Thriving in Tech – A conversation about tech company culture, work-life balance, & breaking into tech cultures

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JobStep’s CEO, Eleanor Meegoda, sat down with Jillian Hufnagel, JobStep Advisor and Head of Culture at Slim.AI. They talked about thriving in tech company cultures. 

Below are some tips and highlights from the webinar

How did you break into tech?

[I’m an] “art school dropout turned receptionist, office manager, executive assistant, Chief of Staff, head of culture, coach, and advisor. My career has not been linear. Most people’s careers are not linear. I love working with startups.

I’m a Mom of two. I have a 10th grader who’s 16 and an almost eight-year-old who’s in second grade. Homeschooling is no fun for anyone at my house. My kids are finally back in school, which is awesome. 

I attended Mass College of Art for a few years, and my plans changed when I had my first baby at 23 and had to work full time. I transitioned into working in a hospital and doing appointment scheduling. I realized that I hated being in my chair at a certain time, else I was in trouble.

During high school, college, and after, I did a lot of waitressing and bartending, starting at age 14. For any of you familiar with Inman Square in Cambridge, the East Coast Grill is where I learned to love food.

There was a restaurant that I worked at after college with a mill building across the street that had a ton of tech companies in it. I never thought I would get into tech; it wasn’t intentional. I had restaurant customers coming in who I got to know who worked for a video game startup. 

They were super awesome people – artists, designers, and engineers – many of whom are still dear friends today. I formed relationships with them, and the impression I made was a good one. I was myself – curious, approachable, and willing to meet my customers’ needs. I got offered a job to be their reception/office manager/admin at that tiny video game startup with about 30 people, where I got to wear a lot of hats.

The important takeaway from how I broke into tech is that when you can be your authentic self, people see that and they’ll know whether or not it will fit in their culture. 

Now, I’m on my 9th startup.

How do you know if you’ll have to wear a lot of hats at a tech company?

“Part of it depends on the scale of the organization. Some startups will be further along than others. 

One of the things you want to understand is ‘how big is the company? How far along are they?’ If they’ve got more than 50 employees, you’re not going to have to wear a lot of hats. If they have less than 20 employees, you’re probably going to have to wear at least a couple. 

When you get in ground level at a really small startup, you get to  dip your toe in over here in accounting, and you get to dip your toe over there in event marketing, then you find yourself supporting fundraising.“

How do you figure out if a tech company is for you?

For people who like building processes & wearing many hats:

“What’s really fun about startups is that they are kind of like Silly Putty. They’re soft, squishy, and moldable. When you try to put them into too tight of a construct, they tend to not stay in that shape. If you’re the type of person who thrives in structure, I don’t think you want to look at a startup unless it’s very well established.” 

For people who like structure:

“If you like structure, you’re going to want to look for later-stage startup organizations that are “series C” or  “series D”, meaning that they’ve raised multiple rounds of funding, and they’re probably either looking at an IPO or looking at being acquired. What happens in that phase of the business is they have to get all their ducks in a row. They need to have everything documented, have all their file structures clean, and start acting like a publicly-traded company. They can’t be messy or loosey-goosey anymore.” 

All companies are becoming a little bit more volatile. So a technology company might be as safe or a better bet than a large, old company, depending on the industry. 

“Some of the companies that I’ve worked for have been acquired, and I have rolled into very large global organizations. And to me, it feels like having my candle put out; it’s just not for me. What is true in organizations that grow through mergers and acquisitions is that they likely also have structured layoffs regularly. 

Large organizations that are publicly-traded to hit their margins and make sure that they’re doing what’s right for their shareholders need to grow and shrink with the market. You might assume that going to work for a large global company is going to give you more stability than a small startup, when in reality, they probably have two to three structured layoffs every year.”

What should you do if you’re not great at assessments, but you get one in a recruiting process?

Remember that it’s just one part of the process.

“Think about testing as just one piece of the component. Testing can be on technical skills, soft skills, or testing to see how you react when you’re uncomfortable. 

