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3 Principles for Your Job Search

Published 5/15/2019

How can you think about job searching differently? Today, we're talking about three principles you can keep in mind to be a smarter job hunter.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
I'm going to paint a picture of a developer who's looking for a job. And if you are in this position, if you identify with what I'm about to say, then I encourage you to listen through this episode and take notes. There's a difficult road in front of anyone who is on a job search. Every once in a while, you'll get lucky. A job, seemingly the perfect opportunity, land in your lap. It seems like that happens quite rarely, and yet we hear about it all the time. And so if you are the person that I'm talking about, then that hasn't happened for you. Instead, quite the opposite. You've had your eye on job boards forever. It seems like none of them have quite the right description of the job, but you can't really write the job description that explains what you'd like to do. Nevertheless, you have applied. You've applied a lot. You've got your resume figured out. You've got all of the people that would act as references. You've figured those out as well. And now all you can do is endlessly loop over the same job boards looking for that one job and waiting by your email for someone to respond. You may have had a few bites, a hiring manager calling you and you having a discussion with them only to be waiting again to hear back or maybe having received a letter that says they're going in another direction. So how can you think about your job search a little bit differently? In today's episode, we're going to talk about three principles that you need to keep in mind when you are searching for a job as a developer. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You're listening to Developer Tea. And I create the show to help driven developers find clarity, perspective and purpose in their careers. And I hope that this episode will help someone get hired. But the truth of the matter is, this is kind of a spoiler for the rest of the episode, there is no silver bullet to hiring. There is no silver bullet for finding the perfect job. It is hard work. The job market is unfortunately fairly inefficient. We haven't figured out how to directly align candidates with their perspective perfect job. Now, why is this? Well, there's a lot of reasons. One is the visibility of those jobs, those openings. We can't see them all. There's thousands of jobs and plenty of them are certainly not on job boards. And so for someone who's looking for a job, they're not going to see the full pool of jobs available. Another restriction that we face is that we may not know what we want. And the person posting a job or the hiring entity, whatever the company is, the hiring, they may not be describing the job well. In other words, there may be some kind of hidden information, both about ourselves and about the jobs that we're looking at, the opportunities that are out there, we may not be able to understand what's out there. So there's a lot of inefficiencies and it takes a lot of work to find even a job that works well, much less the perfect job. There may not be a perfect job. But in today's episode, I hope to point you towards some principles, some kind of base level understanding for when you're looking for a job. These are the things that you have to keep in mind. When you find yourself kind of floundering as you're looking for a job, I want you to return to these notes, return to these three principles and make sure you check yourself against them because this is kind of your calibration. And so if you stray away from these principles, then it's likely going to get harder. It's going to get harder to find the job that's going to fulfill you the most, that kind of purpose level job. So let's get started with principle number one. This is a very simple one. It shouldn't be a surprise, but it's important to remind yourself to what degree this is true. Jobs are about relationships. If you've been looking for a job very long, if you've read any advice columns, any blog articles, any book that's even a hundred years old, they'll tell you the same thing. Jobs are about relationships. Now why is it? Why is it that jobs are about relationships? Well, when it comes down to it, most jobs are earned as a result of a relationship. Most promotions are earned as a result of a relationship, and ultimately most jobs, even if there wasn't a pre-existing relationship, most jobs will be provided as the result of a new relationship. What does that mean? Well, in your interviewing process, as you get to know the people who are hiring for that position, you're building a relationship. What this means is that the hiring and the job search process are very human in nature. The people on the other end of the hiring process are subject to the same kinds of biases and emotions and faults that you are. They are not perfectly rational actors. In other words, given two resumes that are exactly the same, they may not judge those two resumes exactly the same. Being as simple as not having eaten breakfast that morning because they were in a rush might make them overlook a resume or two. So we have to account for this very human side and remind ourselves that as we're applying for jobs, it's not a computer on the other end that's going to choose whether or not we are capable of that job. Now certainly, there are computer assisted methods for hiring. For example, if you're looking at a pool of candidates that's 3,000 people large, then that's too big. There's no way that we're going to be able to get through all of those. So we're going to have to use both heuristics and probably some kind of filtering mechanism. Some way of deciding, maybe algorithmically, who stands out. But this isn't a argument against the human based side of hiring. It's an argument for it because the truth is if all you're doing when you apply for a job is reaching out via the job posting some kind of mainline incoming hiring email or something like that. If that's all that you do, you're very unlikely to get a second look. The highest likelihood for your hiring will come from you building an actual relationship. If you already have a relationship, a connection that knows a person. This seems like an old school way to think about hiring. And in reality, this is the most salient way to put your name in front of the right person's eyes. Now, that doesn't give you a guaranteed foot in the door. There are certain things that a hiring manager may be looking for. There may be an algorithmic disqualifier. Maybe you don't have the right amount of experience in a given area. So it's not to say that all hiring is purely about emotions and about relationship. You do often need to have some level of skill that's appropriate for a given job. But having 100% of every qualification on a list may not necessarily be what's necessary. Your relationships often are just as important as your work experience. So that's principle number one. Searching for a job is a human process. It's a people-centric process. Work on the relationships first. And perhaps more importantly, try to start from one relationship that already exists. If you know someone who can provide a referral for you, that's a good first step. We're going to take a quick break and talk about today's sponsor, Cintry. Then we're going to come back and talk about the other two principles that I want you to keep in mind when you're searching for a job as a developer. Hopefully you know this, but there's code that you've written that's out there in the wild that is currently broken. It's very unlikely that every piece of code that you have is working as you expect it to. And it's time that you fix it. In fact, you need to fix it before your customers tell you about it. By the time your customers find out that your code is broken, you're probably going to lose some of them. It's not very kind to make them tell you about the errors in your app, is it? Now, if you're like me, then at some point in your career, you hoped that tests would do this for you. That you'd be