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Hit Refresh: Landing the Damn Job

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We’re back with another episode of our podcast Hit Refresh. You can listen on iTunesSoundcloudStitcherOvercastour site, or wherever you get your podcasts.

There’s so much at stake when it comes to finding a job—it’s your livelihood, how you spend your entire days, the amount of money you make, and a major way to contribute to the world.

And, the job search has so many minefields: Where do you even look for jobs? How do you know if you’re qualified? What should you put on your resume? And how do you handle the interview? For this episode, we partnered with the biggest name in job hunting—Glassdoor, whose editorial director Amy Elisa Jackson walks us through the nitty-gritty of landing a job. (And, check out our reading list for a guide with bonus information from Amy Elisa on nailing the job hunt.

And in Act II, we address the part of the job search that nobody likes: networking. The inimitable Jen Dziura of Get Bullish convinces our most stubborn producer that networking isn’t just a necessary evil—it’s actually fun.

Please let us know what you think of the podcast! We’d LOVE it if you could write us a review on iTunes. We’ll read every single one!

***

Landing the Damn Job Transcript

Amy Elisa Jackson: It is very much a job seeker’s market right now: The unemployment rate is low, companies are hiring like crazy and they want talented, engaged individuals to join their ranks, and this is true from Alabama to Austin to—you know—Syracuse. Everywhere is hiring right now. So the ball is really in the job seeker’s court. It’s a good time to be working in America.

Introduction: Let’s Get Technical

Instrumental theme music.

Adda Birnir: This is Hit Refresh, a podcast for anyone who’s stuck and needs a fresh start.
I’m Adda Birnir, a self-taught coder, educator, and CEO & Founder of Skillcrush—an interactive learning community that teaches total beginners the tech skills they need to get into better, higher paying careers with real mobility.

Twice a month, we talk about what it look likes to work in tech and why I think that learning tech skills is the single best career decision any forward-thinking professional can make.

But when I say working in tech, I’m not talking about moving to Silicon Valley, or getting a computer science degree, or magically transforming into a young white guy wearing a hoodie and coding all night. Because at Skillcrush, we know that tech is for EVERYONE.

* * * * *

Job hunting is…nobody’s favorite thing to do. There’s so much at stake. We’re talking your livelihood, what you do all day long, how much money you make, how you’re contributing to the world. . . Oof!

And there are so many moving parts and important, but small, details: Where do you look for jobs? How do you know if you’re qualified? What should your resume say? And what about the interview?! It’s enough to make anyone tear their hair out.

So if you are currently looking for a new job, I want you to know that if what you’re doing feels hard, it’s because it is hard. But you’re not in this alone.

As you might guess, I’m constantly talking to our students about looking for jobs. And whenever I get the chance to talk to a student who’s looking for work, I always tell them them my best piece of job hunting advice, even though I know it’s the hardest advice to follow: You should approach your job search like a learning experience, where you test and learn until you get it right. And most importantly, don’t judge yourself as you go through the process.

Try not to think about each new job you apply to as the one—the job to end all jobs, the job that will solve all your problems. Because even if it feels true at the time, there is no job that will solve all your problems. Nothing will solve all your problems. Let me just break it to you right now: Being alive means having problems, no matter what your job is.

Alright, now that I’ve lectured to you about your job-hunting mindset, it’s time for some nitty-gritty tactics on how to nail the job hunt. Our producers Julia Sonenshein and Haele Wolfe have the story.

Act 1: The Nuts and Bolts

Haele Wolfe: The job search can be overwhelming and full of anxiety. And it can be doubly so if you’ve been out of the game for a while, or if you’re changing careers. I’m relatively new to Skillcrush, and I remember that when I was on the job market, I couldn’t find concrete answers to my questions about what it looks like to land a job. So. . . I went and got answers to every question I had.

Amy Elisa: Awesome. Well my name is Amy Elisa Jackson and I am the editorial director here at Glassdoor.

Haele: Amy Elisa ran me through the specifics—beginning with basics. How do you even start to look for a job?

