Open post Tech Career Reboot Recap for May - Working Together to Navigate Layoffs - Find Your Next Employer - Own a Channel - Timing is Everything - Volunteer -Hire Yourself - Pivot

Tech Career Reboot – May 2024 Recap

Tech Career Reboot - May 2024 Recap

Tech Career Reboot Recap - Unconventional Job Search Strategies with Jon Bach

Hey there, tech career enthusiasts! If you couldn't make it to our recent Tech Career Reboot session, don't worry—we've got all the highlights for you right here. This time, we had the pleasure of hearing from Jon Bach, who shared some truly unconventional job search techniques he's been using. Grab a coffee and get comfortable, we've got a lot to share in this insightful recap!

Jon kicked things off with a heartfelt thank you to the Tech Career Reboot community for their ongoing support and efforts. He stressed how valuable it is to have a group like this where professionals can come together, share experiences, and support one another through challenging times.

Jon acknowledged the typical job search advice we all know—updating resumes, using the right keywords, crafting compelling cover letters, and networking. While these strategies are important, he pointed out that they often feel like "table stakes"—the basics that everyone does. Jon was eager to go beyond these basics and dive into more unique, "double black diamond ski slope" ideas. Just like the most challenging ski runs, these strategies push boundaries and require a higher level of skill and creativity. Jon’s goal was to offer something fresh and innovative to truly make a difference in navigating today’s tough job market.

Unconventional Pro Tips and Going Beyond

Jon started by acknowledging the typical job search tips that many of us are familiar with. These are the foundational strategies often recommended to job seekers. While useful, Jon aimed to dig deeper and offer more actionable, nuanced advice. Here are the conventional tips he touched upon:

1. Timing is Everything
We all know timing plays a crucial role in job searching. Jon wanted to provide more actionable strategies beyond the usual tips. He discussed the importance of understanding industry cycles and company-specific timelines, such as quarterly planning periods when companies might allocate budgets and resources for new hires. By being aware of these critical times, job seekers can strategically position themselves to be at the right place at the right time.

2. Volunteering
Volunteering is often suggested as a way to gain visibility and experience. While this advice is valuable, Jon noted it frequently lacks specifics. Simply telling someone to volunteer doesn’t provide much direction. Jon emphasized the importance of volunteering in high-impact roles that align with your career goals. For instance, taking on a fractional role in a startup or offering your expertise to a nonprofit in a way that showcases your skills can make a significant difference. He encouraged us to think strategically about where and how we volunteer to maximize the benefits.

3. Self-Belief and Pivoting
The advice to believe in oneself and be open to pivoting in one’s career is common. However, Jon aimed to provide more practical guidance on how to actually do this. He talked about recognizing transferable skills and being willing to explore new career paths. Jon shared his own experiences of pivoting roles and how it helped him stay relevant and adaptable in the ever-changing job market. He encouraged us to not just think about pivoting as a vague concept but to actively seek out opportunities to apply our existing skills in new and innovative ways.

Finding Your Next Employer

Jon posed an intriguing challenge: think about how you’d find someone like yourself if you were the hiring manager. This thought experiment is more than just an exercise in self-reflection—it’s a strategic approach to job searching. By understanding and valuing your own skills and experiences, you can better position yourself in the job market and target the right opportunities.

Jon emphasized this isn’t just about listing your skills on a resume. It’s about truly understanding what makes you unique and how you can bring value to a potential employer. He encouraged us to consider what qualities and experiences we would look for if we were in the hiring position. This perspective can help tailor job search efforts more effectively and identify roles where we can make the most impact.

Technique #1: Join a Discord or Slack Group and Own a Channel

Jon's first unconventional technique involved leveraging community platforms like Discord or Slack, which are popular among tech professionals. Instead of just joining these groups and passively participating, Jon suggested taking a more proactive approach by owning a piece of the community.

For example, Jon joined a Discord group focused on software quality engineering. Rather than just participating in discussions, he took on the responsibility of managing a channel within the group. He created a "Topic of the Week" channel, where he posted weekly discussion topics related to software quality.

This consistent engagement served multiple purposes:

Building Connections: By regularly contributing valuable content, Jon positioned himself as a thought leader within the community. This helped him build connections with other professionals who share his interests.
Increasing Visibility: Managing a channel gave Jon higher visibility within the group. Members came to expect and look forward to his weekly posts, which kept him top-of-mind for potential opportunities.
Demonstrating Expertise: By choosing relevant and thought-provoking topics, Jon showcased his knowledge and expertise in software quality engineering. This not only helped him gain respect within the community but also provided a platform to demonstrate his skills to potential employers.