Because it’s only one component of the interview process, a test result is not necessarily an open and shut case; it’s just one more thing that employers look at when they’re trying to consider the holistic approach. 

If you know you’re bad at taking tests, you should tell them that tests give you anxiety. You should tell them that because that’s your authentic self. You don’t want to be the square peg in the round hole or the round peg in the square hole. 

You want to thrive. If you can’t be your authentic self, because maybe testing is part of that job regularly, and it’s going to stress you the heck out. You don’t want that job.”

Ask them what an employer is trying to understand about you with this assessment.

“You can say, ‘I’d like to understand what do you look for in the output of these assessments? What are you actually looking for? Are you trying to understand how quickly I can accomplish a task? Are you trying to understand whether or not I will get nervous? Are you trying to understand whether I have a hard skill.’”

What are some questions to ask to suss out bad culture?

Ask questions to assess how your manager and the team address conflict

“I think one of the things that we do as humans is we associate good and bad. When in reality, everybody’s messy. I.e., companies are messy! They are full of messy people. You want to suss out: ‘When there is a conflict, how is it addressed?’ “

You can ask: “If I were your employee, and I had a conflict with one of my peers, how would you address it? 

Potential Red Flags: If the hiring manager says: “Oh, I would go talk to that person’s manager, you’re gonna probably want to be like, why aren’t you teaching me how to have healthy conflict?”

Ask questions to see whether the company and hiring manager run things in a way that matches with how you thrive. 

“This is really important. 

Tip: Think about a teacher, a mentor, a parent, a family member, someone in your life who you look up to, who was there for you, and who helped create an environment for you to thrive. 

Were they the type of person who was sitting next to you saying, ‘Let me show you how to do this, I’m gonna teach you how to do it, and then I’m gonna let you try.’ 

Or were they the type of person who said, ‘I’ll push you off the cliff, and you just raise your hand. If you need the flotation device, I’ll throw it to you.’ 

We all thrive differently. 

You want to suss out whether or not the hiring manager, the team, and the organization create the environment that YOU can thrive in. Some people actually like to be pushed off a cliff and say, ‘I got it. I’m going to try this on my own; I’ll let you know if I need help.’ You want to think about culture directly related to how you thrive.” 

Reflect on what your non-negotiables are and ask questions to see if the company will make space for that: 

“Think about culture directly related to what are your non-negotiables.

For example, do you have a family that you’re supporting? Do you have someone that you’re taking care of? An organization that expects you to work 70 hours a week is likely not one you can thrive in. Cliffnote: those people working 70 hours a week always burn out.”

Remember that you should assess the company as much as they assess you.

How do I show up and succeed in a tech job in the first 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days?

Tip: Have ownership of your professional development. 

“As the head of culture, I support that by engaging with my employees to say, ‘Is there a methodology or a tool or a skill set skillset that you don’t possess today that you’re curious about that you think would benefit you?’ I’m not doing that unless the team member is coming to me saying, ‘Can we have a professional development chat?’ It is key that they are also talking to their manager regularly in 1:1s about their growth. You have to take ownership of your development: what you want to learn and how you want to grow.“

Tip: Ask lots of questions: 

“Another thing that’s important to your career development is especially when you’re in tech, or you’re transitioning into tech. You need to ask questions.” 

Tip: Take time to learn how things are currently being done.

“You’re going to bring skills and competencies to the table that will come to bear that will benefit the team. That can’t happen if you’re not learning what already exists. You need to take time to actually read the handbook. There’s context in there that’s important. Take time to get to know people on your team.”

Tip: Take time to actually get to know your new colleagues as people

“Actually get to know people, book a coffee with them, if it’s over zoom, fine… It’s important to spend time learning who the other humans are that you’re sharing space with, even if it’s virtual space, because what ends up happening is you create common understanding, and you create mutual caring and mutual respect. 