Amy Elisa: I do think that when before you kind of start your job search process, really getting clear about what you want is the first step. Do you want an open office environment? Do you want a closed door? Do you want a casual environment? And that’s true for the senior executive for the intern or new hire. You always wanna take a look at what interests you most—not just in terms of skill and job description—but also how you want to spend your days.

Haele: Like I said: basics. It’s important to note here that there are a lot of little, practical things to remember when beginning your job search. Like, when you’re reading job descriptions, how many of the qualifications should you fit? How much should you assume you can learn on the fly? This is particularly important for women. We usually apply to jobs only if we are 100 percent qualified for them. While guys, tend to wing it a little more—and there’s hard data to back that up. I’ll let Julia explain.

Julia Sonenshein: Just popping in to say that this is a real thing— an internal Hewlett Packard found that men tend to apply for jobs when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 percent of them. To quote Huffington Post editor Chloe Angyl, “Lord, give me the confidence of one white man who has read one book on the topic”. Back to Amy Elisa and Haele.

Amy Elisa: I personally really recommend that a job seeker try to match about 80 percent of the qualifications. I think that’s a safe zone where you’re confident that you could perform the job but you’d also be able to kind of stretch and learn that extra 20 percent. Some qualifications have a little wiggle room like the number of years of experience. However, some areas are set in stone. For example, if you’re applying to a sales manager position but you have no sales experience, you probably shouldn’t apply. But if it’s just a regular sales role, you can definitely wing it.

Haele: Okay so once you’ve found this listing, what do you with your resume? Do you just like send it in? Amy Elisa says not so fast. . .in fact, she has three key resume tips:

Amy Elisa: I’ve interviewed dozens of recruiters and hiring managers and they say that a winning resume has a few amazing qualities.

Haele: Okay, #1: Your resume needs to quantify your impact.

Amy Elisa: So you’ve gotta really make it obvious with data how you have impacted the business and work you’ve done previously. And so even if you are new to the field or job market, you can quantify your impact in college classes, or other work, volunteering, etc.

Haele: #2: Customize your resume for each and every job.

Amy Elisa: You want relevant skills and experience on your resume. These days, it’s key to have a resume that’s customized to the role you’re applying for. You should include some of the same language from the job descriptions around skills and responsibilities into the resume that you’re using to apply for this job. So, of course you should be honest, but, you should make sure that the skills you have and that you’re presenting on your resume line up with the job description.

Haele: #3: Make SURE it’s easy to read.

Amy Elisa: All recruiters and hiring managers love a well organized and formatted resume. It should be very clear, very concise—don’t go crazy with etsy downloadable templates—I love them too but fight the feeling. You want it to be simple and consistent. And lastly, the thing that we all take for granted when we’re job searching is spelling and grammar and accuracy. Spell check multiple times and have a friend review your resume.

Haele: If you’re furiously taking notes right now, don’t panic—we partnered with Amy Elisa and Glassdoor to make a free, downloadable guide with all of this info. Just head to skillcrush.com/newjob.

Haele: Okay great. So, you sent in your resume, you heard back, now you have the interview. How do you prepare for the interview, especially if you are a nervous person like I am?

Amy Elisa: So we all get nerves. We are all anxious before the interview. But what recruiters and hiring managers that I talk to say is they really want informed candidates and those informed candidates: people who are well researched, engaged, and have the right qualifications. So you’ve done your research, you know what it is you really want, and you really do like this company. A lot of people fail to do this but it’s important.

Haele: Okay, but how do you get informed about a company? Good news. It’s as simple as a quick Google search and a little bit of time spent on social media.

Amy Elisa: Check out their Twitter handle. What are they saying on LinkedIn? What’s the latest article about them in the New York Times? And so making sure in your preparation before the interview that you’re as informed about a company as possible will make you a better candidate and more likely to be hired.

Haele: The other big thing in preparing for an interview is. . .

Amy Elisa: Practice, practice, practice.

You should also prepare anecdotes about you know, how you solved a challenging problem at work or about how you would talk about that gap in your resume or why your skills from profession are transferable to this new field.

Haele: Great. Now, what else should you be looking out for during your interview?

