and two, you will have a strong list of all the industry-specific keywords that hiring managers will be looking for AND most importantly, the automated resume tools will be screening for.
Add all of those words to your resume and your LinkedIn. You can sprinkle them in your objective statement, your skills block/tags, your experiences, etc.
This should go without saying, but if you don’t have a skill, don’t put it on your resume. If it’s listed on your resume, you should be able to do it and be able to do it well. If you can’t do it, use this as a learning opportunity and brush up on it or teach yourself a new skill. If you see that you're not experienced in a lot of the skills in the word cloud, it could be a sign that you’re looking at positions that are too senior or in the wrong field — you may need to update your jobs google sheet.
Cover letters are highly debated in the career advice world. Some think they’re a waste of time, some argue that not writing one makes you look uninterested. At Climate People, we don’t even have a place for them on our application because we know we don’t have the capacity to read them and don’t want to waste our applicants’ time.
That being said, not all companies think this way and it’s up to you whether or not you want to write one. If you choose to attach a cover letter to your application, do it right. Your cover letter should be tailored to the unique job you’re applying for and should include the keywords you discovered in step two.
4. Applications are not one size fits all
Once you’ve incorporated your keywords and optimized your resume (stay tuned for a full blog on this very step) you should have a solid template - AKA a starting point.
If you take any one thing away from this blog it should be that you need to update your resume for every job that you apply to.
I know what you’re thinking:,“this is going to take SO much time.”
But, no, it really won’t! Remember how I said the keywords will help you get through the automated resume screening systems? Well, optimizing your resume for each job will really help at getting you through their screens.
On any job Climate People posts, we get 800+ organic applications. Nearly 1,000 people are applying for every single one of our jobs. We are a team of 8 with over 40 jobs posted. It's impossible for us to go through every resume we receive. Companies are relying on these tools to help narrow down their applicant pools, it has nothing to do with you or your qualifications.
So, unfortunately, this is the job search reality. Rather than dwelling on the unfairness of it all, make it work to your advantage.
Using a tool like Resume Pilots, you can copy and paste your resume alongside the job description. It will give you a comprehensive report on where you can improve. Do this for every application you submit.
You should also customize your opening statement/objective on your resume as well. This is your opportunity to tie your interests and skills back to the company. If you’re applying for an energy/grid company, your objective should summarize your passion for energy equity, the importance of divergence from fossil fuels, etc. Use reverse psychology to paint yourself as the candidate they want. They are giving you all the answers in their mission statement, on their website, in the job description, etc., take advantage of those freebies by adding them to your resume.
5. You never know
The whole purpose of this blog post is to sell the point of quality over quantity.
You will have better luck and waste less time perfecting your applications than you would if you applied for hundreds of jobs you’re not qualified for.
However, you shouldn’t sell yourself short. It’s perfectly okay to apply for ‘stretch’ positions if you follow all the steps listed above.
Yes, you should narrow your search and put effort into all of your applications, but this is not an excuse to let imposter syndrome dictate your search.
Work smarter, not harder!
So, there you have it! Follow these 5 steps to set the foundation for your next tech job search and you will be well on your way to landing your dream job!
You need to have a long brainstorming session with yourself about what your dream job looks like
Customize your resume for every job you apply for
Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to applications. You should always work smarter not harder.
All in all, if you make these steps routine, your application will be the obvious choice for the hiring manager to explore and they will start working for you rather than against you.
Good luck out there! If you need a helping hand, the Climate People team is here to help guide your technical job search, you can reach us at email@example.com