When you create common understanding, caring, and mutual respect – then people are excited to hear your ideas. Nobody will listen to you if you don’t take the time to get to know people to try the process as it exists. Then you can influence for the better.”

Tip: Replace “sorry” with gratitude

“When you ask questions – follow with gratitude, not an apology. Don’t say: “Sorry to ask but…” Instead say: “I have a question. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer it.”

Say: ‘Thank you for taking the time to show me.’ Don’t Say: “I’m sorry, I can’t find it.” No one wants a mousy apology. 

Never start a question with “this may sound dumb”!

You’re asking questions so that you can be more resourceful and effective in your job and make the whole business run better.“

Tip: Imposter Syndrome is real. But you are not an imposter. Give yourself grace and time to learn. And don’t let the feeling drive your behavior.

“Imposter syndrome is real. It’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter if you’re changing verticals or if you’re going from non-tech into tech. Every time you start a new company, you may think, ‘I hope they don’t actually see that I can’t do this’ or ’I hope that they don’t think I’m incompetent’ worse ‘I don’t feel like I belong here.’ Imposter syndrome is real. You need to give yourself grace and not let it drive your behavior.

One phrase you can use with your colleagues: “Thank you for showing me this. I know you already showed me and I forgot. Please show me again, and I won’t forget.”

Tip: Startups are moving at a pace of a tornado. Be proactive about finding answers or figuring out the answers on your own. 

“Another analogy I want you to think about is, especially in tech startups, the organization moves kind of like a tornado. There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason in very early-stage companies. It’s literally just everybody getting together to try and figure it out. FITFO: “Figure it the fuck out.”

You’re walking into a tornado, and all these people are spinning around you. You need to be able to pull things out of the tornado to find your footing. Sometimes that’s asking for help, sometimes researching, or even asking if you can sit in a cross-functional meeting to learn how another team or another department does something. You’re a student, and you need to observe to learn.”

What do you look for in new hires and new team members?

“When I’m thinking about hiring someone into a startup, 

  • I look for curiosity, self-reflection, and aptitude. 

And part of the aptitude bucket is that you know enough to ask for the training you believe you need. You’re self-reflective enough to say, ‘I’m over my skis,’ ‘I don’t actually know this.’ Consider if you need to go learn, find a tool, take time to research…Ask yourself, ‘do I need to go listen in on some other experts talking about these things?’ 

Your baseline skills and competencies that you have today are going to keep evolving. Beyond that, what soft skills/hard skills should you grow – because maybe you suck at them. That’s your self-reflection: knowing where you are not strong & focussing growth there.

When you’re self-reflective, you can ask questions like, ‘Am I the thing that’s holding the project, the program back? Is my ego holding us back? Am I being stubborn – “Because I know how to do it,” and I’m not listening to the team. Maybe ‘I haven’t called out that we have a budget gap. 

Maybe I’m afraid of going to my manager to tell them that everyone on the team thinks this is a bad idea and no one will say it.’ That happens in startups.”

About Ageism. Should I still apply even if I’m a mature professional?

Tip: Consider tech & startups if you thrive in change

“If you do not thrive in change or are not willing to try to thrive thru change, I would have you pause on whether or not you want to go into a startup, especially in technology.”

Tip: If you’re nervous about tech, see that as a growth opportunity & go after it!

“If you’re scared to do it, that means it’s a growth opportunity for you. If you can get to go into your growth zone, you will be a better version of yourself & challenge yourself. If you’re saying to yourself, ‘I’m too old for this’ or ‘I can’t learn new tricks,’ you’re limiting yourself by having those thoughts and those beliefs. The reality is, you bring a lot to the table.”

Tip: Own what you bring to the table

“Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion are increasingly important in tech, and diversity includes age. 

I love spending time with people who are just about to retire because they look at the world differently than I do, and I can learn from that.

I love working with people who don’t have my background, like the staunch engineers who are on headphones on coding for hours. They typically are not extroverted. When I do get to work with them, I’m excited to learn something new. 