Amy Elisa: One of the biggest mistakes that job seekers make when they are in an interview is that they forget to ask informed questions of their hiring manager or the people that they’re interviewing with. Like, how does this position to the larger organization’s success? Or, can you walk me through your typical workday? How does employee feedback get incorporated into the day-to-day?

Haele: Amy Elisa is such an expert, I had to ask her opinion on how to deal with my own personal point of anxiety when it comes to job interviews. How the heck do you respond when someone asks: What’s your greatest weakness? Ugh.

Amy Elisa: Aghhhh! The what’s your greatest weakness question is one that gets everyone. It’s tricky because you don’t have to give a gimmicky answer about sort of “Oh, my biggest weakness is I’m a perfectionist or I’m a workaholic.” That is not honest, and the recruiter or the hiring manager will know that that is not it. So instead of softballing this, you really want to focus on what is a weakness that you really wanna work on. Perhaps a weakness is that you’re not as good at coding as you wanna be and so currently you’re enrolled in a SQL training course. You want to make sure that they don’t think it’s something that is a shortcoming you aren’t trying to address or don’t want to fix. And so identify that weakness and then say how you’re trying to remedy it or how you have been working towards improving. No need to panic when you get the what’s your greatest weakness question.

Haele: It’s all about balance. The best way to address these moments of anxiety, is to put them in the context of where you’re applying and what you want to do, and then attack them in a very logical way. Got it! So, I listened to most of this podcast, I fixed my resume, and had a great interview. I’m laying in bed coming down from that high, and I am trying to formulate the follow up email in my head. What am I gonna write?

Amy Elisa: If your grandmother did not teach you, a thank you note goes a long way. Okay, so when you’re in your interview, you should be sure to get the contact information of all of your interviewers at the end of the interview. I know that seems like overwhelming especially in a panel interview where’s there’s probably six people in the room, but don’t hesitate to ask because you want to follow up with each of the people that you’ve interviewed with. You really want to thank each interviewer and for the opportunity that they provided in taking time to speak with you and then don’t hesitate to include a reference about something you two spoke about. So you should send that follow up email either that night or the next morning. You want to stay on their minds and reinforce why you’re a perfect fit for the job.

Haele: There’s one more thing I wanted to address with Amy Elisa. But what about those of us re-entering the workforce? Let’s face it: There’s a lot of anxiety around coming back onto the job market after a break, or around transitioning from one field to another. What’s the secret to starting strong and setting yourself up for success?

Amy Elisa: One of the the first things i would suggest a transitioner do is really write down those hard and soft skills, those skills that you have, whether that’s good communication which is an example of a soft skill or a technical skill such as Python or you know being able to operate a certain type of machinery or a certification you’ve received. There’s nothing better than a boost when you’re kind of looking at a sheet of paper that’s got all your skills and you’re like, “You know what? I’m kind of a badass, like I do have something to offer!” Don’t hesitate to talk to other career transitioners. You know, you can see what other people have done either through social media or talking to friends or mentors.

Don’t think that you’re the only one in that boat. So many people are transitioning careers or are coming back into the career space, the professional space either from raising children or traveling or taking care of an elderly parent.

Haele: Feeling ready to get hired? Don’t worry, we’ve still got one more segment to get you prepped for finding your dream career. Right, Julia?

Julia: Hey. . .When we come back, we’ll tackle my least favorite thing: networking. Apparently, it doesn’t have to be painful at all. We’ll see.

Act 2: Ugh, Networking

Julia: Okay, so Amy Elisa mentioned reaching out to people, which sounds suspiciously like networking, which is blech. . .
Haele: I bet in ten minutes or less I could change your mind about networking.
Julia: Are we betting money?

Jen Dziura: Hi, this is Jen Dziura from Get Bullish, for feminist productivity badasses.

Haele: Jen has been giving her brand of aggressive lady advice for years now, as a writer, educator, speaker, mentor—you name it. She also writes Slay and Get Paid, a monthly column on Skillcrush’s blog, which is your go to for that freelance life.

Haele: How’s your day going?
Jen: It’s pretty good. Yeah, how about yourself?
Haele: It’s been really nice. I’m just kind of enjoying cozying up because the weather is so cold.
Jen: Yeah, terrible. Not looking forward.

