Getting a Web Development Job For Dummies (2015)
Part IV. Charting Your Career Path
Chapter 17. Getting the Interview
In This Chapter
Using real-world networking
Creating a stellar resume
So you’re ready to look for work. You’ve taken classes (Chapter 13), learned the core tools (Chapter 15), and created a portfolio site (Chapter 16). How do you proceed from there?
The natural temptation for a web developer is to use an online job site to look for something suitable. However, as we explain in this chapter, online job sites are useful, but perhaps the least effective way to get a job. To put it briefly, you’re better off when people are contacting you — such as executive recruiters; when people know you — such as former colleagues and others in your network; or when you simply get a promotion or internal transfer.
In this chapter, we explain all these ways of getting a job, with tips and tricks about how to maximize your chances.
Networking in the Real-World
The most effective way to do networking in the real world is simply to do a good job in your current role. Get things done on time; show respect to your colleagues and help them get their own tasks done; introduce new ideas and new technologies at appropriate times; and keep the overall project’s goals, not just your own goals, in mind as you do your work.
This helps generate a friendly and productive atmosphere across your team. Team members steadily become extremely productive reference sources for each other. Whenever one of the team members gets a new job — within your current company, or at a new company — the first thing he wants to do is to hire in his favorite members of his previous team. If you play your cards right, this will mean you.
Love the one you’re with
The best way to get a great new job is to be really good and widely recognized in your current job. It’s very common for people to be unsatisfied, unproductive, and unhappy in their current job, and try to solve it by looking for a new job. Often, this is, if not really the best, then the “least worst” option. But it comes with many problems of its own.
When things are going poorly in your current job, you’re less confident, less likely to get strong recommendations, less likely to be doing things with new technologies or that you’re otherwise happy about, and therefore less likely to put forth a strong resume or interview well.
All of this turns around when you’re doing well in your current job. Doing well in your current job also makes you more likely to get “headhunted” — contacted by executive recruiters — and to be contacted by managers at your current company for new opportunities.
So, ironically, the single best strategy for getting a great new job is to do well at your current job. Until you can be with the one you’ll love — that exciting, high-paying new job with great benefits, where you use all the latest technologies — do your best to love the one you’re with.
Being a 10xer
The concept of a 10x employee has recently gained widespread popularity. If you can be seen as a 10xer in any role, your chances of moving to the top of the salary and opportunity pyramid skyrocket.
The idea behind 10xers was widely popularized in the famous programming book The Mythical Man-Month by Frederick P. Brooks (Addison-Wesley). In this classic, Brooks gives the lie to the idea that a stalled programming project could be kick-started simply by throwing more people at it — especially by throwing more mediocre people at it.
Brooks says that adding people causes an exponential increase in the time people spend communicating instead of getting things done. The best communication, according to Brooks, was inside the heads of the most talented individuals, who were ten times more productive than the least. Next most effective was informal communication within a small, experienced, talented team.
More recently, it’s been observed over and over that adding just one highly talented software developer, designer, or writer to a troubled project can put it back on track almost overnight as this highly talented individual races through backlogs of project tasks and succinctly communicates their needs and helpful new ideas to relieved colleagues.
Being a 10xer is a more intense version of the idea we introduce earlier in this chapter, that being happy in your current job is the best way to ease the way into a new one. If you can be a very happy, super-productive employee — a 10xer — then you’re likely to find getting your next great job very easy indeed.
Networking has developed a bad reputation in many circles as an empty exercise of people who barely know each other rushing to exchange business cards and pushing each other for contacts and job recommendations. Don’t do this. Do make ongoing efforts to stay connected to, and on a positive basis with, people with whom you work closely or who do similar work to you, within your company and outside it.
Figure 17-1 shows networking tips from the state of Minnesota. They’re good, top-level tips. You can find them at http://mn.gov/mmb/careers/applicant_help/networking_tips/.
Figure 17-1: The state of Minnesota website is a good source for introductory networking tips.
There are additional steps you can take for networking. Think of it as reaching out to wider circles of people.
People with a technical mindset — including, of course, web developers — tend to assume that you have to know someone well to be an effective networking contact for them. But studies show that looser connections can be even more effective in job searches. Definitely strive to make strong connections with your core project colleagues, but remember that it’s also worth the extra effort to reach out to — and make a good impression on — more distant connections.