Think about diversity of experience and perspectives, that includes age. Consider the volume of wisdom that you bring to the table that a young person doesn’t have. You can help guide the organization because you likely have a lot of patience that you’ve developed over your lifetime, that maybe some folks younger and career don’t have.”

Onboarding processes often don’t yet exist in startups. How can I succeed?

Tip: In a startup, you get the opportunity to document and make and shape the processes better for the future organization. 

“The onboarding process tends to be non-existent. You have to take the attitude of: “let me grab this, let me grab this, let me grab this.’ and you create the plan. You get to be the author of what will be better for the next person.”

Instead of finding documentation, you may have to sit down with your leader and your team to say I need more context and ask clarifying questions. 

Ask effective clarifying questions & follow-up with gratitude

“ ‘I hear you saying x, y, & z. But I don’t actually understand what that means in the context of this discussion. Walk me through it a different way.”  Then express gratitude for them taking the time to do that.” 

“Try repeating back what you think their intent is. Say: ‘I believe what you’re trying to convey to me is that the sky is purple. Is that true?’ Likely they will say, ‘No, that’s not what I meant at all.’ And you say, ‘Okay, great! Can you try explaining it in a different way? Or can you try using a different approach?’ Then express gratitude for them walking you through it. 

Be curious first. Take action. Save Judgement.

“If you look at a process, and think, ‘this is garbage; it is disorganized; it is not helpful; it is unclear.’  If you go forward with that attitude, you’re not seeking to understand. Someone might be like, ‘Oh, I wrote that in five minutes because nothing existed, please make it better.’ That’s probably going to be the answer in a startup. The answer is probably going to be, ‘That’s just the best we could do at that time; we had four people.’ We don’t have four people anymore, and now you’re here, so please find a way to contribute.”

Can I balance working in a tech company with my life–especially if I have kids or people I support?

Yes – you need to be proactive about setting boundaries that help you thrive.

“If you choose technology, you also have to be intentional about how you support yourself.  

You can’t be the best version of yourself if you’re not filling your own bucket. Your work is going to be less than stellar; you likely are going to get passed up for things like promotions, raises, lateral moves, etc., if your bucket is empty. If you gas yourself out, that’s on you, not the company. 

There have been times where I’ve worked so much that my hair was falling out in chunks or I wasn’t sleeping because my brain could not turn off at night. 

When you work in tech, you need to set healthy boundaries and communicate with other people what’s important to you. 

If you pretend that your kids aren’t a big part of your life, that’s not your authentic self. If you pretend that your cats and dogs aren’t important, that’s not your authentic self.”

Work is only a component of your life. Be intentional about the choices you make.

“When you think about how you balance work in life, know that they’re the same thing. It’s all your life. 

Work is a component of your life. Your hobbies, your children, your cats, or your love of travel are all components. 

If you love traveling, find a company that doesn’t have any offices and is completely asynchronous. Go work from a beach in Hawaii, and nobody cares, altho they may be jealous. Your location is not going to affect your ability to impact the outcomes of the business in a remote company.”

What books and resources do you recommend?

  • The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Cutler
  • The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  • Turn the Ship Around by David Marquet
  • No Ego by Cy Wakeman

Perscholas Career Lab Recap

What Employers Really Care About — JobStep | PerScholas Career Lab Recap

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On Thursday, April 29th, I was lucky enough to be invited to chat with 25 PerScholas grads about how to accelerate their job search. We focused on understanding what employers really care about and how you can reverse engineer the employer process to get and ace interviews. 

Per Scholas is an incredible and free bootcamp focused on preparing aspiring professional for technical careers. They have programs in AWS, DevOps, IT, Cybersecurity, and software engineering. Learn more about Per Scholas here. 

Key Takeaways

Employers care about 4 things when they’re evaluating a candidate

  1. Skill: How quickly you can get up to speed
  2. Level: What level of work they can trust you with
  3. Quality: The quality with which you approach your work
  4. Team: Whether they’ll like working with you
When you’re applying, recognize that it’s not just your certifications or pedigree that matter. What’s more important are showing stories and accomplishments that prove that those 4 categories of information above.
 

