We caught up with Flatiron School’s Head of Career Services, Gretchen Jacobi, to create a checklist of the most important things you should do daily and weekly to structure a successful online job search. Plus, Gretchen weighs in on the state of the tech job market during COVID-19 and where to focus your job search.
Gretchen leads the Career Services team at Flatiron School, which includes 85 Career Coaches and 15 Employer Partnerships associates. Career Coaches work directly with students on weekly goal setting, structure, and accountability during their job search. Employer Partnerships associates reach out directly to employers who are hiring for their data science, software engineering, or cybersecurity teams and inform them of the talent and experience that is coming out of Flatiron School classrooms.
Are you finding that employers are largely freezing hiring or are any companies still hiring during the pandemic?
The tech job market is not immune to the economic impact of COVID-19, but it’s buoyed by the fact that most tech jobs can be done remotely, and by the fact that society is leaning on technology more than ever to stay connected and get business done in a socially-distanced world. Some of our employer partners are putting in place hiring freezes or delays, but others are continuing to hire, so our employer partnerships team is pivoting based on new information in the past 6 weeks. We've seen some industries pretty hard hit while other ones are carrying on. We've seen different trends by company size, as well.
Here are the industries we’re focusing on:
Remote Work Tools and Virtual Team Enablers - These are skyrocketing right now. Every remote team is leaning so hard on technology in that way so we're looking into those industries because they're still hiring.
Streaming and Online Content Consumption - These are also growing dramatically. We're all spending more time in front of Netflix.
E-commerce - Overall, discretionary spending is reduced but what does remain of that spending has moved online. There is a whole constellation of vendors that service online transactions, fraud prevention, identify verification, payment processing, and review sites. Stripe is one example.
FinTech: There’s some overlap with e-commerce here, but more broadly digital payments and digital banking are increasing and thus still hiring.
HealthTech: This space is taking off in light of COVID-19. We’re working to support hiring at companies experiencing a surge in demand like urgent care centers, insurance companies, and virtual health platforms.
IT Services & Consulting Firms: These firms are busy supporting many of the large corporations associated with the above industries and are showing no signs of slowing down.
In just the past two weeks, we've seen graduates getting jobs at those types of companies. While hiring has slowed, the well is nowhere near dry. There are fewer opportunities right now so candidates need to bring an even sharper skill set to those opportunities, but we're there to help students put in the extra effort.
What’s the biggest change to the job search now that everything has moved online?
One of the biggest changes that students are making in their job search strategy is of no surprise: they no longer have in-person meetup opportunities. Research tells you that 80% of new jobs filled were never posted, so networking is a huge part of the job search. We always say that people hire people, job boards don't hire people.
Networking has moved from Meetup events, conferences, networking coffees, or in-person informational interviews to the virtual equivalent of all of those things. We have a weekly digest that we send to students that links to virtual events. And many virtual events are being opened up without geographic borders, which is cool!
How long should a coding bootcamper dedicate to the job search?
Setting an unrealistic timeline for getting a job is the quickest way to run out of steam too soon. You should be prepared to support yourself emotionally and financially for a 3-6 month job search. Students certainly can get jobs faster than that. In fact, we report on the percentage of job-seeking graduates who get jobs within 30, 60, 120, 180, and 365 days in our jobs report. But it’s important to go into a job search preparing yourself for the tough bits. While we’ve had incredible placement success in the past, talk to any of our graduates who’ve landed jobs and they will tell you they didn’t get to the finish line without a lot of hard work and some disappointment along the way.
One piece of advice: don’t start the job search until you near the end of your bootcamp. Flatiron School is intense. You're eating, sleeping, drinking your coursework for the 12-24 weeks of your education journey. You will get burnt out if you're attempting too many things. You also won't have mastered the skills that you need to in order to feel comfortable in a technical conversation or to pass a technical interview unless you do the full program.
First, update your online brand. Almost everybody has an online brand presence in the tech field so we've always encouraged students to use tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Medium to identify people who work in the field who have something in common with them, who they want to learn something about, and who they want to learn from. Find ways to contact those people, even in this global health crisis – that will keep you top of mind for opportunities for when companies do open up hiring opportunities again.
It's never too early to be investing in your network. The day you start at Flatiron School, I recommend adding a LinkedIn Summary like, "Active learner acquiring new skills in tech looking for opportunities to apply those skills in [insert field of their choice]." Indicate on your online profiles that you’re preparing to embark on a job search but actively learning at that time.
Choose projects that are relevant to the field you want to get into. At the end of each module at Flatiron School, our students can choose which projects they want to build with the framework that they just learned. Employers are usually impressed by the passion and connective tissue to the student's past when they see those projects.
The best thing you can do to get a job as a Developer or Data Scientist or Cybersecurity Professional is to be a great Developer, Data Scientist, or Cybersecurity Professional. That's the bare minimum. So while you're in the bootcamp, focus on mastering the skills that you need to pass those bars.
Half of your day should be spent on career stuff and the other half on technical stuff. Of course, the two things are related to each other.
Research industries, companies, and people who work there.
Follow Twitter hashtags that you find interesting
Search on job boards and find one company that is actively hiring. Find out who works there, what the culture is like, what the industry is about.
Reach out to at least 3 people per day
Make contact via email, LinkedIn Message, or Twitter DM with real people who work at the companies or in the industries you’re interested in. You can use websites like MailTester.com to guess someone’s email addresses. Craft personalized outreach emails!
Our career services commitment recommends that you reach out to at least 8 people each week but that's a bare minimum number.
Replicate technical job interview experiences.
Find prompts online on sites like Codewars (for software engineers), Kaggle (for data scientists), and Over The Wire (for cybersecurity).
Practice timed coding, or cybersecurity exercises (ie. capture the flag exercises for cybersecurity).
Do mock interviews with your career coach or even with fellow graduates.
Work on a passion project.
Continue learning new things through your passion project.
Document your project and your thought process through a blog or portfolio piece to create conversation starters.
Self-care is even more important today than ever
Unwind in the way that best fills up your cup. For example, find time to connect virtually with your friends. Tap into your personal support system.
Attend one networking event each week
There are all sorts of formats of virtual events that organizations are putting on to continue to build community. Some of them were already happening online but a lot of them are now transitioning to virtual.
Here are a few networking events you can now find online:
Hackathons (there's one called Corona Hack)
Affinity Groups (Women of Color in Tech, LGBTQ in Tech, etc.)
Blog at least once a week
Learn something new each week, and cement your learning by writing it into a blog. You’ll also improve your communication skills through blogging. Employers not only want to see your technical projects, but also hear that you’re able to talk about them. Writing is just a form of communication, so you become a better communicator by writing about what you're learning.
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