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Learn from a career mentor how to leverage everything from your network to your resume to your project portfolio to enhance your job search experience, and showcase why you’re the most qualified candidate.

Job Applicant - Career

Hello new Udacity graduates, and congratulations on your achievements! You’ve successfully completed your Nanodegree program, you’ve acquired valuable and in-demand skills, and you’re ready to start applying them in exciting ways. Now, what comes next?

Are you looking for new roles? Have you started to apply? It’s a pretty amazing stage to be in—looking forward to a future full of new challenges and accomplishments—but it’s not without its difficulties. The job search process can often be confusing, overwhelming, and frustrating, and you may find yourself wishing you had someone who could answer your career questions and help you navigate the complexities of today’s hiring landscape.

If that sounds like you, then you’re in luck because career mentors are here for your benefit!

Udacity’s career mentors are highly qualified individuals—they include digital marketers, software engineers, and career coaches—who care deeply about your personal success. I happen to be one of them!

As a career mentor, I’d like to share the answers to some of the most commonly asked career questions I’ve received from Udacity alumni as they pursue their goals.

Career

Where should I look for work?

There are always open positions in the marketplace, but you need to know where and how to look to find them. This is something that mentors can help you with.

My first recommendation is to start with the people you know. Up to 80% of applicants find their next opportunity via their own network! Then, after polling friends and associates, take your search to job boards such as Glassdoor, Dice.com, and LinkedIn.  Need help? Our mentors will work with you to identify how to hone your focus.

Pro tip:
If you’re specifically interested in remote work then try weworkremotely.com, konsus.com, or use “Remote (Work From Home)” in location fields on job boards. See more remote-friendly job boards in the Udacity Career Resource Center.

How do I apply to jobs?

One of the most important things to do is to make sure you carefully follow the instructions provided by each specific employer. This may mean hyperlinking your LinkedIn profile, or sending a resume and cover letter. Be sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are completely up-to-date and that every word is relevant to your desired employment.

The use of advanced hiring software generally means that up to 75% of applicants get filtered out before they’re ever even seen by a prospective employer. To ensure you’re in the 25% of applications who are seen, you need to make sure there are no typos, that the resume is cleanly and consistently formatted, and that you’re using keywords that match those found in the job description. In other words, don’t send a generic spammy resume!

Pro tip:
Be proactive on LinkedIn and send a quick introduction to the company’s technical recruiter, senior employee (ie: a senior data analyst or marketing manager) or hiring manager.

Making a human connection can be a good way to get your application in front of people who make hiring decisions. Be polite and respectful of your contact’s time. Being overly eager or too pushy with your requests can backfire.

Sometimes companies host events open to the public. If given the opportunity, attend these events—dressed appropriately, and with resumes in hand. Open house events provide a chance to build professional relationships. Use a clear introduction to make a positive and memorable first impression. Then, show an interest in your conversation partners through active listening and by asking relevant questions.

After the event, follow up with an email thanking your new connections for their time. Conclude your thank-you note with a call to action, requesting a referral to their hiring manager or technical recruiter. Or, if your connection is in charge of hiring decisions, request they consider your candidacy for employment.

How do I get experience, so I can prevent getting turned down for having no experience???

This can seem like a difficult obstacle to overcome, but there is a roadmap for the inexperienced. In fact, new developers have many growth opportunities to gain experiences that will make you more hireable. For instance, nonprofits are often looking for volunteer developers. Another option is to tutor adults or young people. Additionally, anyone can contribute to open source projects on github.com/explore. Digital marketers can find volunteer opportunities on platforms like Idealist.

Showcase relevant experience by creating an online portfolio containing your most impressive projects. Don’t stop there! Continue to build new projects and append them to your portfolio. Portfolios highlight examples of real-world projects, and demonstrate experience with in-demand skills. Publishing projects creates a personal brand. The more you publish, the stronger your personal brand becomes, indicating to employers not just that you are hireable, but why you’re hireable. Repeat this process with consistency and diligence, and recruiters will begin to reach out to you.

Job Application Materials

How do I write a resume?

This question deserves an article of its own, and many have been dedicated to the topic. Refer to Quincy Larson’s “You in Six Seconds” and this free resume building course from Udacity for specialized advice on this subject. Also, it’s incredibly helpful to know what recruiters look for in a resume.

Resumes and LinkedIn profiles often require multiple drafts to get them to where they clearly and effectively highlight your specialized skills. Many people find that it’s hard to talk about themselves in the ways that are required by a resume, so it’s of paramount importance to have your resume reviewed by a trusted source.

Fortunately, Udacity offers a suite of Career Services—including personalized reviews of resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and cover letters—for Nanodegree students in Udacity career-focused programs. Additionally, Udacity alumni are invited to take advantage of these awesome opportunities to get honest, in-depth feedback from career mentors.

Applications

I apply but never hear anything back. What am I doing wrong?

Many companies make use of advanced Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These systems filter candidates that don’t successfully indicate employability. Candidates control very few variables in the hiring process so it’s important to focus on what you can influence.

You can overcome ATS bots by ensuring your job application materials are up-to-date and relevant to each employer per their job description. Be active on GitHub or Medium and maintain your portfolio. Publish often to increase visibility for your personal brand. Network with other developers in real life and over the internet. Be part of a community that promotes one another and is invested in the success of its peers.

Most importantly, continue applying!

Community

There’s not a big tech community in my area. How should I connect?

The internet is a fantastic place to connect with lifelong learners who share the same interests and ambitions as you! Here’s a great example of how effective and amazing online networking and collaboration can be. Recently, a Udacity grad from Romania proposed a collaborative project in the Udacity Alumni Slack channel. He met with a ton of interest, and he’s now formed a working partnership with four other grads, located around the world. They’ve developed a new product together, and are iterating on how to monetize it successfully!

Meetup is also an excellent place to find developers, designers, and digital marketers interested in building and networking. If you can’t find a meetup around your topic, start one of your own and become the go-to person in your area.

Connecting to a strong development community could be your ticket to a new and exciting career opportunity. It may shorten your employment search and be the difference between stagnating and leveling up at an accelerated pace.

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Leave us a comment and let us know if you’ve had success in your job search. What worked for you and what advice do you have for fellow alumni still looking for employment as a developer? Explore Udacity’s Career Services today!