[Cheat Sheet] Starting, Sustaining, and Growing Your Technical Career in a Pandemic

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On October 15th, deliver:Agile Live! hosted a panel on the unique challenges technical job seekers may be facing during the pandemic.

There have been many requests for a short cheat sheet that summarizes the most important tips and tricks. This is that sheet.

What should I put in front of hiring managers (Resume, LinkedIn, GitHub, etc)?

  • Resumes are still the primary thing you use. A bad resume is a no right off the bat.
  • LinkedIn is used heavily by recruiters, but you can mostly copy things over from your (amazing) resume.
  • Make sure you keep those skills really easy to find, like right below your title at each job. Helps everyone know exactly what you’ve been doing and how current you are.
  • Put your education last, it isn’t that important.
  • Your experience sections need to show what outcomes you help with. Don’t put that you wrote code. Everyone does that.
  • GitHub, portfolios, and that stuff only gets looked at after they like your resume.
  • Only put things on GitHub or your portfolio that you want to be judged on. One JavaScript error in your portfolio could be the end. An abandoned GitHub repo could convince someone you don’t know how to build something
  • At the end of the day, those things might help differentiate you from other new developers, but they’re optional.
  • Your previous experience speaks louder than GitHub and portfolios do, so if you’re someone like a dev manager or architect lean on your experience more than feeling like you need to start building those things.

What’s a recruiter and how can they help?

  • Internal recruiters work for the company itself, and as soon as you talk to them you’re being interviewed.
  • External/third-party recruiters are retained by companies to find the best candidate, usually for a fee that is figured as a percent of the first year salary.
  • Third-party recruiters use the information you give them (e.g. salary requirements, etc.) to help you negotiate the best offer possible.
  • It’s important to research who your recruiter is. Look them up and talk to them. Getting a job is a life event, so know who you’re working with.
  • A good recruiter is one that will be with you for years, so it’s important to build trust.
  • Recruiters live on LinkedIn. They’re always looking for people, so having your LinkedIn page mirror your resume helps make sure the recruiters can find you and do their best for you.
  • Recruiters often have exclusive opportunities that will never show up in a job posting.
  • Third-party recruiters also can provide feedback and insight into the process for a particular job, and they keep the interview process moving.

What are technical interviews like for developers?

  • There is a proof-of-life, phone screen, several technical interviews, HR, and sometimes leadership.
  • Technical phone screen is usually quick and if you’re lucky you’ll be asked how you do certain technical things. If you’re unlucky you’ll be asked obscure, trick, or “gotcha” questions.
  • Technical interviews go deeper and usually involve doing some kind of coding assignment or whiteboarding. It’s important to ask questions when you get one of these tasks so you can clarify expectations and tools as well as show you’re engaged and thinking.
  • Stories from your past can help you avoid falling victim to a specific technical gotcha while giving the hiring manager a good sense of how you will perform.

What are technical interviews like for non-developers?

  • It varies a lot unfortunately.
  • You are likely going to be interviewed for the things the person you are backfilling did. If they were a part time DBA, you’ll be asked about it.
  • You’ll also get interviewed by someone technical. They’re likely to interview you from their own expertise, so it’s a good idea to know a bit about their background and current role.

How should I go about negotiating?

  • If you’re working with a third-party recruiter, talk to them. A good recruiter will get you the best offer without you realizing it.
  • It’s better to say what you want to make instead of saying your previous compensation, but you don’t have to throw out a number at all. Keep in mind whatever numbers are discussed will anchor everyone involved.
  • Think about the lifestyle you want before you negotiate. You might be able to get PTO, training, stipends, stock, etc.
  • Ask about all the benefits like healthcare before you start to negotiate. You want to see it all before you counter.

What about remote work because of COVID? Should I ask for equipment?

  • Everyone is asking about how to work well remotely. Have a story ready for the question.
  • Yes, it is reasonable and you should ask for equipment to work remotely. Larger companies probably have a package ready. Smaller companies and start-ups you’ll have to negotiate.
  • Your recruiter will probably know a bit about this ahead of time, and help make sure you get what you need.
  • Using your own equipment can put your intellectual property at risk.

If you have more questions, feel free to reach out to me, Swift Burch III, and Cat Swetel.

About the Author

My mission is to create teams that change the world.

I began this mission as a software developer. I saw in myself and other teams a passion for creating products that people would use and love. I saw that same passion dashed over and over again when the products fell flat. I knew there was more out there.

I have sought for years to find ways of enabling teams and organizations to have a different story. One where the hard work pays off. One where people take pride in a job well done and a product that people love.

I'm a long way off still from saying my mission is accomplished, but I'm here to share what I've learned and to help people find that new story.

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

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