This article is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1-on-1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School.
The job market for tech is hot, but it still takes a lot of hard work and commitment to land a position you’re excited to wake up to every day. Here are four ways to stand out from the crowd.
1. Demonstrate your worth with a value-added project
At Flatiron School, we coach our students to go “above and beyond” to get noticed as an applicant and stand out during the interview process. One strategy is to present a value-added project where you build or design something specific to a company in order to demonstrate your interest in a career with them. For example, you could redesign their homepage or dashboards or create visual displays of relevant data.
How do you come up with a value-added project?
Find a company that you would like to work for. Read through the company’s recent news and identify growth opportunities or business needs that you could focus on. Review their job openings and create a sample of work based on the required skill set. Include it with your application.
If you’re already in the interview process, ask questions that help you understand what the team is working on, the future direction for the company, and some of their biggest challenges that you could help solve. This will help you brainstorm a project to create and share before a decision is made.
The project you create should be professional, relevant, interesting, and use the skills required for the position. But it doesn’t need to be perfect. A strong project will show that you learn quickly, can and want to do the job, and are willing to go the extra mile to be a positive contributor.
Really interested in a company but don’t see any job openings? Create a tailored, value-added project and share it with members of their tech team to spur some attention and networking conversations.
2. Blog regularly.
Blogging shows that you know your craft, can communicate complex information simply, and are committed to learning, reflection and improvement. If you shine on camera, create video blogs to showcase your personality and presentation skills.
Here are some ideas to strategically use blogging during your job search:
- Are you seeing several job postings that require a specific skill or stack, but you don’t have it? Start learning it, and write about it.
- Targeting jobs in the social good sector? Use your blog to write about the intersection of tech and improving the world.
- Interested in accessibility? Cover trends you see in the field.
You can use blogging to your advantage during and after job interviews. For example, in an interview or thank you note, you could share or cite your relevant blog posts. After an interview, you could write an in-depth article on a topic that you covered in the interview process, and send it to your interviewer with a note. If you weren’t able to answer a question on the spot, keep working on it and write up a blog post explaining your thought process.
Finally, promote your blogs on LinkedIn by using hashtags. Sharing your articles on LinkedIn is a great way to be helpful to others, as well as to build your audience and be noticed by recruiters and employers. You may find that recruiters start reaching out to you — rather than the other way around!
3. Keep “working” while you’re job hunting.
Since you love designing or coding, keep it up by working on your existing projects, creating new projects, participating in Hackathons, open source projects, volunteering, or freelancing.
At Flatiron School, you worked on intensive coding, data or design projects. Go back to them, improve and strengthen them. Or, if it’s a website, launch it. Start a new project or pair up with a friend who has a different skill set if you like working in groups.
Participate in Hackathons — typically multi-day events to solve a problem with a team. These show you can think quickly, work with others, and create a project under deadline. Interact with employer judges and sponsors, which will help you to stand out. If you’re a coder, contribute to open source – publicly accessible code. Engineers at companies might see your work and even reach out to you.
Even if you’re looking for a full time job, take on a volunteer role, or seek out short-term contract or freelance roles to help you build your resume toward the big goal. These can turn into larger roles, and help you build your portfolio and experience along the way.
4. Go straight to the decision makers.
Use job postings to see which companies are hiring, and reach out directly to engineers, data scientists or designers on the teams — the people you’d be working with and for. These are some of the decision makers in the selection and hiring process.
At first, focus on genuinely connecting and learning more about them and their teams before asking for anything. Build a rapport with the people who respond. They might be willing to send you a referral link or pass your resume on to the hiring manager or recruiter handling the role.
At minimum, you might learn how to strengthen your application, and hopefully meet a few new people along the way.
Regardless of what’s being advertised, put together a list of 20-30 target companies and start reaching out to people who work there for informational interviews. Most jobs are filled through referrals or word of month, and many are unposted. Building your network at places you’d love to work to increase your chances of finding out about jobs before they’re posted, or if they’re ever posted to the public at all.
Once you graduate from a Flatiron School bootcamp, you’ll work with a career coach for up to 180 days to personalize your job search strategy and put your plan into action. This might mean brainstorming value-added projects and blog posts, identifying target companies, drafting authentic networking messages, and much more.
About Rebecca Schramm
Rebecca Schramm is a career coach with Flatiron School. She previously worked at Columbia University as a career counselor and in corporate communications in media. She specializes in coaching career changers, clients who identify as women, and clients from underrepresented backgrounds in science and technology.