Hacker Career Advice

How to Look for a New Job, Part 1

Looking for a new job isn’t fun. It’s time consuming. It can make you feel small & inadequate. And you’ll probably have to ‘kiss a few frogs’ before finding an opportunity you really like.

But, let’s assume that you’re over your current work situation and you haven’t been in the job market for 2–3 years or longer. Where do you even start?

Set achievable goals that will motivate you

Inertia is a bitch and will swallow all your good intentions. Give yourself a goal, knock it out quickly, and use that to build some momentum. A good goal is something like: “I will ask 5 people to review my resume today.”

Or maybe you set a recurring goal: “Everyday, I will dedicate 20 minutes to my job search.” A new job could increase your income by $20–50K, surely that’s worth a few paltry minutes out of your schedule.

Whatever you do, do not tell yourself, “I will start a new job before August 5th.” There’s no way to guarantee this and frankly, it’s not really something you can control.

Figure out what kind of job you want

This is going to be really easy, or really hard.

If you’re a front-end developer, you dig it, and you want to keep doing it, that’s great. You can skip to the next section.

If you don’t love what you’re doing and want to try something else, you’ve got some soul searching to do. It’s easier to move to an adjacent domain (Engineering → Product Management) than something totally new (Engineering → Data Science).

Take an inventory of all the things you’ve been working on at this job, at previous jobs, in school, in your free-time—and determine what’s going to get you out of bed every day. That’s the type of job you should be looking for.

You may need to spend some time on this. If you need some help, ask your partner, old bosses, or mentor what they think about your skills and interests. They might shine a light on something you’ve gone blind to.

In 2012, my buddy Sam told me to stop messing around with Marketing and get a dev job, because I was writing a weekly OSS newsletter. Five years and 2 jobs later, my girlfriend suggested that I look for a gig working on Alexa / Google Voice Apps, because I was hacking on them every night.

They knew what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t see it. I’m really glad I listened to them.

BTW, if the idea of switching careers seems daunting, spin your past experience as an asset.

Make a list of companies you want to work at

Once you know what you want to do, it’s time to think about where you want to do it.

Here’s a list of all the tools you’ll need: LinkedIn, AngelList, Glassdoor, CrunchBase, and your favorite spreadsheet.

First, write down all the companies you wish you could work with. Go nuts and cast a wide net. Facebook, Netflix, Wegmans? Cool, write ‘em down. It doesn’t matter if they are hiring, this is just a wish list right now.

Next, look up those companies on Glassdoor and Crunchbase. See what current employees have to say and what you can find out about the company’s funding, health, average pay, benefits, etc. For FAANG companies, Levels.fyi can give you a lot of insight into compensation.

Next, search for job postings on LinkedIn & AngelList. Look for jobs matching all the permutations of job titles & topics that you’re interested in: Front-End Developer, Front-End Engineer, Software Developer, Web Developer, Design Engineer, Machine Learning, Autonomous Cars, E-commerce, CPG, Consumer goods.

Even if you see a job you like, don’t apply yet. Note down the company, repeat your Glassdoor / Crunchbase research, and move on. The whole point of this exercise is to expand your universe of potential employers.

If you’re in a big city or looking for remote jobs - you should easily be able to come up with 100–200 companies. You don’t have to do this all at once, spend a few minutes on it every day. (achievable goals, you know?)

Prioritize your target list

As your research continues, you’ll notice patterns in what companies offer & how they work. Think about which benefits, operational styles, industries, company stage (seed, series A, public?), and other characteristics matter to you.

Use that criteria to identify your top 20 companies. Don’t throw out the rest though, companies change and your dream job might be at company #57.

That’s a lot to chew on for today. Next time, we’ll talk about résumés, cover letters, networking, and job applications.