Julia: Haele, this is kind of a long intro we can probably cut it—
Haele: Just stick with it! Give it a sec.

Jen: I actually bought some snow pants the other day, like actual ski pants with the little overalls attached.
Haele: Nice.

Julia: Okay, yeah, we can keep rolling on that.

Jen: —and I have never skied and I have no intention of ever skiing. It does not sound like fun, but I’m going to wear the ski pants. I’m just going to wear them. And I’m going to make them look good. It’s going to be an awesome look for me, but I’m going to be wearing the ski pants all winter.
Haele: That’s great news. I’m really happy to hear that. Laughs.
Jen: It’s my new thing.
Haele: After the ski pant segue, I think that’s a really natural segue to talk about networking. Both laugh.

Haele: Okay, so, Julia, you’re obviously not alone in hating networking—for maybe obvious reasons.

Jen: I mean, it’s awful. Of course people don’t like things that are objectively terrible. Like let’s stand around and have awkward conversations with strangers where we pretend we don’t want something from them but we kind of do and also like you’re drinking out of a plastic cup usually. And I think it’s totally justified if you acknowledge that most networking events are pretty terrible.

Julia: Yes! Okay. It’s terrible. Let’s throw the whole thing out.
Haele: Enh, keep your ski pants on.

Jen: Um, But, I think there’s a really big difference between networking events and networking, and I think there are a lot of other options that are more palatable and more honest, more enjoyable, and involves sitting. More sitting.
Haele: Laughs. Okay, Great.
Jen: Okay. So, there are lots and lots of things that you can do. Let’s just start with social media. You know, you’re sitting at your desk, you’re probably doing it already, you’re on your couch, your phone, whatever. Have you ever heard of like, reading a book? And then, like, you know tweeting an intelligent question at the person who wrote it. You know like, that’s a great way to start networking. I would say compliments in general are a great way to network. It doesn’t have to be authors, it doesn’t have to be famous people, it can be people who wrote articles, people who wrote blog posts, just people who you saw speak at an event. Tweeting compliments and questions at people is a great idea. And of course you know people enjoy when you promote their things for them, or you tweet just about them and don’t even demand anything—you know you post on LinkedIn that you really enjoyed their book or something like that. All of that is networking. If you can, rather than just kind of cheerleading in the background, if you can you actually engage in some kind of one-on-one interaction with the person, and you know I really enjoyed your article, I have a question, would you mind if i quoted your article in my article, or, do you ever speak at an event in Chicago? Any of those kinds of things where you have a little bit of a one-on-one interaction, I mean frankly the person is more likely to remember that than they are to remember shaking hands with you at an event where they shook hands with 20 other people. So, all of those things count. And I mean that’s stuff you can do with no pants.

Julia: Stuff you can do with no pants is really speaking to me.
Haele: I thought it might. Okay, so then, there’s ways to actually host your own networking event in a totally not awful way.

Jen: You know another thing I think is really underrated as a networking possibility is hosting your own event and I’m saying this from the perspective of somebody who’s probably not a social butterfly and doesn’t want to put on a party. My friend Jennifer Wright has been running an article club for a couple of years, and an article club is exactly what it sounds like: It’s like a book club but you read articles and often times the articles are things that are related to business or related to you know, generally like articles about feminism in the Atlantic, that kind of thing. And you know, that’s the kind of thing where I go to Jennifer’s apartment and maybe 10 people are sitting around her couch and there are mini cupcakes and there’s wine and we talk about articles in the Atlantic. You know? And that is so much more palatable to me, because there’s sitting, right? There’s people that I already know. No one shakes hands that would be weird, and it’s a great time.

Julia: Why aren’t we part of one of these?
Haele: We’d have to put pants on.
Julia: Fair point.

Jen: Hosting your own event can be a fantastic to way to network and honestly if what you host is a brunch at a restaurant, uh how many people do you need to have a good brunch? Like, three? You know? Five? that’s a great number. That’s all you have to do.

