Tips for landing your first post-corona job
Lessons learned from my job search
Last year, amid the onset of a global pandemic, I left Google after working there for over 10 years. Google had provided me with opportunities to work with some incredible people on complex challenges and cutting edge technologies. I grew in ways I had not imagined. But to continue that growth I had to leave Google. Leaving itself was a valuable learning experience. And my job search worked out - I landed a growth opportunity building a new business at LiveRamp.
Switching jobs in the midst of a global pandemic forced me to reflect on the job market and how it is changing due to the covid-19 pandemic. I believe we are living through the most profound transition in nearly a hundred years and that the post-corona era will be different in ways we do not yet understand. Among the biggest changes will be where and how we work.
As you pursue your first post-corona job, you will likely benefit from a job market that is way larger and more flexible than ever. But you will also face a job market that is far more competitive. More than before, you will be competing with talent from across the country and, in some cases, the world. This new era will require that you adapt to a new set of rules as you look for your next job.
Since leaving many former Google colleagues have reached out to me asking for my advice on their own job searches. I took so many of these calls that I eventually decided it was more efficient to write down my job search advice and share it with these friends before we spoke. You can find these job search tips below. As you’ll see, most of these suggestions applied before this pandemic but some reflect what I believe will be even more important in the post-corona era.
If you find my job search advice useful, I hope you’ll share these tips with someone else in a job search or evaluating whether to begin one.
To land your first post-corona job …
Work backwards - what is the next job you want AFTER this one you’re searching for? What is the story you need to land THAT job? How will this next job help you tell THAT story? Your career is a series of stepping stones and if you only focus on your next step you may find yourself unable to reach your target destination or dream job. Too often talented people end up in roles they don’t fit them because they didn’t take the time to reflect and make decisions based on where they want to be two or three roles into the future.
Build a monthly regiment of informational interviews - either you know what you want in your next job or you’re trying to figure it out. Either way, informational interviews are the answer. If you know what you want, then your goal is to be on the mind of a hiring manager (or someone close to them) before the job you want is posted. The best way to do this is to develop a list of your priority companies and be disciplined about doing informational interviews with folks at those companies. If you’re figuring out what you want then informational interviews are a low stakes way to gather different perspectives, uncover new opportunities and home in on your answer. Ideally begin these informational interviews BEFORE you ramp up your job search.
Prioritize job attributes - a job consists of a collection of factors and every job comes with trade-offs. Good compensation but a mediocre manager. A big title but a company that is struggling. Leading a big team on a project that is not a top priority. Decide at the outset what 3 - 5 factors matter most to you. Stack rank your priority attributes. Don’t waste your time with companies that cannot deliver on at least 3 of them.
Focus on the problem space - hot companies come and go. Same with cool technologies. But if you can find a problem that you’re really drawn to, it can light a fire in you that will propel you forward. A problem you’re excited about is a better filter than the age old advice to “follow your passion.” For many people passion comes from solving a problem. So focus on the problem you want to help solve and it will help you find companies, leaders, technologies, roles, etc. (credit to Suhail Doshi on this one, see tweet below)
Reach high - be bold and reach out directly to a CEO, general manager, investor, etc. If it’s well-tailored and genuine message this kind of outreach can be the fast track to an interview or job offer. The art is in how to set yourself apart. Keep it extremely short and highly-customized to their needs (not yours).
Invest in your digital presence, it is now your professional presence - Your LinkedIn really matters. Recruiters live on LinkedIn. Find leaders in your industry with a great LinkedIn profile and update yours. Or find a recruiter or headhunter who will be direct with you and get their feedback. Also, your home video presence really matters. Your first (and second) round interviews will likely take place via video call. Invest in your home lighting, microphone, camera and background.
Consider a career coach - navigating your career can feel lonely. And there are coaches who spend all day helping people find their way. But good help is hard to find. Rely on referrals. Most career coaches offer an initial consultation for free to see if there’s a fit (you might consider this one). There are different types of career coaches with different areas of expertise. A career coach can be a sizable investment but the pay-off can be huge (e.g. defining your values, helping identify target companies, refining your narrative, polishing your resume, etc.)
Approach a job offer as the beginning of a new phase, not the end of your search - Focus first on getting that offer you want. But understand the landing the offer is the beginning of a negotiation. Think about what is important to you: work from home? title? equity? education budget? Be prepared to walk away if the offer package does not match what you need.
Explore creating your own job instead of applying to one - before you fire off your resume, consider creating your own job. This could mean starting a company. But it may not. You might start with keeping your day job and starting a side hustle. Or proposing a new role at work. Or emailing the CEO of a company you love and proposing a role that doesn’t yet exist.
Take a deep breath. Relax. And reflect. - You will find a new job. You may be rejected from numerous jobs. But you will find one. Maybe a very good job. Maybe even an amazing job. The more important question is how closely the job you are offered aligns with your values and your goals. Are you running FROM a job or running TO a job? What are your true motivations? Is this role the right fit or are you actually seeking to escape something at work that would be healthier to confront head-on? Are you prepared to walk away from a good offer that is not the right fit? Before you decide to accept an offer, take time to reflect.
Do not …
Be in a rush - Time is your greatest asset (if you have a job … or a job you can tolerate).
Fool yourself - You are not going to nail your first interview in years. That resume you used 5 years ago is not going to land you the big job you think you deserve. Telling your story well is hard work and it takes time to refine. Do the hard work. Keep notes on questions that you stumble on. Enlist a friend in a mock interview. Record audio of your answers to expected interview questions and listen to your answers. View rejection as part of the process, not a statement on your worth. You will find another job.
Rule out jobs based on location - Companies are still figuring out this new era. The hiring manager for a role posted in Kansas may be actually be very open to a remote hire. On the other hand, maybe you know you need an office environment. Many of us do. But don’t rule out remote roles entirely. Be flexible during this period of workplace re-alignment. Pursue jobs independent of location. Show them what you can bring and negotiate for what you need.
Rely solely on job postings - Job openings are just one way to find opportunities. Do not depend on them. Do informational interviews by reaching out to colleagues or partners at companies that interest you. Cold email executives. Tap your entire network for introductions. Talk to your cousins, neighbors, friends of friends. Create your own luck.
Focus solely on salary - what you get out of a job is multi-layered. Some jobs offer massive professional growth. Others more flexibility. A job may offer a lower salary but big upside through equity or other forms of compensation. Figure out what your target compensation is and your absolute floor. Then evaluate the role based on the overall collection of pros and cons, not just the salary.
Fall into believing a job offer - or rejection - is a statement of your self-worth - Being rejected is inevitable. But being rejected from a job says nothing about your value as a person, nor does receiving an offer from a great company. Your value in the marketplace is unrelated to your value as a person - to yourself, your family, friends, community, etc. You are valuable. Do not allow capitalism to infiltrate your humanity.
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