I want to help you get a job in IT. Whether it’s your first one, or you’re already into your career, this guide will help.It’s totally doable, too, if you get to know how you can best solve problems for others and try a different way of reaching employers.
I don’t want you to find just any job in IT- I want you to find an awesome fit that will help you improve multiple areas of your life, not just financial. Finding the right type of job will help you be more engaged at work as well.
Here is an A-to-Z plan that will get you there. You should know that these steps are simple, but not everyone does them. But you’re not everyone, are you?
Probably 75% of the job search process is just knowing yourself. You should take some time to get to know who you are and how you work.
Your ideal work is going to have 3 main elements- Passion, Talent, and Market. My friend Dan Miller has a nice analogy for this. He calls it the 3-legged stool. These are your 3 legs:
- Passion- things you’re interested in doing even when you don’t get paid.
- Talent- things you have the technical ability to do.
- Market- things people will give you money to do.
Your ideal work is going to be in the “sweet spot” which lies at the intersection of these. You must have all 3- miss one and you won’t be able to last in the field. For instance, if you have passion and talent, but no market, you have a hobby. If you have passion and market, but no talent, you will stink and produce poor quality. If you have talent and market, but no passion, you will quit because you’ll have no motivation and no joy.
For me, a typical IT guy, that intersection might look like this: Systems and Process Administrator (Talent) + Ferarri (Market and Passion).
You mostly find these things out by taking a look inside yourself. Look back at the recurring themes in your life, and see what you keep coming back to (for me, it was IT. Surprise!).
There are a number of tools out there to help you see more about you. The first one I ever used was Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. You read a short book, then take an online assessment that gives you a detailed report. It’s awesome.
The second that I recommend is the DISC profile, which is a personality type indicator. You can get that from Dan Miller’s site, 48days.com. Meyers-Briggs is yet another.
These tools will help you see some things about yourself, and probably confirm a lot of things for you. A word of caution- they may give you some career ideas, but those are not hard and fast, as just about anyone can do any career. Plus you already know you want to be in IT. 🙂
Pick out who you want to work for
To me, this is one of the most fun parts of finding a job. This is where you get to go out and pick places you want to work for.
Think about that for a second- let that sink in. You get to choose. You get a choice. How cool is that!
David- you mean I don’t have to take the first IT job offer that comes along?
You get to pick a place that does something you believe in. Pick a place that does something you think is awesome. For example, I’m a car guy. I like cars. A lot. When I go look at my next company, here’s my short list.
- Ferrari USA
- BMW USA
- Lamborghini (Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A)
- NASCAR (Corporate or Teams)
This is not exhaustive, but you get the idea. I want to work at places that do something exciting that I believe in. You get to choose.
When you get to this point, identify 30-40 companies that you would like to work for. Decide what’s most important to you. If you want to stay living where you are, no problem- just pick 30-40 companies in your area that are respected, that you know, and where you could see yourself making an impact.
Create your resume
You will need a good, tight resume to get into your 30-40 companies. Some people are confused about how resumes work, so let me clear it up for you.
A resume does not get you a job, it helps you get an interview. It’s your marketing. It’s like a brochure for you.
A resume does not get you a job, it helps you get an interview.
There is tons of great material on the web about resumes, so I won’t rehash it all here, but there are some widely-held myths about how to make a proper one.
First, target it to the job in question. Sending out generic resumes is a big no-no. Your resume is pretty specific, and won’t fit most jobs you apply for. Since you’re sending only 30-40, not 1000, it should be fairly simple enough to tailor the resume for each submission.
Since you’ve got a good idea of the skills you bring and what you like doing, these differences will be minimal. It’s not like you’re applying to be a zookeeper and a SysAdmin.
Second, make it short and sweet. A common myth is that you will get hired by your resume. Here on Earth, however, it just doesn’t happen that way. Your objective is to get them excited to speak with you.
Keep it short by including only experience that highlights the skills needed for the role you’re going for. Leave out your racquetball championships and your A+ on that science fair project. Or that job doing roofs- unless you have limited experience.