Read the full presentation below

Increasing Income: Promotion vs. New Job

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Should you negotiate a new salary with a promotion, or should you look for a new job? 

The answer is often both. The easiest way to negotiate more money is to have a competing offer in hand.  

Netflix says the only way to negotiate more pay is with a competing job offer. A competing job offer proves the job market wants to pay you more money.

It can be difficult to prove you are worth more than your current salary, especially if job searching within the same industry. However, we recommend considering positions outside of your company and even industry as you can likely earn more. A Forbes article notes that your pay may increase by as much as 20% by switching to a job within a different company. 

One of our recent JobStep job seekers received an interview for a job that would pay him twice as much as he made in his current industry. It’s clear on this JobStep client’s resume that he’s worked in retail all his life. But the new company recognized that he could solve problems, perceive how decision-makers make decisions, and adapt quickly to changing situations. 

You do not have to jump ship with your current company just because you secure a higher paying offer. For both your benefit and your company’s, first see if they would be willing to negotiate a new salary, revealing the monetary value other employers have assigned to your skills. Keep in mind, these conversations are less likely to happen without showing your employer you have this alternative option. 

When looking to increase your income, consider both a promotion within and outside of your company, as well as jobs in other industries. Doing your research helps ensure you get the most money possible. Remember, you are best able to negotiate when you have a competing offer in hand. 

If you are curious how much you could make by pivoting to the tech industry, check out $10,000+  Reasons to Pivot to the Tech Industry

pivot to the tech industry

$10,000+ Reasons to Pivot to the Tech Industry

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Did you know for the same skill, you can make $10K-$20K in increased salary when switching from your current job to positions within other industries? For hourly wages, that boost in income equates to about $10 more per hour.  

Why? Some industries value certain skills more and also have a lot more room for growth. This is especially true within the tech industry. 

You already put in the work and obtained the skills; you owe it to yourself to make sure you’re getting paid what you deserve for your unique skill set. The list below contains examples of easy ways to increase the value of your skills, as well as which ones have the most value in tech:

  • Improve your data entry skills with SQL: This is one of the most straightforward coding languages to learn, and the steps to acquire a basic certification are relatively simple. What’s great about writing SQL is that it uses a lot of everyday English to pull data from large databases. We recommend the ModeAnalytics SQLSchool and W3school as a great place to start learning.   

    The investment can pay off in the long run. A basic SQL certification, offered through a variety of online courses, can increase your salary from a $35K customer service role to a $50K customer support role.

 

  • Ability to easily learn new software: The less your employer thinks they have to teach you, the sooner they can trust you with more challenging tasks and therefore pay you more money. The best way to prove this ability is to track and add examples (to your resume) of software you learned on the job.

    For example: “Learned Mailchimp within 2 days and built email automation, speeding up daily marketing operations by 10%.”

 

  • Professionalism and ability to build strong relationships: You will likely work within a variety of environments with differing individuals in the tech field. These can vary from everyday customers all the way to CEOs and executive leadership. By demonstrating your ability to establish strong business relationships on your own without coaching, you can achieve greater responsibility and ultimately higher pay. 

 

The thought of researching new jobs let alone other industries can feel overwhelming. We started JobStep because we knew how difficult it is to unpack which of your skills are the most valuable and which companies will pay the most for it. In your next job search, whether with us or on your own, you should consider expanding your search to new industries and jobs that may complement your transferable skills. 

For more information about JobStep and how we can help align your skills with the appropriate industry, visit here.

Succeeding in Customer Success

Highlights from JobStep’s Webinar with Customer Success Leader, Ty Raia

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Highlights from JobStep’s April 8 Webinar:

Succeeding in Customer Success: A conversation with Ty Raia

Thank you to everyone who joined JobStep last Thursday for our public webinar on how to break into customer success roles with Customer Success Leader & JobStep Coach, Ty Raia

Ty Raia is a long-time customer success leader who transitioned from a background in Customer & IT Support into Enterprise Customer Success. He’s worked in individual contributor functions and managed large teams. We were so lucky to speak with him for a full hour where he talked about his experience and shared tips for aspiring customer success professionals.