Jon’s approach to managing the channel was strategic. He ensured his posts were consistent, predictable, and reliable. By doing this, he created a routine that members could depend on, which helped build trust and engagement over time.

Technique #2: Timing is Everything

Jon emphasized that timing can significantly influence the success of your job search. While it’s common advice to time your applications and social media posts for optimal visibility, Jon took this idea further by suggesting a more strategic approach based on company cycles and industry trends.

Target Key Dates

Jon explained that many companies operate on quarterly planning cycles, where they allocate budgets and resources for upcoming projects. These key planning dates often fall around the same time each year: December 5th, March 5th, June 5th, and September 5th. By targeting these dates, job seekers can align their applications with times when companies are likely to be planning their hiring needs.

Why These Dates Matter:

December 5th: Companies plan for Q1 of the following year, making it a prime time for setting new budgets and identifying staffing needs.
March 5th: Planning for Q2 takes place, with companies evaluating the first quarter’s performance and making adjustments for the upcoming quarter.
June 5th: Companies plan for Q3, often ramping up projects for the second half of the year, which might require additional hires.
September 5th: Planning for Q4 occurs, with companies preparing for end-of-year projects and setting the stage for the next fiscal year.

By understanding and leveraging these planning cycles, job seekers can strategically time their applications to coincide with periods when companies are more likely to have new budget allocations and staffing requirements.

Additional Tips: Monitor Business Journals

Karen offered a valuable addition to Jon’s timing strategy. She recommended monitoring business journals for news about companies receiving new funding. This information can be a goldmine for job seekers because newly funded companies often have the financial resources to expand and hire new talent.

Steps to Implement This Strategy:

Monitor Business Journals: Keep an eye on reputable business journals and websites that report on funding news. Examples include the Puget Sound Business Journal, TechCrunch, and VentureBeat.
Set Up Google Alerts: Create Google Alerts for specific keywords related to funding and companies of interest. This way, you’ll receive notifications when news about these companies is published.
Research Funded Companies: When you identify a company that has recently received funding, research their business model, growth plans, and hiring needs. Companies that secure significant funding often need to scale their operations quickly, leading to new job openings.
Reach Out Strategically: Even if these companies don’t have job openings listed yet, reaching out to introduce yourself and express your interest can put you on their radar for future opportunities. Highlight your relevant skills and how you can contribute to their growth.

By combining Jon’s advice on timing with Karen’s tip on monitoring business journals, you can significantly enhance your job search strategy. This proactive approach not only ensures that you are applying at the right time but also targets companies that are in a growth phase and likely to be hiring. Jon appreciated Karen’s idea and considered it a valuable double black diamond technique, adding depth to the overall strategy and providing a more comprehensive approach to job searching.

Technique #3: Volunteer in High-Impact Roles

Jon highlighted the importance of volunteering as a strategy for enhancing visibility and showcasing skills. However, instead of the usual advice to volunteer at any opportunity, he emphasized the need to seek out high-impact roles that align closely with your career aspirations.

Think Strategically About Volunteering

Jon encourages us to be strategic about where and how we volunteer. Rather than taking on any available role, he suggests looking for opportunities where you can apply your professional skills in a meaningful way. For example, volunteering as a fractional CTO, program manager, or in other leadership positions can provide substantial benefits. These roles not only allow you to contribute significantly to the organization but also enable you to demonstrate your expertise and leadership abilities.

Jon’s Personal Experience

Jon shared his own experience of volunteering at a boutique development shop. By taking on a senior program manager role in a part-time, volunteer capacity, he aims to prove his value to the organization with the hope of securing a full-time position in the future. This approach allows him to build a strong relationship with the company, understand their needs, and showcase his capabilities in a real-world setting.

Benefits of Volunteering in High-Impact Roles:

Showcase Your Skills: Volunteering in roles that are closely related to your desired career path enables you to directly demonstrate your abilities. This practical experience can be more compelling to potential employers than traditional resumes or interviews.
Build Valuable Connections: By working closely with professionals in your field, you can develop relationships that might lead to job offers or referrals. Networking in this way is often more effective because it is based on shared work experiences and proven capabilities.
Gain Insight into the Industry: Volunteering in a strategic role gives you insider knowledge about industry trends, challenges, and opportunities. This information can be invaluable during job interviews and in tailoring your job search strategy.
Enhance Your Resume: High-impact volunteer roles can significantly boost your resume. They demonstrate initiative, leadership, and a commitment to your field, all of which are attractive qualities to potential employers.

