At Nashville Software School, we provide our students and graduates who are still on the search for their first job in tech with opportunities to dive deeper and continue their education while on the job hunt. These graduates are referred to as Seekers.
While starting a job search can be a daunting task in and of itself, when you throw in a less-than-ideal economy & mass lay-offs into the mix, it can become overwhelming, especially for recent graduates. In fact, Matt Kroeger of Cohort 38 knows first hand what it’s like to graduate in the middle of a slow job market. When did he graduate? Oh, right…2020. 😵💫
In a recent Seekers meeting at Nashville Software School (NSS), Matt shared his journey through the job market, and now we’re sharing some of his guidance and tips on how to stay resilient and keep your spirits high during a long job search!
The Art of “Being Your Own Friend” to Combat Imposter Syndrome
The job search can take a toll on your confidence – from rejections to recruiters ghosting you, even making it to the final round of interviews can be emotionally draining. Matt points out that one major obstacle to overcome is imposter syndrome, that nagging feeling that you're not good enough or that you're failing in some way.
If you ever get that imposter syndrome kicking in, saying, 'You know, maybe I'm not good enough,' [remember that] you've proven [you’re good enough] by going through NSS, working on these group projects, contributing, being a great teammate, and making things you can be proud of.” - Matthew Kroeger
Matt suggests the exercise of “being your own friend,” as a way to help distance yourself from the criticism swirling around in your head and evaluate your efforts as if you were advising a friend in a similar situation. “We'd never say the things we say to ourselves with imposter syndrome to a friend,” he points out. “So, I say, be your own friend, step out, and if you look at what you're doing, it becomes obvious that it's a matter of time. You are putting in the work, and a lot of the negative stuff is coming from imposter syndrome."
Embracing the Numbers Game
Like it or not, the job search is a numbers game, and Matt encourages job seekers to embrace this fact. While it can be frustrating to apply to numerous positions, remember that every rejection brings you one step closer to your desired role. It's all part of the journey.
"It can suck to get really invested and go through hundreds of job applications, but when you find one you really care about and it comes through, that's a huge win,” he says. “When you're putting in the work and seeing it from a positive angle and realizing it's a numbers game, you can take comfort in that. It becomes [inevitable] that you're going to get a job. When you start thinking about it like that, it really helps keep your momentum. It helps you not take rejections and shortcomings personally because they're all learning opportunities for the next one."
Something we talk a lot about at NSS is the growth mindset which focuses on personal development and continuous improvement, emphasizing how far you've come rather than dwelling on setbacks. Even on your worst days, you are a better developer than you were yesterday, last week, or last month. “We can apply the same growth mindset [that we used to learn] coding concepts and being okay with not knowing everything right away to the job search,” Matt suggests, “paired with [getting a] job being inevitable, which I promise is true, as crazy as it sounds.
With that growth mindset, we're constantly getting better. So when we land that role, we're better than we were before, whether it takes a week, two weeks, a month, or longer. Being a developer or an analyst is the baseline we're at. We already know that's what we are, so we can only go up and keep growing.”
Matt advocates for aggressive networking, and he's not using this term lightly. He emphasizes that being active on platforms like LinkedIn is a crucial step in the process. But who should you talk to and when?
- Start with Company Contacts: If a company posts a job on LinkedIn, it usually includes a contact name. Reach out to them, ask questions, express your interest, and learn more about the role and the company.
- Research the Company Thoroughly: Matt strongly emphasizes the importance of researching the company. Avoid going into interviews without knowing what the company does. It's a terrible look, and it diminishes your chances of success.
- Connect with a Variety of People: While you can begin by reaching out to the person who posted the job or the recruiter, don't stop there. Connect with hiring or engineering managers, tech leads, and even regular employees who are in the role you're pursuing. This provides you with a well-rounded perspective of the company and its culture.
- Leverage Alumni Networks: If you see that a company employs Nashville Software School (NSS) alumni, reach out to them. Matt highlights the quality of people who come from NSS as a testament to the power of networking within alumni circles.
What to Talk About in Your Outreach
When reaching out to people, it's essential to start the conversation right. Begin by building rapport and expressing your genuine interest in the company. Matt suggests discussing your enthusiasm for the company's mission, products, or your background. Ask them about their experiences working there, the company culture, and other culture-related questions. It's crucial not to immediately jump to asking for a job. Focus on building a connection first.
As you navigate your journey of landing your first, or next job in tech, remember that it's a combination of your skills and your network that will help get you there. Networking aggressively, being your own friend, and keeping a growth mindset can be the game-changers you need. So get out there, make connections, and don’t give up! You never know, your next job in tech could be just a conversation away!