Want to break into customer success? See below for his tips.

 How did you get started in Customer Success? Did you know you always wanted to be in Customer Success? 

TR: I was working as head of service and support for a global company. The part of my job that I loved was working with strategic partners and long-term enterprise customers. A well as developing success models internally. It was around this time I began to search for what that role might look like outside of account management or support. What role can I do this part full time. Naturally on my search I came upon customer success. I became engrossed in all things CS. I went to every meeting I could find, did informational interviews and after a few years I decided it was time to make this official. 

When did you start to realize CS could be a career?

TR: Around 2011 or so, a few years after it really started in 2009. Jobs in CS really began to grow. 

What is customer success?

TR: There are a lot of fancy definitions out there but I think it all boils down to achieving the customer’s desired outcome. 

What is the difference between account management and customer success?

TR: I think it is all there in the titles. Account managers manage accounts. They tend to have a focus on growing accounts not necessarily making them successful. Additionally, Customer Success uses very different tactics. 

What is the difference between customer service and customer success?

TR: Easy, Customer Service is reactive, Customer Success is proactive. 

How much sales is involved in Customer Success? 

TR: Depends on the job. Ideally, not at all. I think when you have your CSM (Customer Success Manager) tied directly into sales you muddy the relationship. There is a conflict of interest between hitting a quota and doing what is best for the client. 

You have a background in statistics and IT. Are those skills required to get into success? How technical do you need to be to get a job in CS?

TR: People come from all different backgrounds. These skills helped me get roles in SaaS companies where the product is more technical but there are plenty of companies that are not. I would say if you are new to CS, looking in the vertical where you have experience will help give you a leg up. 

For people who are trying to break into CS, what advice do you have for them?

TR: Find a narrative. Most of us don’t have a direct path seeing as the field of CS is only about 10 years old. Find an organic story that tells how you have come to CS.   

What are common jobs that people have before becoming a Customer Success Manager?

TR: It runs the gamut from sales to support and even account management,  but the core is the same: they are passionate about the post-sales relationship. 

What are the top 3 skills you recommend aspiring or early career CS managers invest in and what are some resources you recommend?

TR: Active listening skills, time management and a good understanding of de-escalation Bonus: Solving Puzzles. I highly suggest going through a CSM training course if you are new to CS. There are a lot of ‘tricks of the trade’ that are critical to be familiar with before walking into a CS role. I suggest SuccessHACKERGainsight, and The Success League for training. The Customer Success Leadership Network , Gain, Grow, Retain I use as regular resources and Catalyst Software on Linkedin has some outstanding material including an amazing podcast NPS I Love You for general how to get the job advice. Finally, JobStep has an outstanding course that lays out tactical steps on how to prepare awesome interview answers, networking, and the job search overall.

Are there different types of customer success? If so, what are there?

TR: There are two big roles in CS. There is CS and CS Ops. CS Ops is more of the backend technical side of the job and is not usually customer facing. From there you can find all types of segmentation. The biggest one I see is between mid-market and enterprise accounts. There are also CS roles that are more sales based and focused.

When you were recruiting for early career customer success managers, what skills or personality traits did you look for? 

TR: Coachability, a passion for learning and empathy. All of the hard skills can be taught. 

How technical do you need to be to succeed and get promoted in CS?

TR: It depends on the company/product for some of this. However, there are some metrics you should be proficient in understanding and calculating such as Renewal Rates, Retention Cost, Churn Rates, NPS, Health Scores, ARR and/or MRR. There are a ton of other ones, but each company will have the metrics that are important to them, know these well. 

What are the top trends in CS?

TR: I personally think we will start seeing more in CS automation and CS operations as the field evolves. 

