Land a job in tech: career advice for recent college graduates

Jun 01, 2020 - 11 min read
Cecilia Cayetano
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Congratulations! You’ve worked hard to get your degree. You’re ready to graduate and join the workforce. So where do you begin? Oftentimes “just getting started” isn’t as easy as it sounds. Do you just start Googling open jobs? According to NPR1^1, at least 70 percent of jobs are not published. And even when you do get an interview, what’s the decorum? What do you do afterward?

Job searching and interviewing is particularly challenging at the moment. Many companies have taken down job postings, so it’s harder to apply and stand out. That’s why today, I want to discuss some vital career advice rooted in networking. The job search process requires you to creatively utilize your resources and connections. So, today, we’ll go over a job search roadmap aimed to build your network and break down the process into manageable steps. We will discuss:

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Developing a job search plan

Before searching for jobs, you need to create a plan. A project plan breaks down a daunting problem into manageable steps and outlines a set of clear milestones along the way, which helps avoid procrastination and provides a sense of progress.

In addition to the general steps in your plan, it should include a timeline and mini-goals to be truly effective. Here are some general rules to follow when thinking about your goals and planning.

The timeline should be aggressive, but realistic. While dealing with schedules outside your control, you’ll want to consider factors that may prevent unrealistic expectations. However, you should hold yourself to the timelines you set. Don’t cheat yourself by ignoring your original commitment.

Having mini-goals is essential to your overall plan. Your ultimate goal is to get a job in tech, but to help you get there, you should identify 2-3 mini-goals. For example, a good goal might include meeting with 2-3 connections a week.

Now, let’s take a look at a reliable job search plan that sets realistic mini-goals and utilizes the resources commonly available to recent college graduates.


Step 1: Update your resume and LinkedIn profile

To draft your resume, search online or through your university’s career center job board for intern or full-time job postings. Create your resume by leveraging the descriptions in the job postings. It’s okay to borrow descriptions from example resumes, as long as you reword them to match your skills. Companies will look for both hard and soft skills.

  • Hard skills are technical skills and may include your experience using different platforms, tools, or programming languages.
  • Soft skills are non-technical skills and may include your ability to work effectively in a team environment or manage time.

Use strong, active verbs that demonstrate measurable results. Ensure that your resume is clear, concise, and grammatically correct. You should ask for feedback on your resume. Run it by a professor, your university’s Writing Center, or the Career Center for advice. Grammarly is a great free online resource for reviewing as well. Here’s an example of a resume from a recent grad 2^2.

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Step 2: Update LinkedIn contacts and spend time networking

You know more people than you realize, and each person you know is connected to hundreds of other business professionals. Think creatively about the various aspects of your life relevant to LinkedIn contacts. This could include family, friends, friends of your parents, parents of your friends, professors, former employers, etc. Your network will greatly improve your chances of connecting with a desired company.

IMPORTANT: This networking advice will differ during the COVID-19 lockdown, but the tips are essential for networking once cities reopen. Many universities host virtual networking events, and these guidelines still apply. Most importantly, 1:1 networking can still be done during the lockdown. These personal meetings are essential to building your network.


You should reach out to alumni of your university. Universities provide many opportunities to meet alumni at various career stages and set up 1:1 meetings to network. These meetings are only useful if you make connections and actively network.

  • Review their work history. Prior to the meeting, used LinkedIn to review this person’s work history. Prioritize which former or current employeers interest you. Use LinkedIn to understand those roles and areas of expertise.

  • Take notes. After your 1:1 discussion, take the time to write down notes about what you discussed. Anything, either personal or professional, that you can use to make a connection and show that you paid attention.

  • Send a follow-up email after the event. Within 48 hours of the meeting, send an email to express thanks for attending the event and ask for a follow-up discussion. Here is an example email.

Danielle,

We spoke last week virtually, and I wanted to extend my thank you. I enjoyed our brief chat on the projects that you are currently working on at Facebook.

Are you available next week to continue our discussion? I am available at these times:

January 25 at XX:00 to XX:00 January 27 at XX:00 to XX:00

I’d like to learn more about the engineering team at Facebook and how you have used interns in the past. Please let me know what time works for you and where you’d like to meet.

Thank you.

Regards, Betty


Step 3: Develop an initial list of companies and contacts

Start with the companies that currently recruit from your university or have active alumni. You can obtain a list of companies that have participated in university career fairs or search your university’s alumni database. Ask your professors about their previous work experience. It’s possible that they might be able to connect you.

Based on your company list, identify the most relevant contacts based on your resources, such as:

  • Campus interviewers: Companies often designate employees, generally alumni, to interview on campus. Prioritize these contacts because they can provide valuable insight into the role of an intern or entry-level position in the company; advice on your resume; and feedback on what makes a successful interview.
  • Alumni: Professors often maintain contact with alumni and may be willing to make an introduction.
  • Network connections: One of your LinkedIn contacts may be connected to a target company. In most cases, it’s okay to ask for an introduction.

Many recent graduates aim for the big tech companies. But keep in mind that there are many jobs you might not think to apply for, such as startup companies or organizations not directly related to your studies.