Cindy Ponko’s Perspective on Intentional Volunteering

Cindy Ponko built on Jon’s advice by emphasizing the importance of being intentional about where we invest our energy. She shared her own experiences and noted that spreading oneself too thin across numerous activities can lead to burnout and diluted efforts. Instead, Cindy suggests focusing on volunteer opportunities that align with your personal and professional goals.

Cindy’s Key Points:

Avoid Dilution: Rather than trying to be everywhere at once, concentrate on a few high-impact activities that are closely related to your career objectives. This focused approach ensures that your efforts are meaningful and impactful.
Align with Your Goals: Choose volunteer roles that complement your career path and help you develop relevant skills. By aligning your volunteer work with your professional goals, you increase the likelihood of these experiences translating into job opportunities.
Be Selective: It’s important to evaluate each volunteer opportunity and decide if it’s the right fit for you. Prioritize roles that offer growth, learning, and networking potential.

Technique #4: Hire Yourself - Do Something for Someone That Demonstrates Your Skill

Jon introduced a creative approach to job searching: hiring yourself. This technique involves proactively showcasing your skills directly to potential employers in a way that highlights your capabilities and initiative. The idea is to demonstrate what you can do for a company without waiting for them to ask for it.

Jon suggested several ways to implement this approach:

Freelancing Platforms: Registering with freelancing services like Upwork, Fiverr, or Freelancer allows you to take on small projects that showcase your skills. These platforms provide opportunities to build a portfolio, gain client feedback, and demonstrate your expertise in real-world scenarios.
Mock Projects: Identify poorly designed websites, apps, or other products and create mock redesigns or improvements. This approach is especially effective for roles in design, development, and marketing. By showing what you can do to enhance a company's product, you make a compelling case for your hiring.
Bug Reports: For those in software testing or quality assurance, find bugs in publicly accessible websites or applications and send detailed bug reports to the company. This not only demonstrates your skills but also shows your proactive problem-solving attitude.

Bold Moves on Social Media

Jon also suggested making bold moves on social media to attract attention and showcase your skills. This can include:

Public Collaborations: Collaborate publicly with colleagues or industry professionals on social media platforms like LinkedIn. For example, you can co-author posts, engage in professional banter, or discuss industry trends and challenges. This not only highlights your expertise but also expands your network and visibility.
Content Creation: Regularly create and share content that showcases your skills and knowledge. This could be in the form of blog posts, videos, webinars, or infographics. Consistently providing valuable content positions you as a thought leader in your field.

By using Jon’s proactive skill demonstration, you can create a powerful approach to job searching. This method not only showcases your skills in a tangible way but also gives you a competitive edge.

Technique #5: The Pivot

Jon emphasizes the importance of being open to pivoting in our careers, particularly in an ever-evolving job market. A career pivot involves shifting from one role or industry to another, leveraging transferable skills to succeed in the new position. Jon shared his own journey of moving from Quality Assurance (QA) to program management, illustrating how skills from one role can seamlessly translate to another and provide new opportunities for growth.

Jon recounted his personal experience of transitioning from QA to program management. He explained that the analytical and problem-solving skills he honed in QA were invaluable in his new role. As a QA professional, Jon was accustomed to identifying and addressing issues, ensuring quality standards were met, and collaborating with various stakeholders. These skills naturally complemented the responsibilities of a program manager, who must oversee projects, manage risks, and coordinate between teams.

Jon’s successful pivot demonstrates that by recognizing and leveraging our transferable skills, we can adapt to new roles and industries more effectively. This adaptability not only broadens our career prospects but also enhances our resilience in the face of job market fluctuations.

Becoming "Good Enough Experts"

Jon introduced the concept of becoming "good enough experts." This involves achieving a level of proficiency that is beyond a beginner’s but not necessarily at an expert level. The goal is to know enough to add value and assist others, without the pressure of achieving complete mastery.

Key Points about "Good Enough Experts":

Broad Knowledge Base: Focus on building a broad understanding of the new field or role. This allows you to apply your skills in various contexts and adapt to different challenges.
Practical Application: Use your knowledge to solve real-world problems. Practical experience is often more valuable than theoretical expertise, as it demonstrates your ability to apply what you know.
Helping Others: By becoming a "good enough expert," you can mentor and support others who are newer to the field. This not only solidifies your own understanding but also enhances your professional network and reputation.

