Revisiting the Foundations of the Job Search

Welcome to episode 204 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss processes and considerations for your next job search, including ways to allow jobs come to you.

Original Recording Date: 12-17-2022

Topics – Setting the Table to Discuss Job Search, What Characteristics Do You Value In A Workplace, What Kind Of Work Do You Want To Do, Search for Jobs Online, Other Job Search Methods, Apply for Jobs, Letting the Jobs Come to You

1:20 – Setting the Table to Discuss Job Search

  • Last week in Episode 203 we talked about resumes, their structure, how to showcase your accomplishments, and how you can keep them current.
  • As part of revisiting some of the foundational elements of career progression, the next logical step after you have a resume is to execute on a job search.
  • Past episodes to revisit on job search
    • Episode 4 – Company Culture as a Filter
    • [Episode 13][] – The Sniper Approach to Job Hunting with Tom Delicati
      • We talked through Tom’s interesting approach to finding a new job after relocating, and we also discussed a Spiceworks post by BBigford about cold calling companies for jobs.
    • Episode 57 – Preparing for Unexpected Opportunities Part 5 – Personal Finance
      • We talked about finances and how stability in this area helps prevent urgency and stress.
    • Episode 20 – Reasons to Quit, Area of Destiny, and Finding Your Area of Destiny
      • Check out the concept of area of destiny when it comes to career.
    • Episode 19 – Dreaming in Bands
  • Today we will discuss characteristics valued in a workplace, the type of work you want to do, the actual search for jobs, the application process and how to apply for jobs, and ways you can let jobs come to you.

4:17 – What Characteristics Do You Value In A Workplace?

  • We continue to advocate progressing your career, and in that you want to make things better.
  • There are different things we might want to improve to progress, but sometimes we might want to improve the environment in which we’re doing the work. There will be things you do and do not like about your current and past work environments (i.e. things you value highly and things you want to avoid in the future).
  • At the time of this recording we’re seeing tech companies downsizing but doing so in an incredibly hot job market. Though you may be going through an involuntary change in jobs, you still have a lot of opportunity to make a choice about where you want to work next.
  • This is the time to really think about where you want to work. We advocate that you should evaluate this periodically and not just once.
  • For example, here are the things John values in a workplace:
    • Co-workers who are smart in a different and complimentary way than John
    • Supportive and collegial culture
    • Challenging and interesting problems to work on
    • Support for growth and learning
    • A technical / individual contributor career path to progress in seniority and compensation without being forced into management
    • Fair to generous compensation package
  • As you think about this, consider the constraints that you have and the aspirations you have.
    • Maybe you want to travel and would be excited about a role that requires 80% travel, for example.
    • Maybe you have situations that will not allow any travel or minimal travel.
    • Is it important for you to be close to the company headquarters, or is being farther away from it ok?
    • What about the distance between you and your immediate manager? John once had a situation where he and his managers were on opposite coasts of the US. Is that ok for you or not ok?
    • In our current environment, do you want to work in an office every day, at home only, or some mix of the two?
  • Gain clarity and categorize the "must haves," the "nice to haves," and the "must avoids."
  • Something important to Nick is the ability to potentially grow into a different area of the company.
    • This allows keeping a network of people inside your company who know your reputation without having to start over somewhere else.
    • John says this is always easier (an internal move). But, we should consider how healthy the organization we are looking to join (within the same company) really is.
    • People may want to know about that organization’s culture or at least investigate it during the job search. You might reach out to people you know in that organization, try to figure out how many people have held multiple roles in that organization, or see how many people have geographically relocated and stayed with the company.
  • Each person has their own set of circumstances to consider. Be mindful of what those are as you do this exercise, and consider having a conversation with your family, group of friends, etc. (the people most important to you).
  • The timing has to be correct as well just like Yvette Edwards shared in Episode 202.
    • If the timing is off, it’s not the right opportunity.
  • Nick suggests considering reimbursements for things (mileage, tolls, etc.), wellbeing allowances, mental health benefits, insurance and family health concerns, etc.
    • Maybe you have an elderly parent that you need to take care of. Is time off for this covered, or can additional insurance be purchased to cover it?
    • It would be great to know about these things as you go into applying for a job.
  • Consider expected work hours, time off, doctor appointments and whether you can make up the time or must take time off for it, etc.
    • John remembers hearing about a company that was installing bedrooms in their headquarters recently and how this set some expectations with employees to be hard core. This was about Twitter. Check out this article for further reading.
    • Maybe being hard core at an organization is something that excites you and you don’t have family obligations. That is something to consider and may be a way to become highly compensated and get some bumps in seniority quickly.
  • You may want to participate in a technical community (even if meetings happen on work days) and have your company support you going to speak at events.
    • This reminds Nick of the discussions with Joe Houghes, specifically the discussion in Episode 189 about capturing the intangibles.
    • Even though Joe asked about these things during his interview process, he had determined they were important in a company before entering that process.
  • "If you go through this exercise a couple of times…and are able to articulate that to yourself, then that is the first step in being ready to articulate it to a hiring manager during an interview process." – John White

