This spring I went on the job market in hopes of moving back into a tech role. After 96 days of searching, 79 job applications, 20-something interview sessions at 11 companies, I got an offer for a new job this June. Hooray! Also, oof.
Job hunting, simply put, sucks. Please do not let the LinkedIn influencers tell you a new job can be willed into being if you’re just passionate enough. It’s a numbers game, a crapshoot, and a deeply demoralizing mindfuck. I’m a pretty confident person and this process had me down in the dumps. I’m sharing this info in hopes that it’s helpful for others and as a record for myself when I’m on the market again.
Some big things that I observed:
- Jobs are more plentiful in the private/tech sector and there are also more applicants, especially for fully remote jobs. Folks are hiring on a different scale. And many companies treat applicants accordingly. 🚮
- Timelines are wacky as hell. In higher ed, it can be 4 months at best between a vacancy and a hire (and for tenure-track roles, Jesus take the wheel). The private sector moves faster…mostly. I heard back from some jobs within a day or two. Others took a few weeks. Some, I never heard back from.
- Rejections are helpful and rare. I heard back with a yes or no from only half of the jobs I applied for. 👻
- Interview processes take weeks. Every place where I got to the interview stage let me know I’d be doing at least four different video calls – on different days, different weeks – to complete the interview process. This was a disjointed process and never a positive experience for me.
- Nobody shares interview questions in advance. The really kind and inclusive practice of sharing questions in advance of an interview is becoming more common in higher ed/libraries and is just hilariously nonexistent outside of those spaces. I take that back. One of the interview session leaders at one place I interviewed sent questions in advance. I was so grateful. That was the best interview session of my entire job search.
- People want to help. With few exceptions, most folks in my network were eager to help and extremely supportive. I got better at asking for, and accepting, help. Also, shoutout to my wife for her unwavering support during this time!
- My resume isn’t special. I mean, we are all special, and I stopped being so precious about my resume and asked multiple friends to help me revise it, find ways to talk about my experience, and angle myself appropriately for new roles. Separating my self-worth from my work has been a whole journey since leaving higher ed. Hopefully getting 38 rejection emails has helped move me along the continuum a little bit.
- Money hits way different. The first time I was asked, “What are your salary requirements?” I ’bout fell out of my chair. The salaries are higher in tech than in higher ed and certainly in libraries. I have sold out. This is fine.
What seemed to work for me
- Learning the language. I had never worked in the private sector before 2022. Things are just worded differently and have different names in business, so learning some of that language was helpful. I think that’s an entirely different post and I hope I get it together!
- Updating my LinkedIn After 13 years in academia I hadn’t really thought much about my profile. LinkedIn is a whole-ass weird ecosystem especially for folks in the private sector. I found some folks who I thought had good/aspirational profiles and updated mine with more details, using language similar to theirs.
- Working my network. I reached out to friends, previous colleagues and acquaintances for advice, resume reviews, and internal referrals at their companies. Most folks were very eager to help.
- Asking for informational interviews with folks who had roles similar to the ones I wanted, or who worked at companies that interested me. I tried to keep these to a half hour to respect folks’ time. These conversations helped me (1) get better language to describe my own skills and what I wanted to do; and (2) make connections with folks who could refer me for open positions later on.
- Finding companies I wanted to work for and setting up job alerts for them.
- Updating my resume for each job application. I copy/pasted lines/phrases from the job descriptions or required qualifications into my resume then made small changes.
- Keeping track. I made a spreadsheet of jobs I applied for. Title, company, link to job ad, salary range, date applied, status (applied/no response, rejected, interviewed, etc.) and any other notes I wanted to add.
- Approaching each interview as a conversation. After being on the other side of the hiring table for a very long time, I felt more confident about myself, what I brought to the table, and the types of organizations I wanted to join. I asked questions, followed up my own answers with questions, and generally tried to understand the motivation behind each question that was asked. If someone was looking for a “bias towards action” what would that mean day-to-day? I also asked about their DEI goals and challenges which was a good litmus test for how committed companies were to tackling that work.
- Letting myself feel the feels. Truly, it is hard out there, and though it’s easy to tell myself that it wasn’t about me, I often felt stressed, sad and hopeless. When I needed to I would give myself a day or two off from applying so I could rest. And I would also remind myself that I was still glad to be out of academia.
Where I looked
- Websites for companies I was interested in for remote work and companies nearby with hybrid roles that I thought would be a match for. I signed up for so many email alerts.
- LinkedIn A necessity. Lots of jobs here, searchable on many facets. Can set up push notifications and email alerts. Highly recommend.
- Indeed Many jobs here that aren’t on LinkedIn – including local jobs, hourly, contract and term-limited jobs.
- People-first Jobs Focuses specifically on organizations that (at least claim to) put supporting their people at the top of their priority list.
- Words of Mouth an extremely useful newsletter for hearing about work/fellowships/opportunities from mission-driven companies. This is especially for folks from a humanities/writing/design background.
- Tech Jobs for Good nonprofit jobs in tech – not a super high volume but worth a subscribe.
- Public Sector Job Board Rebecca Heywood compiles an excellent weekly list of government IT/tech jobs.
- We Work Remotely more startup-y; interesting feed of remote work oppportunities
- Otta specifically for jobs in tech/startups. Can be personalized based on what type of company or role you’re interested in.
Finally, I must give a huge shoutout to the amazing folks in the GLAMed Out discord community for providing support, resume review, job leads, commiseration and shared joy. If you’re thinking about leaving your work in GLAM to seek techy jobs in other sectors, reach out! I’d love to support folks going down a similar path.