Make it 2 pages at maximum. The recruiter who makes the decision to toss it or not will only spend about 6-12 seconds looking at it (I know, that was me), so make sure the relevant stuff is near the top. You can find resume examples online, but on the first page, make sure you have
- your name, a phone number, your blog/personal website, and a professional email address
- you skills summary – 1 or 2 sentences about what you do overall specifically
- significant project achievements or results
You want to get their attention so they call you in.
Seek out hiring managers
Most of the time, IT job seekers will just post their resume on the big job sites and/or start blasting out online applications. This method is not very effective- only about 1.2% of the time- and it doesn’t get you exposed to the best jobs, of which only 13% make it into job sites.
You know why it’s ineffective, don’t you? You’ve probably already put in job applications, but either hear 1) nothing ever or 2) some variant of “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
This is because these online systems (called Applicant Tracking Systems) are just awful. They screen out almost everyone who doesn’t have the right keywords on their resume. Just forget about applying online. I did some quick-and-dirty math and figured out that it would take at least four forty-hour workweeks of time to put in 1000 applications.
Since you have 30-40 companies in mind, I want you to throw them into a spreadsheet. I’ve created one that I’ll be happy to share with you- just shoot me a note at the bottom of page. Now, head out to LinkedIn and start looking for the hiring managers’ contact info. You want their address and phone number at least. Don’t call or email them at this point.
Contact, then follow up
Your first contact with the hiring manager will be a copy of your resume with a cover letter- actually, it’s my friend Liz Ryan calls them Pain Letters.
A Pain Letter basically involves you guessing what their pain might be and showing how you can solve that pain for them, and how to contact you. Liz has a great article on how to make one of those right here.
Pain for an IT shop is usually around growth- especially software companies. Or maybe the company is having some public problems with their product that you can help with. Get into their shoes and see what you can figure out.
You will just staple your Pain Letter to the resume and send it in the mail to the hiring manager’s desk. I would wait for about a week before you attempt to make any kind of contact.
When a week has passed, go ahead and give the manager a call at their desk. If you get a voicemail, don’t leave a detailed message, no matter how persuasive the voicemail is. Instead, just say something like “Hi, (manager), this is David Geiger. I guess I missed you. I’ll try you again at (some time later or tomorrow). Thanks.”
If you’ve figured out yourself a bit, showcased your problem-solving abilities with your resume, and struck a chord with the Pain Letter, you probably have their attention. When you finally get them on the phone, hear exactly what their problems are, but don’t try to solve them on the phone. Instead, have a chat about you coming in to talk with them.
If you think you can help them based on the phone call so far, go ahead and tell them you’d love to come in and talk about it all in person.
Interview like a BOSS
Even if you’ve done a great job with everything up to this point, you need to know that the interviews is never just a formality. It a time for both you and the company to see if you’re right about each other, and it’s your time to sell them on you, so you must be prepared.
Depending on the company and IT discipline, your initial interviews may just be about whether or not you like each other and will be a fit, but you may encounter a technical interview.
Technical interviews are actually really hard to pull off for the interviewer. They want to validate your skills, but those exams or demonstrations require some kind of test environment. These are more common with coding since it can mostly be done on a computer.
IT infrastructure is harder- some companies might have you demonstrate your skills on a test server, or maybe spin up a new VM in VMware. To prepare for these, make sure you learn as much about the company infrastructure as possible. Sometimes it’s out on the internet. You may also find LinkedIn connections or friends of friends that work there and can give you some insight. Know as much about the company and how they use their technology as you can.
Some practical tips- make sure you dress according to the culture. A lot of IT shops are casual. If you’re not sure about wearing a suit or not, ask the receptionist. You should dress a level above the role you’re going for. Also- casual does not equal sloppy. Make sure you’re sharp looking.
When you meet the interviewer or another interviewer enters the room, make sure you stand up. Extend your hand with a firm handshake and make sure you smile and make eye contact. Sit up, speak up, think up!