Starting Your Job Hunt

So you decided you want to work in I.T, now what?

If you were like me and didn’t know how to get your start, then you should read my last post here; Starting your I.T. Career.

But Josh, what if I already did that?

Well, you’re on a good path to landing your first job in your new and exciting career, but now you’re at the part of trying to land your first job. There are a handful of tools and options out there for how to get this first job, and you may need to only use one of the below, or a combination of all these options and more. Depending on who you talk to, they may tell you that the first thing you should do is start applying for jobs.

In my opinion, they are wrong.

Your first step in landing any new job should not be applying for jobs.

It should be determining what job you want and then tailoring your resume, and possibly cover letter, to fit those jobs. For example, you may be switching careers from a retail position to try and land a data entry position. With this, you would want to try to tailor your experiences to things like; updated inventory systems with proper information for over 500 store items, instead of processes sales transactions, ensuring that all customers receive products requested.

After you have spent some time working on your resume, you should then decide if you want to write a cover letter. Personally, I find them to be a waste of time, and so have most people I have spoken to. The caveat to this is if the job posting explicitly states that a cover letter is required. With this, though, you should also consider the position and company.

Now it is time to start applying for jobs.

You have a few avenues to pursue a new job. Depending on your background, you may have some experience using Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Monster, or another job board to search for and apply for jobs. Most of the time, these are garbage. While they may result in some promising leads, they should not be how you are applying for a job.

At the time of this post, there are currently 987 jobs posted on Indeed within a 25 mile radius of Buffalo. Of the jobs that show up under the most recently posted, there are 4 of 10 on the first page that are completely irrelevant to this search. Keeping this in mind, sorting by relevance does offer some promises. On the first page, all postings are relevant, however, only three post salary ranges.

Now, let’s say something on one of these job boards catches your eye. You should apply to it right there and then, right? No. All of these job boards have features built into them to read your resume and prior experience. If the job you are looking at says you need a bachelor’s degree in IT but you have an art degree, your application will automatically be rejected and HR will never get a chance to see it.

“So this means I should lie on my resume, right?” No. It means you need to think about how you are applying.

If you know that you don’t meet the “Required” skills or experiences, then you need to dig a little deeper.

This is an uphill climb and you need to make sure your feet dig into the mountain before you can take the next step.

When applying, you should try to always respond to a job posting directly with the company, ideally on their own website. This may require a little extra work… Googling the company… Locating their careers page… Answering all the questions that are already answered by your resume… Keeping your own log of applied jobs. But this gives you a greater chance of your application making it to a person.

Another issue with many job boards is that if your resume doesn’t contain key words, it also will not pass their scanning software. These key words can be found in the job posting itself, and often are some of unique or relevant words from the Key Responsibility section.

“But Josh, you said these sites are garbage. Why are you telling us this?”

I am stating this, because almost all job boards use these tactics, and you should be using the essential career building site out there; LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has strayed a bit in the more recent years, becoming more of a corporate Facebook. But it has great value to you. It allows for great networking, especially when trying to land this first IT job. I know, I know. I hate the buzz words as much as you do, but networking is a necessity of any career growth.

While your experience may indicate that you are trying to move from one retail job to another, LinkedIn has features to “customize” your profile to show that you are looking for a data entry job, or an entry level help desk position. This allows recruiters and HR to see that you are seeking that career change, while also seeing your applicable skills and interests. The other great aspect of LinkedIn is that if you keep your experiences up to date, you can use an Easy Apply feature to apply for jobs instead of uploading a resume to every job.

Despite all of these features, there is one massive drawback you should be aware of. If you click on someone’s profile, the account owner will get a notification that you have looked at their profile. It will show them the name and rough time that you click on them.

Most people will tell you that you need to continually apply all day long to every job out there. These people are wrong. I have done it. I took my father’s 40 year old advice and applied all day long to every job. But can you guess where that got me? Nowhere. After the second day, I was seeing the same jobs over and over again. Jobs I had already applied to.

When you apply to jobs, you need the job pool to refresh. I found that by mid-afternoon, around the 3pm hour, was when most of that day’s jobs were posted. Take a quick look then and see if anything is worth applying to. But you don’t need to do this every single day. It becomes exhausting and depressing. Set a routine, and apply around the same time only on Mondays and Thursdays. This gives the job pool time to refresh, and gives you more than just a handful of jobs to look at.

So now that you have applied, and got your interview offer, you need to do your final prep. I always have a few “must-haves” with me for an interview; a minimum of three copies of my resume, a pen, and notepad. The hard copies of the resume gives you the chance to give a copy to anyone participating in the interview, as many job boards will reformat them or replace characters with question marks. I also have the pen and paper to try and take a few quick notes during the interview as well. These notes could be a quick note of the interviewer’s name, a topic you want to research later, or information about a salary and start-date.

The other “must-have” from an interview is almost as important as wearing a suit; the interviewer’s business card. This pocket-size piece of paper is your life-line to landing the job. It tells you who was in the interview, their name with proper spelling, and their email address. It is from this that you are able to send a quick thank-you email that evening, ideally referencing something you spoke about in the interview.

You are not thanking them for the opportunity to apply for a job, but for their time to discuss building your career. Personally, I don’t include a line of “I hope to hear from you soon,” but instead use a line of “I look forward to starting with your team on Monday.” It shows confidence in yourself and abilities, but also sets a firm date of starting soon. They may not take this as literally next week, but it shows the eagerness to build yourself.

The final thought I want to leave you with is this;

Confidence is King.

If you kick the door down and walk in like you own the place, you will control the room. Please don’t actually kick the door down, they will most likely ask you to leave. But, acting with confidence will let you walk in and run the room. It allows you to ask questions like “What time do I start on Monday?” or brush off not having an answer to their question.

“But Josh! I’m nervous and don’t have confidence.”

You can stop that right now. You are an amazing person who has chosen to better themselves, and are taking a leap of faith that you will. This requires more confidence than anything else you have done so far. But if you want a secret? Get a sword, preferably a replica that is not sharp, and strut around your house or apartment before the interview. It will give you the confidence to rule your life, because you are the king of your life.