13:55 – What Kind Of Work Do You Want To Do?

  • This is where dreaming in bands comes into play.
    • Many times we are locked in on a job role / title and might want that with more responsibility, at a larger company, and with a slightly better pay scale. The dream is about what you have now but a little bit bigger and a little bit better.
  • One of the reasons we started the podcast was to get people to think about just how many roles exist in the technology space that are well compensated, encouraging listeners to think a little outside the box.
    • One example is sales engineering (what John and Nick do). It is well compensated, fairly technical, and often pulls from the pool of people who have experience in IT operations, enterprise architecture, software development, and many other technical roles.
    • Make sure you explore the types of roles that are available, the different industries those roles might span, etc.
    • Another role in infrastructure operations might be in that band of possibility for you, but it’s not the only thing. We want to make that very clear for listeners.
    • Think outside of what you’re doing right now. What about joining a cloud platform team, a site reliability engineering team, a DevOps team, an architecture team, moving into technical sales, technical marketing, product marketing, product management, etc.
    • There are so many possibilities for the next job for most people that we don’t even realize it.
  • To spend time thinking about what you want to do you have to spend time thinking without distraction, letting your brain really churn on it. Write some stuff down, and think on it regularly. You have to get outside the normal bubble of what you do today in many ways.
    • Consider taking a walk after your work day ends and thinking about these things, for example.
    • Expand your mind a little by looking at job listings online, even those for which you may not seem qualified. Check to see whether you have relatable experience that applies to the job in question. This is to help you see the realm of possibility and understand what is out there and could help you spot potential gaps.
    • There is no requirement to take action other than looking at job listings for positions that might be a stretch for you. Pay attention to requirements and description of what daily tasks might be like in the job.
    • After looking at several job listings and doing some gap analysis, you may find that there is only a small skills / requirements gap in what you do today compared to a job listing that excites you. Maybe you’re willing to work really hard to close that gap because the job is exciting. Or maybe you aren’t. You will not know until you go through the exercise of looking.
  • Think of this process like implementing a new technology solution to solve a problem.
    • The problem is needing to determine what you want to do next.
    • You’re trying to determine the level of effort to make the implementation happen (or to get to "I can do this job").
    • Is the gap 20%, 50%, etc.? You might not know until you talk to somoene who has done the thing. If I need to implement a cloud PBX (phone system), I probably want to talk to somoene who has done it and pick their brain about what went well, the person’s background to that point, what they had to learn, etc. This applies to jobs too and may allow you to spot some of your own gaps.
    • To fill gaps, maybe there are training courses, certifications, in workplace apprenticeships, etc. We’ve talked to many people on the show who found a team that did interesting work and asked to tag along / shadow, help with the work, moonlight in that department, etc.
  • Nick remembers Mike Wood’s experience in doing informational interviews as mentioned in Episode 169 to learn more about a role from a hiring manager / someone doing the job.
    • In this scenario there is no pressure on the person you contact to evaluate you for a role. They are explaining what the job is to you so that you can determine if it’s a job you want to do, if you are qualified, etc.
  • If you have a gap around a specific technology, you may be able to bring that into your current company. Many on the show have mentioned bringing VMware, Microsoft, or other solutions into their company to add value, for example.