You know, if you are a big introvert, you really just need like one or two extroverts in your life that you invite to these things. You like, kind of send them an email every now and then. There are some people who live to send introductions to people and hook everybody up—that’s their thing. And, if that’s not you, you don’t have to make that you, but you want to just know a few of those people. If you invite somebody like that to your brunch or your article club, they’re probably going to show up late and leave early cause they have a lot of other events, and that’s okay—we can all be different. Laughs. Uh, you know, that your introverted friends and co-workers are going to have a long, leisurely brunch discussion about, you know, whatever the topic is, and your extroverts friends or colleagues are gonna pop in but then they’re gonna hit you later with emails with 100 contacts or something like that, and it takes all kinds.

Haele: I think that what Jen also makes clear is that something many of us hate about the idea of networking is interacting with strangers in this nebulous blech world of pitching ourselves to them.
Julia: No, thank you.

Jen: Ughhhhh. The worst! The absolute worst. And you know, the elevator pitch thing. You know, I’m pretty good on my feet, if you ask me for an elevator pitch I’ll pull one out of my ass, you know, like sure. But I would much rather be in a room with people or sitting at brunch with people who already know who I am. Because they’ve read something that I wrote or they heard me on this podcast. Or we have been retweeting each other for years. And that’s really possible. You don’t have to be a famous person or a jackass. You know like, “Everybody knows my name before I walk into a room.” I think if you said that in 1995 you’re a jackass. or you’re just genuinely really famous. But in 2017 and beyond, that’s completely reasonable. And I just don’t think that the elevator pitch to strangers thing is as fundamental a piece of the mix as it would have been in 1995.
Haele: The pathways between us have changed so in some ways, we’re way more reachable to each other.
Jen: Absolutely.
Haele: So, the idea here is that networking can look a ton of different ways, and it’s about finding the right one for you.
Jen: Sure, you know I would say for anybody, network is something that should be somewhere on your calendar, and for some people that might be four conferences a year. For some people, that might be an hour a week on Twitter. So, you need to have, I would say, sit down and say “If I were going to add something to my calendar now that is networking, what would be realistic and what would I not hate?” So, if you’re gonna put like, “Yes! I’m gonna go to three networking events in the evening, in my town, in the winter, and I’m gonna shake hands.” If you hate yourself as you’re putting it in your calendar, then don’t put that in your calendar.

Julia: Okay, how would I decide what’s best for me?
Haele: It depends.

Jen: You know, it’s a great question. I mean if I think a lot of times this really just varies based on where you live, what the environment is. When I lived—so I live in New York right now and when I go to something that’s called a networking event it’s often a party and dudes hit on you and they’re all are all women networking events which I like a lot more, but, there’s definitely more of a social life and work really blend together and that’s just a New York kind of thing. When I lived in Virginia, I used to run a web development company in Norfolk Virginia and networking events there were held in very well lit places at like 5pm and everyone was shaking hands and like exchanging business cards and you know sometimes dudes would still hit on your and like nevertheless…Laughs…there was a cheese plate and everyone left at 6:45 laughs it was really specifically more of a work event uh….wow that was a really evocative memory and I forgot what the question is quite frankly. Both laugh.

Jen: So anyways, people sometimes look at networking as something that you just should do just because it’s virtuous and it’s helpful to have a golden line. So if you’re in more of an unfocused part of your career, like you’re just kind of looking for new opportunities, you’re not sure what they’re going to be, then Ii would say you want to get out there and you want to probably want to go to events that have nothing to do with you and just try to meet a variety of people. If you’re looking to just build a sales pipeline, you don’t need to hide that. It’s perfectly acceptable to say to people you know you can hang out people and meet cool new friends and you can say “My ideal client is a real estate agent who is looking to put their listings online” or something like that. Just tell people that in a really direct way. Like, you’re not sneaking it in there.

Haele: Did you catch that? Jen just brought up a super interesting point about why you might hate networking.
Julia: Because it’s pure misery?
Haele: I mean yeah, but also for a reason you’re going to find super compelling: socialization.

Jen: Something that I’ve noticed over many years of you know what I have been doing in writing about careers and business and giving advice there’s just, I see a lot of—there’s something about being socialized female, I don’t know, but people who act sneaky about things that they don’t have to be sneaky about, like it’s a dirty secret that you’re selling something or that you have a business that you need customers for.

