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College Graduates, Good Advice for a Bad Job Market

Getting Hired

Can you get a job in tech right now?

The stats don’t feel great: one recent Time article notes that there’s one job opening for every two applicants on LinkedIn, job seekers are sending out 40 percent more applications than they did a year ago, and candidates from underrepresented groups are 25 percent more likely to be ghosted after interviews than their white counterparts.

But there’s no reason to be thoroughly depressed – far from it, actually. You’ve got options and you can get a gig. Tech companies are still hiring (I know, I work with them every day – and I am one). Instead of more conventional options, here are six things you can do right now to help yourself.

Instead of offering to do a project, ask for an informational interview

Informational interviews are a real thing! Do them. Listen, by the time roles are posted, companies already have great people in the queue for interviews (courtesy of the whisper network). Come to your informational interview with thought-provoking questions. Be genuinely interested. Do a little homework so you can feel confident and look prepared. Seek to understand the company and what a “day in the life” looks like at various roles. As a CEO, I’m much more excited by the prospect of having a real and candid conversation with someone energetic and informed than I am by babysitting (sorry!) a project. Plus everyone loves to talk about themselves – informational interviews are flattering!

Instead of waiting around for the perfect job, take a job

The notion of a dream job is something all of us were spoon-fed through all of our schooling and it sounds really great. The trouble is, it’s not realistic. Nearly three-quarters of college grads stay in their first job for less than a year. A dream job will happen for you – more than once, probably. But – like marrying the first person you date – it’s not necessarily going to happen immediately and you shouldn’t hold out for it at the expense of the valuable things you’ll gain from the next job: money, experience, a network. Take a job, a decent job. It’s just the first stop in a long career. 

Instead of only combing LinkedIn for leads, talk to your professors

In tech? Your professors of computer science, engineering, etc often know who’s hiring. Their old students – long since graduated and moved on to lucrative careers and even leadership positions – stay in touch. Industry and academia are more tightly linked than ever before as they embark on partnerships, compare notes on research and application, and work to understand the cutting edge trends for both. Best outcome? Your professors make direct connections for you. Worst outcome? They point you in the right direction.

Instead of cold emails, try warm connections 

Your conversion rate of cold messaging on LinkedIn will be pretty damn low. Find someone mutual to introduce you. Don’t be shy. People are generally happy to help others in this way – the caveat being, you have to be someone worth spending capital on. If you’re not motivated, personable, and grateful, others will not show up for you in this way. It simply won’t be worth the risk of hurting their credibility within a network it’s taken them years to build. So make sure you give your contact the right elements to work with – flag your passion for their industry, your amazing senior project, a killer prior internship – and make sure to say thank you no matter what.

Instead of waiting for an interview to land in your inbox, show your skills

You found a great place where you want to work? Wonderful. Stop checking for that invitation to a technical assessment to land in your inbox (though do it promptly once you get it, of course). Show your work – and some welcome initiative – with a link to your GitHub repository, projects you have completed, code samples. As a leader, it’s so exciting to see the projects people work on, the choices they make, and to learn about the “why” that drives a candidate. And it’s a great conversation starter in the first interview. Seeing artifacts like this helps us get there faster.

Instead of emotional appeals, frame your value intelligently

And when you finally get an interview? Don’t make the mistake I see from too many candidates: they make the interview 100 percent, all about the benefit to them. Companies should care about offering meaningful work and a clear progression path for employees – and most do. But make no mistake: it’s a misstep to say too many things like “This job would be so great for my resume” or “I will get so much out of this” or “I really need this job because of XYZ personal reason” or “me me me me me.” 

We want you to do well. We want to make this worth your while. But we want to see how what you bring fits what we need and we want to see you position this maturely. Frame your conversation around the value you can bring – and then you can also say what you’re hoping to get from the job. Remember: it’s a two-way street. 

Above all, don’t forget…

The jobs are still there. Despite the sad-sack stats at the top of this piece, economists are still noting that “layoffs declined and employers hired more workers,” making the market still pretty decent for jobseekers. 

So chin up, please. You are awesome and you will get a job. Promise.