22:01 – Search for Jobs Online

  • There are many possible tools that can be used to search for jobs.
    • LinkedIn
    • Indeed
    • Monster
    • If you have a specific company in mind you can visit their careers page to see postings and often times apply.
  • If we take LinkedIn for example…
    • In the jobs section you can create a search term (i.e. infrastructure architect). You can see all positions that contain the search term.
    • Then there is a set of filters you can leverage to refine the results (i.e. limit results to a country, region of a country, experience level, work from home / hybrid, etc.).
    • You can then turn on alerts based on the search term and filtering so that you know about new postings. Alerting can be done for multiple search terms!
    • John recommends setting up alerts and reading through postings fairly intensely, especially at the beginning of a search.
    • As you see more job postings and look at requirements, you can feed them into your resume as we discussed in last week’s episode.
    • LinkedIn, like other platforms, wants to socially engineer people and will make recommendations. Based on the skills you have placed on your LinkedIn profile, you will see recommended jobs based on those skills, what you post and comment about, etc.
      • If you don’t have skills in your LinkedIn profile, be sure to add them!
    • And if the recommendations aren’t titles you might immediately think of, read the job description. It could be completely in your wheelhouse, but you will not know until you read the description.
    • Don’t have blinders on as you do this!

25:23 – Other Job Search Methods

  • In [Episode 13][] we spoke to Tom Delicati and discussed what we called his "sniper method."
    • If you’re highly skilled in a specific software or technology that has a community built around it, go look for other companies in that community who are using the software (in Tom’s case it was a user group for Epicor software).
    • This is a great approach if you’re speaking at the user group, any conferences around the software or technology, or perhaps publish some blogs / papers or other proof of work to demonstrate expertise. Having a company or people at a company know your reputation in advance is always a plus.
  • The user group approach is helpful in a secondary way for tips on technologies or trends and the ability to network with others to find out if their companies might be hiring.
    • is a great resource for this and has options for attending user group meetings in person or remotely.
    • User groups are often people coming together who are using / interested in the same technology or in the same industry coming together to share learnings, best practices, and how to better prepare for the future together.
  • Also in Episode 13 we mentioned a Spiceworks post by Bbigford on cold calling for jobs.
    • This is a method that could be utilized when moving to a new area where you don’t have a network of contacts.
    • It involves having a customized set of resumes in hand and walking into companies to ask for a discussion with a hiring manager.
    • This touches on what Tom did as well and involves asking if the company has openings despite what may be listed on their site.
    • You can ask for a discussion and ask for someone to look at your resume even if you do not know anyone at the organization.
    • One downside is you would need thick skin. You may get told no a lot, and this can be scary to do. People may have fear that prevents them from even trying.
    • Also, the people you would want to talk to may be working from home or in a different office building than you visit when cold calling. Keep that in mind.
    • If this method gives you anxiety, perhaps choosing a different method is best.

30:09 – Apply for Jobs

  • Once you’ve searched for jobs and filled your funnel, it’s time to apply.
  • Here are some ideas:
    • Look for connections you might have at the company to which you are applying. You could reach out to that person and see if they know anything about the role, the hiring manager, the team, the type of work done in the role and products supported, workload and expectations, company culture, etc.
      • There nay be a bonus program at the company for referrals, and if that is the case, the person may offer to refer you and possibly even coach you through the interview process.
      • You may need to sell the idea of recommending you to someone you do not know extremely well. And it may not happen at all. It’s ok if someone may not feel comfortable referring you. Be thankful the person was willing to provide you with some help.
    • Don’t forget to look for people who at one time worked for the company in question but do not currently.
      • There is a LinkedIn filter for people formerly employed at an organization. And some people may be willing to tell you why they left (i.e. new job was more money, it was an awful place to work, etc.).
    • Customize the resume to the job listing.
    • Save the job listing somewhere in case it is taken down once all candidates apply.
    • Customize the skills to the skills in the job listing. Map the things you have done to the things they are saying are important activities for the job in question. There will never be 100% overlap, but you want to highlight the right things.
    • You probably do not want to apply for 10-15 jobs at the same company at the same time. Maybe more than 1 is ok, but the shotgun approach may not be fruitful. And, it’s tough to write a custom application for 10 different jobs at the same company.

