I have some stuff to disclose before I write anything, because I’m merely sharing my experience, not offering the “best advice eva!”
First thing, I didn’t get any of the jobs I talk about that I had interviews for.
Second thing, I learned new things after each one, it’s a learning experience.
Third thing, I live in a small town, not a tech town, and the actual open positions here in IT/web are few and far between. Especially if they pay decent, because every tech in 40 miles of the job will apply.
If you are job hunting, that is one issue. If you are job interviewing, that’s another. Here are some of my thoughts.
Job hunting is a pain when you have a full time job. I’ve had to go do interviews in the middle of the day, take extended lunches or days off, all without cluing my company in to the fact that I’m interviewing. There is a part of me that feels a bit sleazy to do this, but you have to realize that only YOU are responsible for the success of your life. YOU are master and commander and your boss is not in control of your life simply because they pay you to do some work for them.
Any boss/CEO of a company should understand that slavery is wrong, and employees have every right to continually look for better career options. If they are smart, they would expect this, and if they don’t want to lose employees, they should really think about constantly cultivating their talent, paying them well with benefits and keeping their minds stimulated with new training opportunities and room to grow.
I was actually told by my boss that I’m being paid “a great wage for this area!” In actuality, I’m not, my pay sucks, with no benefits. I don’t make any more than the construction worker whose job is to hold a sign that says “Slow Down”.
There is a strange mindset that CEOs/bosses have, they basically think they are God’s gift to mankind and all employees should be lucky and blessed to have jobs at their business, even if the pay stinks and there are no benefits. All of my previous bosses found it necessary to try and convince me how awesome it is to work for them and how blessed I am and I shouldn’t ever try leaving.
Do not worry or feel bad about job hunting while also working another job. They don’t OWN you! Think of it this way, you work for yourself, and that company is your biggest client. You are free to find other clients!
In the hunt for jobs, if you choose to use online job boards, take advantage of watch lists or being emailed new jobs based on your keywords.
A better approach, though, is to really know what you want to do and who you want to work for. You may really wish to work in finance, investing, colleges, retail, startups/websites, manufacturing, or just small/mid sized businesses of any kind. Maybe you have aspirations of working for one of the big boys, Google, Apple, Amazon, whoever.
What you need to do then, is find every place in your area that meets your dream job requirement, and start cultivated relationships with them. Visit the HR department personally, find out who the IT lead is and introduce yourself personally if you can manage it. If the people who work there go to local meetups or conferences, be sure to go to those same meetups and groups. Networking is invaluable!
The best way to get the job you want is when “somebody knows somebody”. If you met the IT lead once and specifically told them you wanted to work here, that alone might be enough reason to chose you over people blindly sending in mass resumes to job boards. It’s important for a business to hire people who can “get behind the vision” and actually want to work for them for more than money and benefits.
People want work that matters and is meaningful to them. So if you want to work for specific companies, but they have no jobs listed publicly, that should not stop you from applying!
It’s always possible the place you want to work has someone on the way out, somebody who wants to leave, will retire soon, or is waiting for a good replacement. Maybe the company doesn’t like the employee but can’t exactly open a job to replace them, nobody wants a disgruntled employee! But if you put yourself out there, the company might be inclined to dump a bad person and replace them with you and not have to go through the potential trouble of firing them and posting a job and having the employee get mad.
The next issue is when you get the job interview. There is a ton of advice on this so I don’t need to go into it, but…
- Dress nicer than the people you see working there.
- Do recon on the company, know who they are, what they do, what they offer, what they create, and even who the owners are and big players.
- Personalize your resume for them. Every company needs a person with certain qualities, don’t use a generic resume on them with information that is mostly irrelevant to the business.
KNOW how much you are worth. There is a dynamic when it comes to jobs. If the market is in favor of businesses, they have the pick of the litter, endless resumes, job hunters fighting over them. This puts them in favor of setting a low wage and picking the cream of the crop. If the market is in favor of the worker, then resumes aren’t coming in, there isn’t enough local talent, finding good people is difficult, then you have more ability to set your price and benefits.
Regardless of to who the favor belongs, you need to know how much you are worth, and don’t act like a dog begging for table scraps, willing to take whatever they give without negotiation. Everything of quality costs something. The employee who knows their skill, their talents, their passion, and their worth, is probably a better candidate than the fresh-out-of-school kid who will accept bottom wage and no benefits just because they need a job. The company will suffer if they simply scrape the bottom of the barrel. Do not put yourself on a race to the bottom!
Know the position inside and out, along with your strengths and weaknesses within each requirement. If you aren’t qualified for the position, you have to sell yourself on your strengths. Heck, you have to sell strengths anyway, but it’s that much more important if you are not skilled in areas where they want you to be. You have to learn! And they have to be willing to train!
If you would be the “only person” running the operation, there is less room for you to not have experience in a required area, but if the job comes with a skilled team, there is more room for your lack of experience to be carried and taught by others. If you are going into a team, the company may be more willing to let you be trained by the rest of the team.