Step 4: Send invitations for face-to-face and virtual meetings

Many positions are filled through informal networks, so effective networking is critical to achieving your objective. Use your time effectively by continuously refining your list of companies and contacts. This is a numbers game – more contacts will result in more leads.

Face to face meetings, even virtual ones, are highly recommended. Connections formed face-to-face are stronger than phone calls, although they require significantly more time commitment. If you are unable to meet in person, as many jobs are currently remote, set up a Zoom call and ask to speak with video. Having that personal touch makes you more memorable.

Communication is very important as you utilize your networks and inquire about jobs. With every plan comes the intention to be transparent with the connections you’re making, but it’s critical to communicate throughout the process. The goal is always to leave a positive impression of your proactive and organized nature.

Now that we have a sense of the job search plan, let’s expand on step 4 and look at the decorum for face-to-face meetings with your network.


Summary of this section:

Step 1: Update your resume and LinkedIn profile

Step 2: Update LinkedIn contacts and spend time networking

Step 3: Develop an initial list of companies and contacts

Step 4: Send invitations for face-to-face meetings


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How to land an interview through your network

You have now connected with relevant contacts and have meetings scheduled. Now what? How do you move forward to the interview stage? Let’s discuss how to effectively prepare for your meetings to ensure that it moves you forward in achieving your objective.


Step 1: Research

Prior to every meeting, research the individual and their most recent companies. Set aside 30-60 minutes for this exercise and take notes on the individual, their company, and questions that arise during your research.

  • Individual – Use LinkedIn to understand their current and former roles and responsibilities, areas of expertise, and career progression.
  • Company – Review the company website, read recent press releases/articles, and scan Glassdoor reviews.

Step 2: Set an objective for the meeting

Based on your research, set the objective for the meeting based on one or two of the following:

  • Understand the role of an intern or entry-level employee. Focus the conversation on the contact’s current role and team dynamics. Based on these conversations, you will begin to form an understanding of their role within the team and company.

  • Learn about their company. Leverage your research on the company to understand the company’s culture and hiring plans for interns and recent graduates. This is also a good opportunity to ask about other companies that you should consider in your search.

  • Obtain feedback on your readiness. Send your resume prior to the meeting to provide background information. Ask for direct feedback on your skills and experience gaps and create a mental inventory of capabilities that you may want to develop. Be sure to take notes and update your information following that meeting.


Step 3: Confirm the meeting

One day prior to your meeting, send an email reminder with your objectives. An agenda can be a few bullets of topics/questions you’d like to address. Here is an example email confirmation:

Frances,

Thank you for meeting with me tomorrow (March 23) at 9am on Zoom. I look forward to learning more about your role at Acme Company and how your team has effectively used interns in the past.

I have attached my resume for your reference. Thank you.

Regards,

Sam


Step 4: Conduct the meeting

Prepare three to five questions for the meeting. Prior to ending the meeting, always ask for suggestions on companies that you should consider in your search.

After the meeting, you will emerge more informed about intern or full-time roles, more aware of your skills and experience gaps, and hopefully, aware of prospective employers. Most importantly, it’s one more person familiar with your objectives and capabilities.

Finally, add their name and associated company to your updated list of the contacts with whom you have met. It’s important to track your contacts, as they can be useful to you in future searches or outreach.


Summary of this section:

Step 1: Research

Step 2: Set an objective for the meeting

Step 3: Confirm the meeting

Step 4: Conduct the meeting


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What to do after an interview or meeting

Communication throughout the process is critical. Above, we discussed the importance of sending confirmation and outlining the meeting objectives. Even more important is communication after the meeting or interview.

Send a thank you email. Within 48 hours of every meeting, send an email to express your appreciation for their time and provide actions you’ve taken as a result of the meeting. Additionally, you can use this thank you email as a reminder if they agreed to connect you with a contact, provide additional feedback on your resume, or send additional information.

Send status updates. About every four weeks, send an update to your contacts. The email provides a summary of your progress, an updated list of target companies, and a revised resume. The status updates enable you to:

  • Show gratitude by providing updates on your progress and how you used their feedback
  • Serve as a memory trigger if they have connections with a focus company.
  • Provide a regular reminder of your name and objectives – People are very busy and meet with a lot of people. You want them to remember you.

Once you secure a position, send one final update email. Communication throughout the process is critical to express your gratitude, follow up on action items, and provide status updates. Here is an example of an update email.

Barbara,

Thank you for meeting with me yesterday. I appreciated your feedback and I’ve already incorporated those changes in the attached resume.

I also appreciate your willingness to introduce me to Jane Smith at your company to discuss internship opportunities on her team. To facilitate the introduction, here is a brief bio that you could include:

Emily Jones is currently a UW Junior focusing on Computer Science. She is seeking internship opportunities and focused specifically on companies innovating in robotics. Thank you.

Regards,

Sam



Wrapping up and Resources

Now you have a sense of what the job search plan requires when we are utilizing our networks. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, knock on doors, and set up times to discuss your questions. You’ll stand out as a graduate with drive and maturity. Take advantage of all the tools you have!

For more on interviewing and career advice, check out our resources below.


Sources

1^1 NPR Article

2^2 Resume Example


WRITTEN BYCecilia Cayetano

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