Jon encourages everyone to embrace the idea of pivoting in their careers. He stresses that by recognizing and leveraging our transferable skills, becoming "good enough experts," and balancing critical thinking with positivity, we can adapt to new roles and industries with confidence. This adaptability is key to thriving in a dynamic job market and achieving long-term career success.

Importance of Physical Networking Events

During the session, several participants shared their personal experiences and highlighted the significance of engaging in physical networking events. While online platforms like LinkedIn are valuable for maintaining a professional presence, attendees emphasized that face-to-face interactions at events such as tech meetups, conferences, and industry workshops often lead to more meaningful connections. These events provide opportunities to:

Build Trust: In-person interactions allow for more authentic and spontaneous conversations, which can help build trust more quickly than online exchanges.
Showcase Personality: Meeting someone in person gives you the chance to showcase your personality and enthusiasm, which can leave a lasting impression.
Immediate Feedback: Physical events offer the advantage of immediate feedback and engagement, allowing for dynamic discussions and the opportunity to ask and answer questions on the spot.

Challenges of Relying Solely on LinkedIn

Despite the benefits of LinkedIn and similar platforms, participants acknowledged the challenges of relying exclusively on online networking. These challenges include:

Overcrowding: LinkedIn is saturated with professionals vying for attention, making it difficult to stand out.
Engagement Quality: The platform often favors engagement metrics over meaningful interactions, leading to superficial connections.
Algorithm Limitations: LinkedIn’s algorithms can limit the visibility of your posts and updates, making it harder to reach your target audience.

Creating a Niche Community

Recognizing the limitations of mainstream platforms, Jon and his brother decided to create a specialized workshop focused on critical thinking about AI. They aimed to build a community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about exploring the ethical and practical implications of AI. By creating their own space, they sought to:

Foster Deeper Engagement: A niche community allows for more in-depth discussions and a higher level of engagement among members.
Curate Content: Jon and his brother could curate content and discussions that align with the community’s interests, ensuring relevance and value.
Build a Supportive Network: A focused community provides a supportive environment where members can share insights, challenge each other’s ideas, and grow together.

Balancing Focus and Defocus

Jon suggests a balanced approach, using focus and defocus strategies depending on your energy levels and goals.

Focus Strategy

Deep Engagement: When you have the energy and resources, focus deeply on a specific activity or community. This allows you to make a substantial impact and build strong connections.
Targeted Efforts: Apply your efforts to high-impact areas where you can showcase your skills and add value.

Defocus Strategy

Broad Outreach: At times, it’s beneficial to cast a wider net. Engaging in various activities can create more touchpoints and opportunities for unexpected connections.
Exploration: Use defocusing periods to explore new areas, attend different events, and connect with a diverse group of people. This can lead to serendipitous opportunities and insights.

Finding the Balance

Jon’s advice is to find a balance between these two strategies. By knowing when to focus deeply and when to spread your efforts more broadly, you can maximize your opportunities for meaningful connections without risking burnout. The key is to listen to your energy levels and be strategic about where and how you invest your time.

Both Cindy and Jon agreed that the key to successful networking and community engagement lies in being intentional and balanced. By prioritizing high-impact activities, creating niche communities, and strategically balancing focus and defocus efforts, professionals can build stronger, more meaningful connections that support their career growth.

Wrapping Up

Jon Bach's session at the Tech Career Reboot was both insightful and inspiring, offering a fresh perspective on navigating the job market with innovative strategies. His unconventional techniques, from leveraging community platforms to timing job applications strategically, highlighted the importance of creativity and resilience in job searching. The emphasis on volunteering in impactful roles, hiring yourself by showcasing skills, and being open to career pivots provided valuable takeaways for all attendees.

The interactive discussion underscored the power of community, reminding us that while the job search journey can be challenging, it is one best undertaken with the support and shared wisdom of others. As we move forward, let’s apply these strategies, stay connected, and continue supporting each other in our professional journeys. Together, we can overcome obstacles and achieve our career aspirations.

Stay connected, stay persistent, and join us at the next Tech Career Reboot on June 19th at 10:30 am to continue unlocking the secrets of success in the ever-evolving world of tech careers.

Until our next meeting, keep pushing boundaries and embracing new opportunities. Here’s to your career reboot and the exciting paths ahead! Let's navigate the tech job market together and elevate your career to new heights!

As always, feel free to reach out to us at contact@quardev.com.

 

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