Making a career change is a brave and powerful decision, and it can feel daunting to launch a job search in a new field. As a career coach, I’ve helped dozens of people successfully navigate this transition and start a new career as a software engineer, as well as find clarity and confidence in what needs to be done to execute an efficient job search.
Here are some quick job search tips to help you conduct an effective job search and start a new career.
1. How to write a good résumé
A technical résumé needs to illustrate that you are skilled in the basics of programming and showcase your technical projects. Be sure to keep your résumé up to date as you continue to learn how to code in new languages and develop familiarity with more frameworks and technologies.
Keep your résumé to one page. Although you may have enough past work experience to fill more space, focus on highlighting the ones most relevant to the role you are applying for. Additional roles and highlights should be detailed on your LinkedIn profile.
Your education section can highlight any coding classes you completed, even if they were not the main focus of your degree. This can include online courses and certifications.
Each of these items we focus on closely as our students enter the career-search phase of their experience at Flatiron School — yielding these impressive results.
2. How to build an online presence
It’s helpful to learn how to build a website so you can create your own website and your portfolio. A personal website allows you to lead the narrative of how prospective employers perceive not only your technical abilities but you as a person. It can also showcase your personality in ways that don’t come across on a résumé — this presence should complement your résumé, not supplement it.
When updating your LinkedIn profile, make sure all your full stack software engineering skills are listed in the “skills” section. LinkedIn only highlights your top three skills when someone initially views your profile, so rearrange them to ensure the three most relevant to the types of roles you’re seeking are at the top.
3. How to prepare for interviews, both cultural and technical (plus the dreaded salary question)
Employers need to ensure you know the basics of programming and will ask both technical and cultural questions throughout the interview process. Knowing how to code and talking about code are two different skill sets, so practice describing your technical projects in detail. You can know all there is to know about coding, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to prove it.
Be ready to explain why you chose to build an example project, what technologies you used and why, and what challenges you overcame while coding, and how. Don’t forget — the STAR method is your friend.
So: how to answer the salary question. Always do your homework in case you’re asked about your compensation expectations. Ahead of the interview, research the average salary for a software engineer in your market, keeping in mind a junior software engineer salary may be on the lower end of the scale, but likely to grow quickly as you gain more experience. Be prepared to state a salary range, and base it on the market value of similar roles in your geographic area.
4. How to stay focused on your job search
Keep in mind that software engineer qualifications listed in a job description are often a wishlist. Don’t be afraid to apply to jobs you’re not 100% qualified for, as there are other factors related to character qualities and culture fi. Examples include a positive attitude, hunger to learn, and previous work experience or industry expertise that companies weigh when considering candidates.
Make a list of 20 companies that you would love to work for, then identify someone from HR and someone from your field who works at that company. You will want to contact both of those roles at each company, inviting them for a coffee chat or quick call. Continue to research companies you may not yet be familiar with to keep adding to this list throughout your job search.
Further, always do your research before an interview. Read the latest news about a company and see what about them intrigues you.
5. How to network yourself into a coding career
Some people feel uncomfortable when thinking about networking because, when done poorly, it can feel transactional. There’s a way to network that’s both more genuine and will yield you better results.
There’s an old adage that says, “ask for a job and you’ll get advice; ask for advice, and you’ll get closer to a job.” So, instead of asking people for job leads, set your mission to make as many new friends as possible, who just happen to be doing what you want to be doing. Since upwards of 80% of jobs are never posted online, these new friends will become your source to hear about unlisted opportunities that you won’t find on job boards.
Email is better than a LinkedIn message for outreach, since not everyone checks LinkedIn on a regular basis. Your goal with a cold email is to invite the person for a chat and ask them about their work. For example, you might want to know what the day in the life of a software engineer is like, and hear more details about their career path. A career coach can help you craft cold emails to improve your response rate. Like any skill set, it can feel awkward at first, but the more you practice, the better you’ll become.
Applying to job postings alone is usually not enough for a successful job search. Focus on these five areas to supercharge your search and land your dream job faster.