Sarah Katz

NYC-Based Full Stack JS Developer

From the mind of Sarah...

Job Search Reset: Changing It Up

August 19, 2019

Six months. That's how long it has been since I started my full-time job search (a little over 6 months, actually - my last day at my old job was February 14th). I've written extensively about the job search, and for the most part, I've remained positive and shared the silver linings of disappointments. Job searching is incredibly difficult and exhausting, and I've tried to be honest about that, but being negative just makes it more stressful, so I felt that it was important to show the world my positive attitude. Good things were just around the corner, and I wanted to focus more on that than on the negative things behind me.

But on the inside I was hiding a secret. I wasn't feeling positive. I had to work hard to see the silver linings. I didn't think good things were just around the corner. I knew that the positivity I was putting out there for the world to see was a lie. I may have been telling the world that I was looking on the bright side and knew something good was coming, but some days I wondered whether I would ever get a job and was trying to figure out what my next career would be, since software development clearly wasn't working for me.

There came a point where things started to become too much. After having to skip a CodeNewbies twitter chat because I was feeling overwhelmed, I ended up logging out of my dev twitter account on my computer because I felt like I couldn't be a part of the discussions. I wasn't a developer, what right did I have to participate? I enjoy working in tech and wanted to stay in the field, and since I knew I wasn't likely to find another developer job, I started researching UX Design classes to see if maybe could I leverage my graphic design background to stay in tech without being a developer.

The way I saw it (the way I still see it, honestly), the best option is for me to find a company that is okay with my limited experience and is willing to spend the time to bring me up to speed. I considered posting something on LinkedIn asking my network if anyone's company was willing to take this risk, but I was afraid that saying flat-out that I know that hiring me means taking a leap of faith would hurt me more than it helped.

I knew that I would feel better once I publicly articulated the fact that I'd be best suited for a company that has the resources to spend a little extra time bringing me up to speed. I decided to share a thread about my job search experience on twitter, and having that out there did make me feel a little better.

But I still wasn't quite there.

Wednesday morning I went out for a short run - not an abnormal thing for me to do on a Wednesday - and it seemed like the job search stress was bleeding into my running a little, because I was just feeling like absolute garbage. I stopped to change my playlist (which helps sometimes on runs), and while I was picking out a new playlist, I saw some responses from my twitter friends reminding me that yes, how I'm feeling sucks, but there are people who I can talk to. I started my new playlist and went back to my run ... and realized that I needed a bit of a reset on my job search. Ideas for what to do kept coming to me (to the point where I stopped my run again to write them on my phone as an email draft so that I wouldn't forget). Once I had ideas about how I wanted to reset my job search, I started to feel so much better, and the optimism that had been sorely missing from my search recently started to come back.

Here are some of the things I'm doing to change up my search:

Company First Approach

It's been a long time since I had a "dream" company, so I've been focusing my search more on what jobs are available, not what companies are hiring. Reflecting on a recent phone interview where I really struggled to articulate why I was interested in the company, I realized that if I'm not passionate about the company, I'm not going to put my best foot forward in the application and interview process. So I decided to flip this around and look at companies more than jobs. This is especially true because at this point in my career, I'm more interested in finding the right company where I can flourish than some of the exact work I'll be doing, and the best way to find the right company is by focusing on companies.

I decided to try to find companies with offices in NYC that interest me (I'm also potentially considering companies outside of NYC if I'm very passionate about the company, but my preference is to stay in NY). For each company, I want to make a list of 2-3 things I really like about the company. That way, when the company is hiring, I know why I want to work for the company and I can mention one or more of those reasons in my cover letter. If I can't come up with at least 2 reasons why I like a company, then I won't actively seek out opportunities at that company.

That said, I will still be looking at job boards to see what jobs are available. But for each job that I think I may be interested in, I want to make this same list of reasons why I like the company. I won't apply for a job until I have this list. It may limit my options, but it's also a way to ensure that I'm applying for the jobs that are the best fit for me.

Connect With The Company

A few months back, someone connected me with a recruiter, and while that recruiter wasn't able to refer me for any positions, he did give me a great tip - after applying for a position, reach out to someone on the team (in my case, it would be an engineering manager or CTO) to let them know I'm interested in the position. I was doing that for a while, but then stopped. I may start doing that again, but another idea I had was to email the general talent/recruiting email (if I can find it) to let them know that I applied. In this email, I would also include the reasons I want to work for the company - yet another good thing about having those reasons before I apply - and I might also attach my resume and cover letter, so that they're readily available to the recruiter.

I might also consider reaching out to any connections I have at the company, but I am hesitant to do that, because I don't want it to reflect badly on my connection if I'm not a good match.

However I do it, I need to make sure my information is seen by a human being - even if it doesn't work out (or if the human being who gets my email/LinkedIn connection request just ignores it), I need to know that I'm giving myself the best shot to meet with this company.

Better Organize My Search

One thing that I've noticed about my job search is that I haven't been very organized about it. I have a google doc with a list of all the jobs I've applied to and conversations I've had, but it's not very organized. Since I'm normally a very organized person, not having started off more organized has been a small source of stress for me throughout the job search, but since I'm doing a reset now, it seemed like a good opportunity to better organize my job search going forward.

My initial thought was to create a spreadsheet with the names of the companies I'm interested in, some information about each company, the reasons I want to work for that company, and what (if any) jobs I have applied for at that company. As I was making the spreadsheet, I realized that there had to be a better way to do it. I needed something where I could have companies listed in an organized manner, have jobs listed in an organized manner, connect jobs to companies, and possibly even have supporting documentation for each job application. A spreadsheet wasn't going to do that.

A few weeks ago, I read an article from Emma Wedekind on dev.to called "Top 3 Tools For Boosting Your Productivity". One of the tools that Emma mentions is Notion, a piece of software that calls itself an "all-in-one workspace", but really seems like more of a life organizer. Which is exactly what I need. You can have notes, boards, to-do lists, tasks ... anything you might need to organize yourself, it's an option.

At first I wasn't sure how to best use notion. I wanted a list of companies and a list of jobs, and I wanted them to be connected, but I wasn't sure how best to do it. I wasn't sure how (and if) to use templates. What I ended up doing was creating a list of companies, and then used the "applicant tracker" template to list jobs (I didn't realize there was a job application template ... but I like this one better anyway).

List of companies with a few tags for each company so that I know a bit about them at first glance

For each company, I have the website, careers site, and the reasons I want to work there. I then created a "relation" property for each job I applied for. Jobs have the company, title, job description, contact, and I attached all of the supporting files (resume, cover letter, interview notes). I also write notes at the bottom, including the dates of all my interviews and anything else I want to remember about the job.

Job View - Name of job with information about the job and dated details about the process

Better organizing my job search has helped me create a mental reset and ensure that I am doing everything I can to put myself in a good position to land my next awesome job. I still have some work to do to get myself to 100% organized, but I'm getting there.

This week was really an eye opener for me with my job search. I really felt like I had hit a low point in my search and there was no coming back from that. But sometimes when you start to feel really discouraged, making some changes can impact your mood and renew your enthusiasm. I've talked about making small changes to the job search when things are not going as expected, but this is the first time I've felt like I was radically reframing my job search plan - and I'm pleasantly surprised about how much excitement this new approach has brought to my search.

It was hard for me to admit how much I was struggling with the job search. Only once I admitted that was I able to reframe my job search in a better way. Sometimes you have to give up on something - but then start on the next thing (which may just be the original thing reframed) right away.

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