So know the job!
For me, in the IT field, I believe I am getting beat out because of fierce competition, job hunters who accept bottom barrel offers to beat everyone else out, and to some degree, professional training and experience. I’ve always worked for small business, so getting hired in larger businesses is tougher because they want people already experienced in larger business! I also don’t have any computer science degrees or any degree, so that is one area where HR departments can easily trim out resumes, dumping any without degrees just to trim the stack.
All my interviews went well enough, we were all nice, laughed a little, I even believe I answered questions well, but didn’t get the jobs. In one job they had me filling out answers to technical questions and gave me a time limit of about 15 minutes, it was about 12 pages long! I couldn’t write answers fast enough and still had unanswered questions by the time they came back. That was a bit rough, didn’t get called in for second interview on that one!
Another job put some equipment out and let me free-form talk about the stuff they had. So they had a router, switch, smart terminal and a couple computers and servers sitting there. They even gave me a screwdriver “in case I wanted to open one up”.
I think the point here is that rather than being “ready for anything”, you just need to have an open mind and be honest with yourself. It’s probably better to say “I’ve never seen that before” and then take a guess, rather than mumble generic stuff pretending like you know what you’re talking about. Be truthful, sincere, and always follow up a sign of weakness or lack of knowledge with a promise of improvement, such as:
“I haven’t needed to use a KVM terminal before because my old company needed high powered desktops for media production. I know how these work though, and have always wanted to learn and manage them.”
I just made that up, but you see the point. A good interviewer will almost always ask what your weaknesses are. You probably won’t want to answer such a question, but you have to be honest, and make sure they know you are aware of the weakness and always trying to improve. My weakness is that I’m a loner and there are times when I haven’t communicated with other employees for days. I get sucked up in projects and such and I’m just not the most social, as tech people usually are. I have to follow that up by how I am trying to improve and work on it.
A potential employee who does not have any weaknesses or refuses to acknowledge any is probably NOT just a person with only strengths and no weaknesses…they are probably a person full of pride and is self-deceived about their own greatness. This is probably the worst weakness of all! People do not like pride, arrogance or self-deceived people.
They will always ask if you have done work you are proud of. Or ask what is a project you’ve done that you are proud of. Essentially, they want you to talk about some of your biggest successes. My advice here is that if you are looking for a job doing XYZ, then make sure you’ve done something very interesting in XYZ space. In some cases it’s much better to list your last 5 big accomplishments than to list your last five employers. A business wants to know what you’re good at, your strengths, your passion, your goals for the future, your talents, and what kind of work you like to do. They are not always interested in a laundry list of people you worked for, because that may not tell them much about you.
Think about the idea of references. In the old days, you listed all your past employers, then 3 or 4 references. You make their job harder because they now have to look in to each past job, and call references to ask them “do you know Jonny? Is Jonny a good person?” Instead, try to tell them everything they want to know so they don’t have to research jobs and references. I’ve seen plenty of modern, fresh, good looking resumes which don’t even have job history or references on them. They instead focus on performance, passions, strengths, skills, accomplishments and relevant experience specific to that company and even specific to the open job position.
Avoid old cut-n-paste resume-speak. “I am a loyal person…I work well with others…I am proficient in Microsoft Windows…I am a self-learning and self-motivated…I love working for you so much it hurts for us to be apart!”
Today’s world is fast-paced and employers need passionate, energetic, forward-thinking, employees who change with the times. Focus on you strengths and talents in a way that benefits the company. Don’t focus on things like “I want this job because I need to learn new things.” and “I want to work here because it will be great for my career”. No no no. You want to work for them because you like them, you use them, you buy their stuff, you use their services, and you want to do great things for them and make them bigger and better than ever!
You are applying for the job because you want to get paid and take care of your family. The business wants to hire you because they have needs and want to make money from the services you bring. Both are selfish motives at the end. The business is not here to advance your career or make you rich. You are not working for the business so you can help the CEO get the yacht they always wanted for a house-boat while you keep driving your old Civic.
This is obviously not something you want to discuss. Your amazing SEO/Marketing/graphics skills will let the boss buy a new Camero for their kids as they pay for their fine colleges, while you can’t even afford health insurance for your own family. This is the way of it, but it’s the avoided elephant in the room.
The company wants you to benefit them, and you want the company to benefit you. At the end of the day, if you want the job, focus on how the company benefits from hiring you, and NOT on how working for the company is really good for you and your income and career and life and advancements.
If they ask you questions that are self-focused, go ahead and answer. If they want to know what your “5 year plan” is or ask you what YOU “hope to get out of working here”, they are not asking you to name your price or benefits. They are asking if the company itself will benefit you in your personal plans. My personal plan is not simply “keep making more and more cash”. My personal plan involves what I do with my career, where my family lives, and doing exciting work that matters for a company whose vision I can be proud of.
So go out there and get your dream job!