able to write all of the tests out for every possible scenario and that that would cover the basis. You wouldn't have to worry about it anymore, but life is not that perfect, right? In reality, humans are pretty bad at writing tests, not just because we're all kinds of lazy, maybe even a little bit ignorant, but also because we can't anticipate every single way that users are going to interact with our product. Users are known to do very strange things in products that you would never be able to guess they would do. So you probably wouldn't write a test for it. This is where Century steps in. Just like the customer that would find the code that's broken, Century is going to alert you when your code is broken, but it's going to happen much sooner in that process. So you don't lose customers because of your broken code. Century will also tell you where exactly that code is broken based on a stack trace, but it'll also connect you to the commit where the code changed and caused the breaking change, and it'll tell you who committed that code. All of this in an effort to help you fix the code faster. Go and check it out, Century.io. Thanks again to Century for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we're talking about principles of job searching, and really these are principles of working as well, because job search is a type of work. And so when you're working with other people, you're trying to find a fit. This is true when you're in a company as well, because your role is likely to shift within a company. So as you're trying to figure out what job is best for me, this is a continuous process throughout your career, because what job is best for me is really asking what work is best for me. This is a question that you ask very regularly within a given job. And your manager will ask the same kind of thing. Whatever your structure is in the company that you're at, you're likely to change the type of work that you're doing. Not only because you grow as an individual, but also because the industry changes, the demands change, the dynamics of your team will change. And so if you look at your job and your job search as a consistent, ongoing process, then finding the perfect job becomes less stressful, because that perfect job may be an evolving thing. It doesn't have to start out on day one, being everything you imagined that it would be on day one, it can grow over time. And so this is principle number two, that your job search isn't evolving in continuous process, not a discrete process with a single outcome. This means that as you continue your job search, you may find a lot of options that fit for you. This is why it's so important to derive your own personal values and the things that you care about in life, spending some time really digging out what makes you happy, what makes you fulfilled, what are you enjoying doing? There are a ton of exercises online. I'm not going to parse all of them out here on this podcast. There's a lot of exercises for determining your own values. This is something that, again, is going to change over the course of your career, change over the course of your life. It's possible that as you walk through those exercises, you'll find that some of your values are different than what you thought they were. But I want to encourage you that as a result of this principle, don't hold yourself to one specific title. This is kind of tactical advice. If you're looking for a job with a specific title, you may limit your options to something that really doesn't necessarily need to be limited. If your values can align with multiple job titles, then open yourself up to that possibility. Ultimately, if you're ever thinking that something is coming to an end or that you have very little time, this window is closing, that this work is going to go away. This is a very rare situation. It's very rare that you have an opportunity that will never come again. Most opportunities to be fulfilled in your job, they will come again. They may look a little bit different. The form may look different than it did before, but it's very likely that your happiness does not depend on you getting one very specific role at one very specific company. You're much more likely to end up being happy over the course of your career by shifting through roles and shifting through roles even within the same company. The third principle that you need to focus on when you're looking for a job is environment first thinking. This piggybacks off of the idea we talked about earlier, that jobs are a human process, that hiring is based on relationship. It's based on people. One person connecting with another, this is how jobs are provided. It's how jobs are earned. It's through relationship. When you're working in a job, that working is determined heavily by the environment. You can get a job doing almost anything, and depending on the environment, your happiness in that job could vary greatly. Now, we're not going to claim that we have one specific type of environment that is good and one type of environment that is bad. Some people operate better in one type of environment than another, and that's not to say that the opposite doesn't exist. But you should be asking yourself the questions about environment, just as much as you're asking yourself questions about the skills, the title, the compensation, and even the people. It's very possible to work with people that you admire, that you respect, but because the environment has been cultivated in a particular way, you end up being miserable. Ask yourself questions like, are my values tolerated in this environment? Will they be respected? Will I have to suspend my values when I am working? This disconnect from your values to your job or your employer's values, this can cause stress for some people. Ask yourself, how does this environment hold up to adversity? Does the personality, the collective personality in that environment, is it going to rub you wrong? Are you going to feel a constant pull to get away from it? Are you comfortable, do you feel a sense of psychological safety in this environment? Will you grow in this kind of environment? These are the kinds of questions that you need to ask because the environment that you work in can make a job that you're otherwise perfectly qualified for and excited about, a total miserable mess for you. And on the flip side, the environment could also make a job that you're less qualified for or perhaps even a job with the title that you didn't really care for, the best job that you've ever had. So consider the environment as much as any other factor when you're looking for a job. Overall, I want to encourage you to take a moment to remind yourself that even though you're going through a tumultuous period when you're looking for a job, remind yourself that this is safe, that you're not in any danger when you lose an opportunity that that's a very normal part of a career. When you can't seem to get past the first phase even after trying hard over and over and over, remind yourself that this is very normal. People don't get jobs in their first shot and you're probably not going to be an exception to that. But driven developers have an opportunity, especially when you follow these principles, this people first always growing and environment centric. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to Century for making today's episode possible. Your code is probably broken even in production. And if you want to catch on to the problems that your code has, while it's in production, go and set up Century. Head over to Century.io to get started today. Today's episode and every episode of Developer Teacan be found at spec.fm, along with a host of other great podcasts and content that is made specifically for designers and developers looking to level up in their careers. And you are definitely one of those if you're listening to this episode. So go and check it out, spec.fm. This episode also wouldn't be possible without today's awesome producer, Sarah Jackson. Thank you so much to Sarah for making this thing sound great. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You've been listening to Developer Tea and until next time, enjoy your tea.