Julia: That is. . .so on point. We’re all told it’s gauche to talk about money, but especially marginalized people are told not to ask for what they want, not to take up space, etc. Of course networking feels gross—it’s a way of getting what you want, and we’re not supposed to.
Haele: Totally.
Julia: It’s like how when I was first starting out, I used to follow up on late invoices by starting with “Sorry.”
Haele: It’s funny you should mention that. . .

Jen: In one case, I actually had someone I was working with at a publication and I had sent an invoice and the invoice was late and I said “Hey, can you check on up on this with accounting and make sure the invoice gets paid?” And she said “Oh, I went to the accounting office and like snuck the paper onto the top of the stack of papers.” You know? Like she was really doing me a solid by sneaking this piece of paper. And I’m like No! There’s no secret here! There’s nothing sneaky! Nobody’s doing anything wrong! Don’t act like you’re doing something wrong when you’re not doing something wrong. So it’s just behavior that I see a lot. And occasionally find myself doing something like that and I say “Cut it out,” you know like there’s nothing wrong with having a business and wanting customers who pay you money for value that you provide.

Haele: I mean, how can you not believe Jen? Networking actually isn’t the worst.
Julia: Yeah, she makes a very compelling case and it doesn’t sound gross, I don’t know. She described things that sound like fun.
Haele: Yeah, exactly. So do you believe me now?
Julia: How much money did we put on this?

* * * * *

Adda: So, as you’ve heard, interviewing for jobs is like dating. Networking is just about making friends. And just like dating and making friends it’s complicated and messy, but also exciting and fun.

And it’s okay to have lots of feelings about it. It’s okay to be nervous.

But try to think about every job interview like a 30 minute 1-on-1 mentoring session with a person currently working in the industry who has tons of knowledge. It’s an opportunity.

This way, even if you don’t get the job, you’ve networked and learned from them, which will make you better prepared for you next job interview.

The thing that I love most about working in tech is that it’s taught me to truly embrace the iterative nature of everything—we roll out new versions of our classes and website constantly, trying tiny tweaks here and big changes there to see what works best. Treat the job hunt—heck, treat your entire career—exactly the same way: something that you can test and refine until you find the perfect fit.

You always start small. Everyone always starts small.

Maybe you’re starting with no marketable skills. I honestly doubt that that’s true, but even if it were true, that’s totally okay! Start looking at jobs you’re interested in and use them as your guide for what to learn.

Maybe you go to a job interview and realize halfway through that you’re in no way qualified for the job. That’s totally okay, too!

Just make sure you leave the interview understanding what it would take to be qualified, and then use that information to make a game plan.

Maybe you don’t know a single person in the industry you want to go into. And guess what? That too is totally okay! Yes, you’ve got your networking work cut out for you, but as you’ve heard, it’s not as difficult as you probably thought.

We’re all one iterative work-in-progress. And don’t think about that like it means you’re not good enough. Think about it as keeping things fun. Trying new things and getting better is never boring. So go out there and start applying. You’ve totally got this.

Haele: We’re produced by me—Haele Wolfe—and Julia Sun-en-shine. We’re edited and our music is composed by Arlen Ginsburg. Our art is by Monalisa Kabos. Huge thanks to Amy Elisa Jackson from Glassdoor for walking us through the interview process—and you can get more of her critical tips at skillcrush.com/newjob. Jen Dzuira somehow convinced Julia that networking can be fun, and she has an amazing online store with patriarchy-smashing products over at shop.getbullish.com. I’m going to use the money I won off that networking bet to treat myself and to do some holiday shopping.

Shoutout to our whole crew at Skillcrush—especially to Laura and Libby who work so hard as career counselors to our students. We love you.

You can find us on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and PLEASE leave us a review. We read every single one. We also want to let you know that we make so much more content that can help you move forward in your career—whether you’re a total tech newbie or navigating your new skills on the job market. Come hang out with us at skillcrush.com/blog for articles, worksheets, guides, and even comics. Our newsletter is awesome, so be sure to sign up. We’re taking a break for the holidays, but we’ll be back with all new episodes in January. Thanks for closing out 2017 with us and we’ll see you next year.

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