33:31 – Letting the Jobs Come to You

  • Even when you are happy and not looking for a job, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date with skills you have, responsibilities you have, and the tasks you do. People looking for these things may come knocking on your door to hire you.
    • LinkedIn makes money from giving recruiters access to certain access and data on the platform. Recruiters are constantly on the platform looking for talent.
    • There are unexpected opportunities out there. Sometimes the best time to consider opportunities is when you don’t need to consider new opportunities. It makes it low stakes.
    • Be desirable on LinkedIn. Engage with current technology, and share what you are doing with it. Update your profile semi-regularly. Post blog articles you have written. Make interesting posts that promote engagement.
    • Anything you post demonstrates writing skills to a potential hiring manager / recruiter and could also act as proof of work.
  • It is important to build a network of contacts inside your company and outside your company.
    • Get to know people on different teams inside the company. Meet your skip level manager like Yvette Edwards discussed in Episode 202
    • Meet people outside the company. User groups are a great way to do this. User groups and mutual connections on LinkedIn are a great way to do this.
    • Maybe someone you are connected to on LinkedIn comments on a post about data science from one of their other connections. If you’re interested n dat science, perhaps you could reach out to this other person and talk to them about the type of work they do to learn more.
      • If you don’t ask, you can’t know!
      • When connecting with people on LinkedIn, take a second to send a personalized note with the connection request. If the person says no or does not want to talk with you, it’s very low stakes.
    • In addition to in person user groups, there are online communities you can leverage:
    • John likes the idea of connecting with people at your current company on LinkedIn. Over time, a certain percentage of those people are going to leave the company to work elsewhere. Now you know someone who works at a different company who you can ask what it’s like working for the company, why the person made a career shift, etc.
    • Nick shares that we’re always in guest acquisition mode (a technique you could use too).
      • If Nick meets someone in person or comes across them on Linkedin, and they have an interesting story, he wants to connect and learn more.
      • Often times this is followed by some information on the theme and purpose for Nerd Journey and Nick suggesting the person be a guest to discuss some of their background (i.e. getting laid off, taking a sabbatical, making a specific career turn, etc.) and the offer to build an outline for their review and collaboration.
      • Make it easy for people to say yes to your request. The same technique can be used to ask for a discussion with someone.
      • Ask the person if there are good blogs in a specific area that you should be following or to recommend another connection with specific experience. If the person you are communicating with knows someone who has transitioned from the job you do to the job they do they could recommend you.
      • Maybe there is a way you can help another person that you did not realize when the discussion began.
      • Think about developing the reciprocity style of a matcher instead of a taker. John says this sounds similar to advice we received from the Career Tools podcast to build and serve your network as a primary focus, allowing you to make a request every now and then. When you’re giving and serving and keeping connections active, it makes everything better.
    • Publicly accessible proof of work (LinkedIn posts, posts in a technical community, a blog, a video you made, code you put on GitHub, a recorded presentation you gave, etc.) can demonstrate expertise and enable jobs to come to you. Be sure to collect those links so you can easily share them with others.
    • John reminds Nick that we need to take our own advice and be sure to put things like past VMworld / VMware Explore sessions on our LinkedIn and kitchen sink resumes.

Contact us if you need help on the journey, and be sure to check out the Nerd Journey Podcast Knowledge Graph.

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