Here are some effective networking targets from closest to you to further away:
· Your core team: Everyone you work with on a daily basis should have good things to say about you.
· Other teams that your team works with: You and your team will have a reputation for being easy to work with or not, creative or not, focused on meeting deadlines or not. Strive to establish a good reputation for yourself and for your team as a whole.
· People right across your department: For instance, in departmental meetings or on internal discussion boards, make the effort to make useful, constructive, incisive comments every now and again. This shows that you’re at the top of your game and willing to make an effort to contribute to larger discussions.
· People with your same job description or technical focus: Use professional group meetings and online gathering places for people in your profession, or using specific technologies, as a place to constructively work out new ideas and offer opinions.
· Professional conferences: Seeing and being seen at professional conferences is a big boost to your networking efforts. Snagging a speaking slot or seat on a panel every so often should be a big boost to your career.
One key tool for networking is to become known as a 10xer (see the sidebar “Being a 10xer”) If you qualify, you can potentially be represented by companies that specialize in 10x employees, such as the first of its kind, 10X Management. Figure 17-2 shows the home page of 10X Management. You can find the page at www.10xmanagement.com.
Networking in your current company
Effective networking begins in your current job, and at your current company. The core effort that makes networking work doesn’t fall under the traditional definition of networking at all. It’s just doing a great job in your current role.
The next step, though, does start to move into the definition of networking: finding ways to let people know that the good work is happening. Casual mentions by you, followed, hopefully, by positive comments from coworkers or your manager, can accomplish this.
Figure 17-2: 10X Management is the leader in top-notch 10X tech employees.
Within your company, there are specific steps you can take to network:
· Say hello: Learn to say hello to people on a casual basis. This can do a lot to make the workplace more comfortable.
· Ask others about their work: Ask other people what they do and what problems they’re facing. This can give you opportunities to help and can inspire others to ask you the same in return.
· Speak up in meetings: Make helpful comments and share your opinion in meetings.
· Use internal and customer service bulletin boards: More and more companies have internal bulletin boards for employees to network on as well as customer-facing bulletin boards for solving customer problems. Contribute on these platforms.
· Join non-job-related company groups: Most companies have voluntary teams for pursuing broad goals and for skill-building, including a “green team” to pursue sustainability-related goals or an internal Toastmasters club to share efforts to learn public speaking. These are great networking venues.
· Get mentors: A mentor is a senior person who takes an interest in your career and gives you inside tips and other advice. As a web development person, consider having two mentors: one technical, for helping you build up your skills, and one organizational, for helping you look for new jobs or a promotion in your current company.
Your in-company networking is key to all your networking efforts. People outside your company will view people in your company as credible sources about you. People inside your company, but not on your work team, view people on your work team as credible sources about you. So build your network, and your credibility, from the inside out.
Networking outside your company
As we mentioned previously, the traditional view of networking is a sad effort where people meet at a semi-social event and try to use that connection to get each other to employ their networks to get themselves a new job. And this can seem most desperate outside your company, where you are likely to not already know very many people.
Three touches to sell
One of the things that’s hardest for technically oriented people to understand is the confusing way that selling works — especially, the confusing way that selling works when the product is you.
First, people are inherently sales-resistant. That means that they often have to hear something several times before it even begins to break through.
Second, one source is rarely enough to convince people. They like to hear news — good or bad — from several sources before they believe it. (This is separate from the repetition issue; hearing something from the same source three times doesn’t cover the “variety of sources” concern.)
Third, the usual marketer’s beginning guess for number of repetitions — the number of times that someone has to hear something before he or she begins to believe it — is three.
So, in order for people to understand that you’re a top contributor, they should hear this three times, from two or three different sources.
For instance, you can gently let people know that you accomplished some goal or another (one repetition); give a talk or write a paper, so that the conference or meeting or publication appears as an endorser of your expertise (second repetition); and count on coworkers or your manager to say good things about you to others (third repetition).
More is better, of course, so don’t limit yourself to three repetitions. But targeting three is a good first step.
When networking outside your company, take a low-key approach. Don’t appear desperate by trying too hard.
Create an elevator pitch; your name, job title, and a couple of well-known people whom you work with. Also mention the key technologies you use.
