I’ve met you, even if you don’t know it yet. You’re highly motivated to learn and apply underlying logic to everyday life. You’re naturally curious. And you don’t give up easily. Ever. Your enthusiasm shows—for figuring things out and for helping others along the way. You’re Launchers (or soon-to-be Launchers). And these applicable and employable traits are fantastic foundations to building your career story.
How to Think about Your Career
You know how to think—using fresh design thinking, applicable critical thinking, and foundations toward object-oriented thinking. It’s an art and a science to combine logic, goals, creativity, deadlines, and teamwork. And if you’re lucky, this holistic and empathetic programming thinking carries you forward in your life with a better understanding of how the world works.
But there’s a potential gap—a gap in the thinking I imagine you may feel at some point over the 10 weeks in your bootcamp program. How do I find my next job? What industry am I most passionate about? Will I get hired as a junior software engineer? You may feel a bit nervous or stuck about how to get started or how to make your career decisions.
At times, you may also be uncertain about networking effectiveness: I reached out on LinkedIn, but she didn’t write back. I asked a friend if she knows anyone in technology but she didn’t respond. I think networking may not be right for me.
How to Build Your Career Story
People can best help you when you’re very specific and genuine about what you’re seeking. Specificity comes from two things: your ability to articulate a desired industry, function, and location; and getting out in the market to validate how you’ve been thinking about your job search.
Think of yourself as a product that needs to be tested.
You’re developing ideas about yourself, and you have stories from your past experiences. You’re generating assumptions about an industry, company, or role.
So it’s time to get out of your head. Start with informational interviewing: Speak with people who work in those areas, and ask them what it’s really like. Over time, based on your feedback and learnings, you confirm or change your point of view and career targets. A few reach-outs a week for coffee, lunch, a Skype call, or discussion at an event can accelerate your decision making and job prospects.
Building relationships is an investment in yourself and your career.
Building trust takes time and energy. Often people start to reach out in industries only when they want a job—a bit too late. Additionally, they may make the encounter too much about themselves. But if you bring value and authenticity to your chance meetings with people, the relationship will grow over time. Perhaps you’ve worked on a project, found an article, or watched a show that may be of interest to someone in your future industry whom you’d like to reach out to. Share that with him/her. Give, give, give versus take, take, take from other people.
How to Approach Experiencing Skills and Job Fit
My tip? Stop thinking about your career. Start experiencing it now, no matter what week you’re in of your bootcamp program.
Here are three ideas to try:
Career builder tip #1: Targeting
Map out a plan A, B, and C. A single plan consists of three things, plus a company list:
You’ll use these plans as a foundation for your strategy of networking and informational interviewing. Saying “I’m seeking a junior developer role in a Boston-based sports management firm” is focused and people can easily see where to make referrals.
Career builder tip #2: Informational Interviewing
After you develop ideas for three different plans, use your time at Launch Academy to attend events, seek out professionals, and conduct informational interviews with people in your three plans. During the informational interview, you are the driver and you ask the questions. It’s not a job interview. You’re asking people about their career shifts, how they got into the company, what the company culture is like, and what a typical day is like for them. You may also ask about their lessons learned or anything that surprised them about the industry.
Networking is really about meeting people who are similar to you. This can happen at events, one-on-one on a bus, at a restaurant, or through a chance meeting by being in the right place at the right time.
To set up informational interviews:
Start by identifying companies and people of interest on LinkedIn.
Reach out to your potential contacts while you’re at Launch Academy to thoughtfully and respectfully ask if you may schedule an informational interview.
Do your research on the person and company. Prepare your questions.
Keep the meeting to 30 minutes.
Always say at the end, “Thank you so much. This has been very helpful. Is there anyone else in the industry you recommend I speak with?”
Follow up with a thank you note (handwritten or via email) within one day
Career builder tip #3: StoryBuilding
Practice. Practice again. And practice your stories—your strongest achievement, a time when you failed, a lesson learned, a time when you took initiative, a problem you solved, a time of conflict resolution, or something funny—to name just a few.
Stories engage. You become more interesting through job-focused storytelling. This means you become more attractive and memorable. You allow others to repeat and retell your story, rather than just answer with facts and figures.
In fact, Launch Academy in Boston and Philadelphia uses our storybuilding game, StoryMason, to practice thinking by doing. You’ll work with Dani Duggan, Associate Director of Talent, using the game to learn how to engage and persuade in professional settings (and all while having a little fun, too). Launch starts the interview practice process early—because if you wait until you graduate to start networking and job hunting, it shows. The sooner you learn how to tell your unique story, the better you’re set up for success.
Stop thinking about your career. Start experiencing your career. Make a decision to invest in yourself by gaining new skills and building your story. Start today.
Blog post written for Launch Academy, an immersive education program for software developers located in Boston, MA and Philadelphia, PA. But job seeker strategies and tips apply to YOU too!