The most common fear amongst students who avoid going off-campus is that they self-reject themselves by believing their resumes aren't good enough to even be considered.
Combine this fear with the first few rejections you're bound to receive and all of a sudden your imposter syndrome is tap dancing on your confidence, and you realize you don’t even like your career that much.
If you're not even trying, the answer is already a no.
Whether you've just finished your degree but don't have a stable job lined up ahead or you're still in your freshman year exploring options, this article should have you covered.
(Although this article's writing style is geared towards a student audience, the content applies the same to all beginners irrespective of their background)
Before we get started, I'll quickly explain success rate since I'll be using this term throughout the post.
If you're applying to a 100 jobs and only hearing back from 3 of them, your chances of a successful application is 3%. This is your success rate and if it's actually lower than 5% then that means you're not doing something right.
Why should I consider off-campus or jobs outside my eco-system? 🤔
Because why not, duh...
Not a very convincing argument to start off with, right?
But it actually makes a lot of sense. Putting it simply, if you're prospecting a bigger pool of opportunities, the number of interviews that you'll be invited to will also be higher, which means more options to choose from.
How is it better compared to opportunities at my college? 🏫
- Less competition means more opportunities
This might come off as a surprise to some, but the competition is much less and sparse compared to a college scenario where everyone is competing over the same good opportunity.
- Better chances of getting a higher paying job
(This point is region specific so take it with a grain of salt)
From what I've observed, most companies in college try to low-ball students for a bare minimum stipend/pay and instead shift focus to their future offer that you'll only receive if you end up working with them full time.
Writing from my experience working globally-remote from India, most of the native organizations pay much less than the standard compared to what you can earn for the same skill-set with an offshore employer.
- Possibility of discovering a position you could actually be a perfect fit for
The amount of opportunities or positions that you can work for in tech are practically limitless, with even new titles being created for people that fulfill a specific niche.
And because they're limitless, many of us (including me) probably won't know for a good part of our careers about which position we'll really be the 'perfect fit' for. By sticking to just on-campus jobs, you're narrowing down your choices to mostly what the companies want to filter students for, instead of what you'll be the best at.
- Diverse companies means opportunity to work on varied problems
There's a much higher variation in the type of companies you can find off-campus apart from the usual three: finance, big tech, and consulting (FTC).
Companies building products such as software tooling, health tech, app security are recruiting and offer salaries similar to entry-level consulting but are completely unbeknownst to the average student.
Getting your foot in the door 👞🚪
(yes I know I'm amazing with emoji art, thank you)
Even if you're the best coder, best at solving questions and building stuff, it won't mean much if you're not getting interviewed.
This is the part where you can retrospect your existing approach, find flaws and boost the current success rate by improving your 'perceived profile'.
Prerequisites before you begin your job hunt 💼🕵️♀️
Getting a job is hard work and building a career in Tech, even more so, which means building a relentless mindset is almost a must-have before going your own way.
You will face failures and rejections, a lot of them. But that's okay because when you get the job, none of the rejections will matter. Also, you would've learnt a lot and would still be treated as an equal to other hires even if they had a +70% success rate.
- Well-crafted resume
There are a lot of great resources on resume building just a search away, so I won't be covering details on how to build one here.
Keep in mind that almost everyone builds a basic e-commerce app or a social media clone through their starting years. Although technically impressive, I personally think it doesn't spark interest or shows creativity on a resume anymore.
Remember, to get your resume through the pile of applications, grabbing attention can sometimes be even more valuable than just having a long list of hard skills.
- Interpersonal finesse
Good communication, being able to present yourself, showing human traits like vulnerability, emotional intelligence (yes I used the term, bite me) etc. are all necessary skills to have throughout your career. This will be needed when you're on the job, networking for referrals, socializing or in any professional environment.
Basically what people are looking for is that you blend well with folks and don't be a pain in the ass while working in a team (make that a general rule for life too while you're at it).
How to increase your success rate 📈
- Advertising demonstrated skills
I used the word 'demonstrated' because your work should already be visible and proven before a recruiter even talks to you. At the end, it always comes down to how well you can do the job, and for that you need to make your expertise recognizable.
Mostly before your first scheduled call, the interviewer will go through the provided links and check your online presence to form a profile in mind about the kind of person they should expect.
This is where your Open Source contributions, past projects, hackathons and other pieces of public work that builds your Developer Profile come in and can impress the interviewer before you've even met!
(Read 'How To Build a Developer Profile' if you're new to the idea or don't have one yet)
- Tailor your applications
Personalizing applications by writing cover letters isn't a popular practice in India yet due to the high volume of responses from a job posting. However, tailoring your resume to match the specifics of a job description or approaching the recruiter directly with a message explaining your reasons can greatly affect the outcome of your application.