Then use it. Look for people with whom you can follow up due to shared job or technical interests. Then connect with them through a brief email and on LinkedIn, described later in the section “Following the Rules for LinkedIn.”
Educational settings are great opportunities for networking, with fellow students and instructors as well. Do use your elevator pitch when needed, but also take the opportunity to go deeper. The long and in-depth conversations you can arrange to have, such as before or after class over coffee, can form relationships that help you, and your new friends, throughout your careers. And start building bonds with career services people; these can be helpful well beyond your first job out of college.
Be active in alumni groups too. Alumni groups offer the kinds of broad connections that can be extremely helpful in finding new opportunities.
Meetup.com groups, code-a-thons, and mentoring for young people are additional opportunities for mentoring, and also offer the chance to make new friendships that are personally as well as professionally meaningful to boot.
Building Your Online Network
One of the great conundrums of modern life is just how one’s online life interacts with one’s real life, where you actually see and interact with people in person. At best, the two realms support each other. You have a lively, interesting, real life, supported by lively and interesting interactions online.
If you’re better-known, better-respected, and having more fun in your online life than in your real life, that’s not a bad thing. You want to be having a positive experience in both realms, so if you’re rocking it online, that’s one down and one to go.
However, as a web development person, your technical interests and breadth of interest can make it easier to be a big shot online than in person. If this happens, how to bring that strong persona into your real-world life?
Use these tips to help you build a strong network in both worlds, online and off:
· Go for a two-fer: Try to be well-known and well-regarded in both your online and real-world lives. Don’t settle for one or the other.
· Have your online technical focus match your working life: If you work with Python every day, but are regarded as a “wheel” in the C++ world due to your previous work, your personas aren’t supporting each other. Try to spend your online time and your real-world time on the same topics. (This can mean either changing your online focus, or moving to a different job that matches your current online focus.)
· Have your online friends overlap with your work friends: Ask your work colleagues where they hang out online. Try hanging out there too. You can do good mutual reputation-building if there’s overlap between your online and work lives.
· Prioritize work: When in doubt, put more energy into your work than into your online life. (And much more than into non-productive online pursuits like dating sites and online games.) Work can and should be rewarding, in many ways, and you can help yourself make it so by putting work first.
· Reduce screen time: Studies are showing that sitting — a necessity for logging screen time — is actively harmful to your health. All of us in web development need to move around more. So cutting screen time in favor of moving around — and even getting outside — will be better for you, even for your career, over time.
Creating a Winning Resume
There’s been a lot of pressure on resumes over the last few years. Some people have advocated for the functional resume — a list of skills and skill areas, with occasional mentions of dates and employers. Others tell you that your resume has to be a single page.
However, the operative standard for a printed resume, or a resume in Word or PDF format, seems to be an old-fashioned, chronological resume, two pages long, with a summary statement at the top (optional) and educational background at the bottom (required).
If you are short on experience, consider fitting your resume on to one page, and putting your educational accomplishments at the top.
For an online resume, you simply transfer the printed resume to online format. You no longer have to worry about keeping it to exactly two pages, but otherwise, things are almost exactly the same.
Here, we tell you how to create strong chronological resume, ready to print — and then how to use it to create a strong presence on LinkedIn.
Making a Print Resume Stand Out
Your print resume needs to be a minor work of art.
Yes, the world has changed. It’s highly likely that your “print” resume will hardly ever actually be printed. Instead, it will be viewed onscreen. But it’s still important that it looks as if it would look great if it were printed.
Follow these rules to make your print resume stand out:
· Format it carefully: Your resume should look polished and professional even before anyone reads the actual words. If you need to, find a sample resume online, and then type your own information into the format.
· Proofread it carefully: Your resume really has to be perfect. Everyone knows this — or, at least, everyone believes it — so errors on your resume are seen as evidence of extreme carelessness and cluelessness. Make sure there are no errors.
· Then, proofread it again: You can’t proofread your resume too many times. Then, get others to proofread it for you. Even if there are no actual spelling errors, out-of-date information can come across as an error too. For instance, one of the authors (Smith) once wrote “in progress” next to a book description on his resume — then left the telling words on there well into the next year, when he was handing people copies of that same “in progress” book.
· List jobs in chronological order: Start with the most recent, and go back in time. Include the company name, month, and year of the start and finish date, the city, and several lines about what you did in the job.This can be four to six bullet points per job — with as few as three for long-ago roles — three to four lines of narrative.
