Looking for a new job requires skills that we rarely use in our day-to-day careers. I’m on the job market myself at the moment, and I thought it would be helpful to share my experiences and observations about the job search, both as a seeker and as someone who has hired junior engineers.
Step one is the search for openings and how to approach it. I’ll write about interviews and offers in subsequent posts.
Capabilities and Limitations
The most important element in this phase of the job search is understanding your capabilities and your limitations. “Above all, don’t lie to yourself” is a famous quotation from The Brothers Karamazov. This is critically important at this stage of your search.
I was hired for my first ever networking job with no actual experience. But I knew the theory and fundamentals better than the people who interviewed me. And I had a deep background in server operations & deployments. But if you think you can get a senior architect role right out of college, you are violating this important rule.
If you’ve been a network engineer for 5 years and have no upward mobility at your current company, you could shoot for a senior role, or heavens forbid, management. To do so, you have to develop an “elevator pitch” for why you are the right fit for a potential job. If you fully understand you capabilities, it makes answering that question simple.
Networking & Recruiters
Another element of the search process is networking;
the one where you have to exchange packets with actual people. I cannot emphasize this facet of your career enough. You will meet many people, from vendors to co-workers. As these people meander off to other companies, you never know when they can help. When there are hundreds of applications for a position, having a person at that company put in a good word for you provides a huge boost.
Networking can also provide insight into potential openings. The wireless vendor certainly knows which of his other customers could use more help. Or even if the wireless vendor is looking to expand.
Recruiters are another option for finding a job, but keep these points in mind.
never pay a recruiter or recruiting company for any service. I have used recruiters for 50% of the jobs in my life and never paid a dime. Proper recruiters are compensated by the end companies. You are what is being sold.
, you can use more than one recruiter, but be 100% honest and transparent with them if you do. If a recruiter books you a meeting with a company, you are locked to that recruiter for that opportunity. Building a long-term relationship with recruiters can also provide you with future opportunities, so don’t burn bridges.
Finally, now that you have some potential opportunities, it is time to send a resume or CV. There are thousands of books and websites on how to create a resume, so I will limit this to my viewpoints as a hiring manager.
Grammar and spelling matter. Nothing distracts me more than seeing obvious typos. If you are not a native speaker, get assistance. If you want to be a professional, look like it from the start.
Avoid the laundry list of skills. I see this recommendation with the reasoning that this will allow your resume to get more “hits”. But if you are relying on a database process to find your next job, you need to network more.
The problem with this list is that is provides a potential technical interviewer ammunition. If you have a list on your resume, I guarantee that I will find the most obscure item that I understand and start quizzing you on it.
I remember one such instance. “Oh, so you know IPX/SPX? Great, tell me the difference between IPX & SPX. Then tell me the difference in L3 host addressing when compared to IP.” This was a more junior engineer who had great skills, but set themselves up for the question. I didn’t hire them, but it was not because of the non-answer to my question.
Keep your resume simple and straightforward. Sell yourself and your skills. Tell me what you have done. Be very specific. Talk about cool projects you have worked on. This is what will engage the hiring managers.
In the next blog post, I will dive deeper into the interview process, both technical and non-technical aspects. Then the last part of this series will focus on the negotiation of the offer itself. Good luck to all in finding that new opportunity.