After nearly four and a half years at Concert Genetics, I moved on to a new position. I’m at GitLab working as a Data Engineer on their BizOps project. I’m very excited about the opportunity and have really enjoyed my time at the company since starting on January 29.
I wanted to reflect a bit on the advice I gave in an earlier post about finding a new job. My secret when writing that post was that I was actively looking for a new position, but I had to frame it as a conversation with another person because I wasn’t public with that fact. The conversation really did happen in real life, but I was also sharing my own personal strategy for job hunting.
Create a Portfolio : C-
I didn’t have much of a portfolio initially. Most of my code wasn’t open source and since I wasn’t really on the engineering side of things I wasn’t able to contribute as much as I’d like. I did have my blog, some kaggle competitions, and some GitHub contributions, but it wasn’t what I would consider impressive or reflective of what I wanted to do. The cool thing about my new gig is that nearly all of my work is open source.
Work on Projects, not Books: B
I was working my way through the fast.ai course and I found it to be a useful way to learn and showcase my skill. The course was advanced for the jobs I was applying for, but it showed interest in the field.
Write a Blog: B-
I wrote two posts while job hunting. Applying for jobs is a lot of work. I was spending my mornings and evenings researching jobs, writing cover letters, and tweaking my resume. After I got the job I didn’t write as much, but I want to change that.
Apply even if you aren’t perfect : A
I applied to a lot of jobs (close to 40 I think). With each one, minus a few early misfires, I took a look at the requirements and specifically crafted my resume and cover letter to the job description. Most of the jobs I applied to were Data Science and Data Engineering jobs, with a few Data Manager jobs thrown in. Some I met <50% of the requirements, but I felt like I could learn on the job. Some I knew there was no chance I’d get the position, but I threw a line out anyways because I’d rather they tell me no instead of me preemptively doing it.
Don’t be desperate : A+
I really honed this skill when I was first looking for a job after graduate school. Back then I was desperate for a job, but I couldn’t act like it. It’s a big turn off. I took the same approach here: I really wanted a new position, but in all of my conversations I protrayed myself as someone eager to take a position but only if it made sense for me. This was an accurate portrayal, but it came from a position of power: I already had a job and didn’t have to take something that wasn’t a good fit. In fairness, I was much less desperate than back in 2013, but the strategy is stil valid.
On top of these recommendations, I have a few more I’d probably add.
For remote positions, aim a little lower
If you’re applying for remote positions (which I was) aim slightly below your skill level. You may be hot shit in your local market but once you’re competing with the whole world, your skills may not be competitive. I took a pure Data Engineer position, which is kind of a step down from a Director level position, but it works with my current career strategy and I’m very happy in my current role.
Don’t be cheap, pay for help
Get some kind of help in your search. There are people that do this work professionally and they know more than you. If you’re seriuos and can afford it, pay some money to make your resume and cover letter look better or to have somebody look it over and recommend changes. I paid for a service called Up to Work which gave me a nice way to make my cover letter and resume look much better. They also have a ton of free blog posts recommending how to write effective resumes and cover letters. Ues them to your advantage!
I mentioned this briefly in the other post linked above, but sometimes you’re going to have to just get lucky. I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to score this position with GitLab: It’s a great opportunity and a great company. My timing was good and I checked enough of the boxes. So as much as it sucks, yeah, you’re probably going to have to get a little lucky to get the job you want. But the above strategies will help you.
Break a leg out there!