· Include a skills section: Consider listing current skills in a separate section at the top. That makes it a lot easier for an HR person to quickly scan your resume to see if it’s worth further consideration for jobs that require specific skills.
· Include accomplishments: List important accomplishments that you were all, or part of. Also include what you did, but “keep your eyes on the prize.”
· Include helpful dollar figures: Words like “$5 million project” can be helpful; “I saved the company $2,123.92” are not. Put in dollar figures where you think they might help, and then check with a trusted friend about whether they actually do.
· Make sure your key attributes are reflected: If you’re detail-oriented, put this in the Summary section — and then make sure that your accomplishments reflect a person who’s detail-oriented. “Created a large SQL database that worked flawlessly in just two months, saving $5 million in inventory costs” is a statement that says detail-oriented without having to use the actual words.
· You don’t have to list all jobs: In the older sections of your resume, you can cut off at a certain point, rather than go all the way back to the start of your career. Many people list only about ten years’ worth of jobs to keep the resume length reasonable, reduce the presence of outdated technologies on their resume, and reduce the possibility for ageism in the hiring process.
For better or worse, anyone reading your resume will tend to guess that you were about 22 when you got your bachelor’s degree, if any. There’s no easy way to avoid this assumption, which for most people will be about right.
· Try for two full pages: People like a resume that fits on one single sheet of paper, front and back, chock-full of information — but without using extra-small type or narrow margins. If you’re new in your career, though, don’t strain to fill the space. Don’t go over unless you’re very senior and have a lot of accomplishments.
· Print it out: Print out your resume periodically. Make sure it looks great printed, and proofread the printed copy; it’s easier to spot errors than it is onscreen.
· Tweak it: For each specific job, create a new version of your resume with the relevant buzzwords from the job description appearing in that version of your resume — especially at the top of the resume.
· Get advice: Do the best job you can on your resume, and then get an experienced friend or resume expert to weigh in. Paying a reasonable amount to a pro is worth it. Your university may have a careers services office that can help.
You are likely to use your resume again and again during your career. It’s worth taking care to create and maintain a strong resume.
Following the Rules for LinkedIn
LinkedIn has several different functions. It can be a simple resume-hosting service. Or, you can add recommendations and comments, making your resume the centerpiece of a little online community focused on you.
You can also join various groups and networks on LinkedIn, building up your reputation. For technical people such as web development pros, there’s a certain degree of “cool” attached to being low-key. Using LinkedIn as a simple resume hosting service might be for the best.
Here are some tips for using LinkedIn in basic mode. For more advanced tips, see LinkedIn For Dummies, 3rd Edition, by Joel Elad (Wiley).
Figure 17-3 shows the LinkedIn profile of one of this book’s authors (Smith). Note how complete the summary is. You can see Smith’s LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/floydearlsmith.
Figure 17-3: Smith links to his LinkedIn profile on his resume and elsewhere.
Keep these thoughts in mind when using LinkedIn:
· Make the summary count: A recruiter should be able to tell whether you’re a good candidate just from the summary. Write this carefully and be thorough.
· Keep it inclusive: When you apply for a specific job online, you can tailor your resume to the job description. On LinkedIn, you need to cover all the bases — a single resume has to attract all kinds of employers.
· Go short: Keep descriptions short. It’s harder to read online than in print, so a smaller amount of detail goes a long way on LinkedIn.
· Go long: You don’t need to trim your list of jobs to keep within a two-page (or any-page) limit on LinkedIn.
· Give recommendations: Give LinkedIn recommendations to the people you know best, or who recommend you.
· Include some personal info: List some interests outside of work. This helps people see beyond the online profile.
· If you’re free to travel, say so: Many employers want to know that you’re free to travel at least some of the time. If you are able to travel at all, add “free to travel as required” to your resume. If the travel demands of a job are too much, you can still back out. And if you’re not free to travel, just don’t mention it.
· Update the Skills section: Put your strongest skills in the Skills section. You can include up to 25, but it’s best to include only those you feel most confident in. That way, you get follow-up from recruiters only on your best skills, avoiding disappointing wastes of time all around.
As with your printed resume, your LinkedIn profile may get a lot of attention during your career. Take the time to make it strong and useful.