Whether you are happy with your current technical career or are working a job only for a paycheck, you probably dream of a better place. If you wish for a fulfilling career where your work matters and you are happy with your pay and benefits, then you must take action. Often in technical fields, employees are hired at competitive pay with good benefits. Unfortunately, years of small bonuses, small raises (around 1%-3%), and no promotions mean that employees are less and less happy in their current tech position. Those willing to leave or move to a different position within a company can make huge career jumps with competitive salaries.
To land your dream job, you need to take the following actions:
Determine Your Dream Job
To figure out what your dream job is, you must first understand what is important to you in terms of your career. There are entire books dedicated to help you set career goals and that is beyond the scope of this article.
After you have an idea of the career field that you want to pursue, look at a LOT of job postings. Don’t limit your search by location. You’re looking for information about the career, not necessarily looking for a job right now. Look at details and reviews for different companies. Do research on cities for possible relocation. Use that information to narrow down your search for a few dream jobs. Indeed.com is a great resource for technical and engineering jobs. If you’re intelligent, ambitious, and hard-working, do consider jobs with intimidating requirements. Employers look for people that can learn and aren’t afraid of change.
Understand the Job Requirements
After you find a few dream jobs, look closely at the requirements. If there are terms or acronyms that you aren’t familiar with, Google them. When you are ready to apply for your dream jobs, you will need to meet 90% off the basic qualifications in the job requirements, and meet around 50% of the preferred requirements.
Learn New Skills
Based on the requirements of your dream job, you will need to learn new skills and possibly obtain a degree or complete certifications. Keep in mind that you might need to take intermediate jobs to improve your work history before you can apply for that dream job. Make a plan. For example, “I will complete these 3 Lynda.com courses in the next 6 months.”
Prepare Work Samples
Depending on your career field, potential employers might require that you provide work samples. It’s a good idea to have these prepared before you apply for jobs. Consider the projects that you’ve worked on over the past few years. Find examples of highly technical work, user-friendly work, or ways that you have increased productivity or saved your employer money. Get your work examples on your LinkedIn account or personal website.
As you are considering your accomplishments, take notes for resume topics.
Update Your Resume
After you have acquired the skills and experience to take you to the next level in your career, you need to update your resume. Do this by looking at the requirements for your dream job. Make sure that you have listed the qualifications and qualities that your potential employer is looking for. Don’t copy their text verbatim, or they might toss your resume on principle. Keep in mind that you can adapt your basic resume to the needs of the particular job and deliver a custom resume when you apply.
Apply for Jobs
After your resume, social media pages, and websites are ready, you need to apply for jobs. Do not limit yourself to one employer. The best possible position that you can be in is to receive multiple offers. This gives you options and leverage. If you apply for one job, then you want the company to choose you. If you apply to many and work through the interview process to get multiple offers, then YOU are choosing between companies and teams. Refer to the following list of tips throughout the process:
- Do NOT provide a number for your current salary. Instead say “I am very well compensated at my current job.”
- Do NOT provide a number for your desired salary. Instead say “I have done research and am familiar with the salaries at your company and your city. I expect a very competitive salary, bonus, and benefits package.” Do your research and have a number in your mind, accounting for lifestyle changes and the cost of living differences between cities. (CNN Money has a great cost of living calculator.)
- DO communicate that you are interviewing at multiple companies, often mentioning them by name, particularly if it’s Google, Cisco, Microsoft, or another recognized tech company.
- DO research the company and the area so that you can ask good and important questions during your interview. Glassdoor has a great article about questions you should ask an interviewer.
Prepare for Interviews
After you apply for jobs, most tech companies require a series of interviews, usually in the following order:
- Phone screening – The hiring manager or recruiter talks to you on the phone to determine whether to continue the interview process. In this call, you need to be friendly and knowledgeable about the company to which you are applying. You should also be ready to answer questions about your motivation for looking for a job, and your job history.
- Technical phone interview(s) – After the recruiter determines that you make a good candidate for employment, they will set up one or more phone interviews (and possibly web conference meetings) to discover the depth of your skills and whether those skills match the position. For these interviews, be prepared for tests. To prepare for these interviews, go to a website like glassdoor, and read about the company, and prepare answers to all of the questions that you see in the Interviews section for both the company and the job position in general. Learn more about the company, and scour their website for leadership qualities and company mission statements. You really cannot over-prepare for your technical interview. Keep in mind that interviewers will often ask behavioral questions. Use the STAR method to answer interview questions.
- On-site interview – Most technical companies have all-day on-site interviews. You should drive or fly to the interview city, spend the night in a hotel, then wake up refreshed and ready for your interviews. Arrive at the appointed location at least 15 minutes early. Bring your resume with you and bring a notebook with prepared questions. You might be interviewed by HR, managers, potential coworkers, or subject matter experts. If you are a programmer, you will be solving problems on a whiteboard in code or pseudocode. Lunch will be provided, but don’t let down your guard. Lunch is also an interview. Everyone that you interact with is reporting whether you have the technical skills to do the job,whether they would like to sit and have a cup of coffee with you, and ultimately whether you are someone that they would enjoy working with.
Don’t forget that the interview process is a two-way street. Not only are they looking for the right fit for their team, YOU are looking for the right team for you. If a company pays you a ridiculous amount of money, and you LOVE the product that you’re working on, if you have a bad manager or can’t stand the team members, then you will be miserable. People are important. Make sure that you have met (either in person or on the phone) your manager and at least a few people that you will work with daily.
Communicating After Interviews
After your on-site interviews, you will work with the recruiter to learn the results of your interviews. If the company is interested in making an offer to you, you will need to talk about your expectations. As stated in the tips above, do NOT give them a number. Tell them to make their best offer.
If you are going to be in a multiple-offer situation, tell your potential employers, “I plan to consider all offers during the last week of the month. Does that timeline work for you?”
If you have interviewed with a large company that is considering you for multiple positions (like Google), when they make an offer, it will be with a specific team. At that time, request to talk on the phone or have a web conference with your manager and team members, because you might not have met them during the interview process.
When you begin to receive job offers, you might be tempted to take the first great offer. Remember, you should ALWAYS negotiate. Companies are not going to make their best offer up front. For information about negotiating a great salary, check back next month.