I've always approached the people at a company directly for roles I'm serious about so that they can 'push my resume to the top of the pile' or make sure someone takes a look at it. This can also help narrow down the reasons if my application didn't make the cut since it's difficult to get personalized feedback for every rejection.
- Aim realistically
Perform an objective self evaluation of yourself and your skill-set to know which roles or companies you'll fit in with the 'level' you're at. Target companies slightly above your level (because that's how you'll strive to improve and grow) but also remember to set your sights realistically to have a higher success rate.
I got an interview, uhhh step 2?
So you finally got an interview but now you're worried that you have an interview.
- Having a mental checklist of things to brush up before an interview can really help you become more organized and less nervous during your future interviews.
My personal skill checklist before an interview goes like this:
-> Ready to answer basic DSA questions
-> Revise language/environment specific concepts
-> Brush up on past work/projects on my resume and be able to talk about them
- When going through a technical interview, discuss your thinking process. This has almost become a standard advice for all interviews but that is for a reason. Your interviewers are interested to see how you approach a problem, the solution you come up with and how clearly you can explain it to the people in the room. This shows a very important trait in a candidate which is how well you can communicate your ideas or a train of thought to a teammate (which can be more valuable than having a rockstar developer on the team in my opinion).
Getting to the correct answer may not always be the right answer.
Don't be afraid to ask things you don’t understand in an interview. It's much better to ask your interviewer to repeat or explain a question than to try solving a problem with unclear objectives (something you should be comfortable with outside of work too).
Showoff by talking about what else you could have done or how you could improve upon your answer if you had more time. If the interview is structured around a take-home assignment, definitely write an answer to this in advance because 9/10 times (source: me) you'll be asked this.
Always prepare to interview your recruiter as much as they're interviewing you. Since this opportunity is going to greatly influence your next steps in life, it is fair that you should have questions. Having questions regarding the workplace or your exact role are completely expected and normal so don't shy away from preparing a list beforehand. This also shows how much you've prepped for that interview.
(I might publish my personal curated list of interview questions so be on the lookout for that, or you know... you can just follow me to be notified when I do :)
Where do I start looking for opportunities?
Assuming you've followed all the steps so far, you should've significantly improved your success rate and are all set to get after jobs. I won't be discussing the usual methods like job boards and similar platforms since they're fairly straight forward but should still be used as a primary source of opportunities.
- Hackathons and similar events
Hackathons, apart from looking great on your resume and being a nice learning experience overall, can be the best source for networking and meeting people in the industry as a student.
And how do you find hackathons outside college? Just go take a quick look at Devpost or MLH events page, they're happening all the time! These events can also be great for meeting and collaborating with other interesting people starting out in tech like you.
- Community & Socials
Sometimes there are urgent job openings at companies that they prefer to only share through Twitter or some other social platform instead of following the usual process. Although you can directly interact with the recruiter for an introduction or questions, asking for a referral from a mutual connection can be a good strategy to expedite the process even further.
Actively observe platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter where you can learn from other people in the industry and also be on the lookout for any opportunities that you may find through them.
- Networking & Referrals
Networking can sound very intimidating if you're new to the act but can become the strongest skill on your toolbelt if done right. Meeting new folks and maintaining relationships will be your safety net throughout your career in Tech.
So, where can you start networking? As of now (during the pandemic) online events, hackathons, socials and LinkedIn will be your best bet. Remember, your goal is to build relationships with professional strangers and make a lasting impression on them. Send a connection request talking about what you like about someone's work, praise a project they worked on and how it helped you (find anything in common that you think you could talk about).
Having strong networks can come in to the rescue whenever you need a job throughout your career, not just for your first one.
(Avoid coming off as creepy while messaging someone, don't write anything you wouldn't want the world to read)
- Keep the door open for opportunities
Instead of just searching for jobs yourself, also keep a channel open for opportunities to come to you. If someone is impressed by your work and has an interesting proposition, provide them with the means to reach out to you from every profile.
I've had countless job offers or consultancy proposals through my GitHub profile and portfolio because I keep an option for anyone interested to directly contact me through email.
If you've been doing alright in your exams and have built a thing or two, your resume is already good enough to start sending to companies. Obviously there's always room for improvement but don't become the reason that limits your own chances of success (writing this from experience, I've been that person to myself for a long time).
The meme apart from being an attempt to spice things up in the end, is also a reminder that like most posts, some advice is just that, advice.
Take whatever value you find from this piece (or any content that you come across on the Internet) and apply it accordingly in your situation instead of blindly following it because it worked for someone.
Remember, don't cloud your thoughts with self doubt because you're amazing and I believe in you! :D