I got my first salaried job in 2014. In the 9 years since then, I’ve worked for 9 different companies, made a major career change, and pivoted from the world of public education to the corporate space. Despite these statistics, I haven’t actually changed my job every year. In fact, I managed to stay at one of them for a whopping three years! On the other hand, my shortest tenure was 3 weeks at a mess of a company that absolutely wreaked havoc on my mental health. In my most tumultuous year, I filed my taxes with 5 W-2s (the agony). While I’d like to think I’m not completely unreliable, the reality is a trend of staying at a job for an average of a year and a half.
Rather than doing any necessary self-reflection on why this is (there’s one common denominator here), let me instead impart my wisdom on applying for jobs in 2023. I think you’ll see that I’m uniquely qualified for this role (let the note-taking commence) because despite my resume being marked with a scarlet Absolutely Not, I do miraculously keep getting interviews.
To start, let’s first acknowledge a significant caveat that the process I’m about to describe applies mostly to the corporate setting. If you’re looking for work in another sector, the following additional considerations apply:
Higher ed - Add at least two months to the interview process, including a presentation to a faculty panel regardless of its applicability to your role.
Public K-12 - Combine all steps into one 30 minute interview and are you able to start immediately?
Government - I have no experience so can’t really say but judging by the current state, you’re probably too young for consideration.
This post is also going to describe the process of success, which I whole-heartedly acknowledge is rare and still somewhat mystical. Part luck, part experience, part privilege, part connections. The ratios vary but the constant is that you never really know when it’s going to be the one. Details, details.
With that out of the way, let’s get into it. We begin with phase one - the prep. My strategy for this has admittedly changed over the years. What started as very methodical has shifted to a focus on speed and sheer volume. You’ll need to update your resume with your current work experience, add in some power phrases (the word “champion” should be used at least once), and potentially give it a visual refresh. Double-check that you don’t have any typos, but also accept that you won’t see the typo you missed until you’ve applied to at least 50 companies.
Next, you need to outline the minimum criteria you’ll accept, or, phase two. For me, that criteria includes:
Absolutely no people managing, leading teams, or expectations for regular presentations
Company rating greater than or equal to 4 stars on GlassDoor
Within salary range (ain’t nobody got time for companies who don’t post it)
No travel greater than 5%
No requirement for a cover letter
Once you set the bare bones needs and dealbreakers, you’re on to phase three: throw out your resume to every job that passes the first scan. This stage starts off mildly exciting but quickly becomes a brutal test of resilience. Keep in mind the pace is quick. If a company doesn’t get back to you within 3-5 days, it’s time to mentally write them off. 5% of the time this will be accompanied by a formal rejection email but the rest of the time it’ll just feel like you’re throwing your resume into the void. This is where breadth over depth works in your favor. Don't worry, we planned for this.
Phase four is when morale receives a boost. A recruiter reaches out to you -there’s interest! This is when you start researching the company and immediately begin imagining what your life would be like at the new job. Read through the reviews, try to figure out the benefits situation, do some light LinkedIn stalking, and I guess maybe take a look at what the company actually does. Phase four is when you officially become emotionally invested, but buckle up, because the emotions only get more intense from here.
All that prep happens as soon as someone reaches out to you and before phase five - the actual interviews. It starts with a 30 minute call from a recruiter to make sure you’re an actual human and you read the job description. You skimmed it the first time but after phase four your hard work will start to pay off and you'll be able to speak eloquently on how you couldn't imagine a role more tailor made for you. Speaking of pay, your primary goal during this call is to try to pin them down a little bit on the actual salary range. Although you’ve already weeded out the non-posters and the low-ballers, the rest will likely say something like, “the base salary range for this position is expected to be between $32,000 and $245,000”. Those sneaky bastards.
Phase six brings an interview with the hiring manager where the primary goal is to make sure you didn’t lie on your resume and you actually know what you’re talking about. This is maybe the most important step - not necessarily for securing the job but to help inform The Decision. The hiring manager is likely going to be your manager in the actual role and managers Make. The. Job. It would be better if there was a site like unto ratemyprofessors.com where, rather than rate the entire company like GlassDoor reviews, former employees can give anonymous reviews of their manager. Consider this my formal call to software developers everywhere to make it happen. In the meantime, you’ll have to be satisfied with the company-wide cultural commentary and also exercise constant vigilance during the interview. Be on high alert for any whiffs of micromanagement, unrealistic expectations, or otherwise toxic behavior.
During phase seven, the interview cycles can branch out in several different ways: submit a portfolio (have you really been working the past couple years?), technical interview (again, the lie test), panel interview (your second chance at a vibe check), cultural fit (are you an asshole?), and finally, upper-management interview (a formality. You will never talk to them again). If you’re anxious, add plus or minus 24 hours before and after each interview for inner turmoil, rehearsing, analyzing, rehashing, and overall paralysis.
If you make it through this roller coaster - congratulations! You’re onto phase eight (or 14, who can say) - the offer! This is your first indication of the validity of those GlassDoor reviews you obsessed over and where you start to evaluate how well they match up to your expectations. But first, take a minute to bask in the validation that they want you and settle into the peace that the interviewing is finally over. You did it! You're good enough!
If you’re extroverted, confident, or just, like, not part of a marginalized population, this might even even lead to phase 8b - negotiation. I have no advice here.
Phase nine is arguably the most annoying because, even for non-serial-job-hoppers, it’s repetitive - telling your current employer (and family and friends) you’re jumping ship for something else. Be prepared to express your “mixed emotions” over and over, as if the “bittersweet” news isn’t 100% your doing. Throw in phrases like, “I wasn’t actually looking but it’s an opportunity I can’t pass up” to help fuel the narrative that only something AMAZING could ever pull you away from this totally replaceable job. Record a mental talking track of what your next role will be, your start date, and whether or not you’re doing anything fun or relaxing between jobs. You’ll have two weeks of this conversation peppered with sifting through the docs on your computer for the ones that actually need to be handed over for your manager to never look at again (but stresses the importance of). It’s grueling, but this is one of the few steps in the process with a predefined end date. You can make it. Unless, of course, you’re one of those rockstars who makes their departure effective immediately. The company is still in the same spot but you’ve saved yourself from the Goodbye Merry Go Round. You’re a person before your time.
I think most people would end here and say that phase ten, starting the new job, isn’t part of the application process. And it’s true, you have the job! But it only takes one failed onboarding experience (remember the three-week disaster?) to know that the first couple months is still an evaluation. Most companies have some variation of a probationary period and you’re most likely trying to prove yourself and make a good impression. But the interview process unfairly gives more time for the company to assess you than for you to assess them. Phase ten marks the end of the speed dating round, when both of you have to determine if the relationship is a good fit or if you’ve been catfished after all.
Ideally though, the beginning of the job is the honeymoon period. Again, if you’re anxious and/or introverted, give yourself at least two weeks of complete discomfort in not knowing anyone or anything. Then, settle into the learning stage, the small, tightly scoped projects, and the discovery of fringe perks (you know how I love the swag). The post-anxiety beginning is as good as it gets. Hold on as long as you can and be proud you made it through the process to successful employment!
So anyway, in totally unrelated news I just hit the one year mark at my current job. And yes, I updated my resume.