What advice do you have for someone with an IT background who wants to break into CS?

TR: I would say first, get to know customer success, take a course or do a lot of self study. Just like coding or being a database admin, there is a lot you need to know to walk into the role. That being said, once you are looking use your IT background to your advantage. Look for products that are more technical, look for products that sell to IT personas, you will have a leg up in these roles. Additionally, keep an eye out for CSM roles that specify technical skills such as Technical Customer Success Manager or Customer Success Engineer. 

How do you manage customers if the company has 1000s of customers? 

TR: There are a lot of different engagement models out there like high-touch, low-touch and tech-touch. It will also vary depending on if you are SMB, enterprise or mid-market. Each company is different and will align your book of business to the model. As an example, someone who works in a high-touch enterprise space will have just a handful of customers as where someone in mid-market tech-touch might have hundreds. 

How do you set an effective agenda for an Executive Business Review? Especially since CEOs leave or zone out after the first 10 minutes?

TR: Make those 10 mins count. Sometimes I think we get too embellished with these types of meetings. Personally, I would rather have a 2 page deck that boils down what were our goals and how well did we achieve them. Everything else in this presentation might very well be important like a roadmap or industry benchmarking but often to someone in the c-suite, it is just fluff. Also, I like to get c-suite feedback early in the meeting, if I wait until the end of a 30min-1hr meeting they are likely to have checked out by then and honestly I don’t blame them, they delegate a lot of work because they are in charge of a lot! Respect their time, give them what they need to move onto the next thing. 

Pay It Forward Fellowship by JobStep

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Announcing JobStep's Pay It Forward Fellowship!

JobStep’s mission is to break down barriers into tech and expand access to the opportunity and wealth that those careers bring. Successful JobStep alums and supporters of our mission have helped us start a Pay it Forward Fellowship. Grateful for the mentorship, support, and help they’ve received in their career, they’re paying it forward BY COVERING HALF THE COST OF THE JOBSTEP GUARANTEED INTERVIEWS PROGRAM for 8 individuals. 

Check out our official announcement here:

We’re looking for individuals who know that they could take on more responsibility, more creative, more challenging (and better paying) work, if someone gave them a chance.
What will you win?

3-5 individuals each month will win 50% OFF the JobStep Guaranteed Interview Program. Sign up at the link below, and you’ll be one step closer to the job of your dreams. Winners will be selected on a rolling basis. 

Winners Receive:
  •  1-hour of interview coaching with your own personal  job coach
  •  a professional resume & cover letter
  •  we find and apply to jobs for you
  •  5 interviews in 6 weeks, guaranteed
Terms & Conditions
  • Total of 3-5 spots each month to get 50% off the JobStep Program. 
  • Interested applicants can apply here: https://jobstep.typeform.com/to/Xp7j0veo
  • Must be unemployed or not working more than 20 hours per week or making less than $40K/year. Former stay-at-home parents who are returning to work, folks who have been laid off, recent grads, essential workers, and veterans are especially encouraged to apply!
  • Must be looking for roles in the US and have US work authorization.
  • Early applicants get priority.
  • Must be interested in Customer Support roles paying $40K-$65K, Customer Success roles paying $50K – $80K, Data Analyst roles paying $50K- $90K, Sales ($40K – $80K On-Target Earnings), or Entry-Level Software Engineer/Support Engineer ($50K – $90K). 
  • Must have some of the prerequisite skills for these roles to be determined via 20-minute interview & follow-up application questions. 
  • Process: Must provide the SOAR story and additional application questions. Weekly finalists will be called in for a 20-minute interview. 

#jobseekers #jobsearch #contest #free #jobinterview #payitforwardwit

Alexa Rivadeneira JobStep Job Coach

The Importance of Thank-You Notes

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A simple thank-you note to your job interviewers is an easy way to stand out from the crowd of applicants. With a thank-you note, you prove to an employer that you’re truly excited about the role. You give hiring managers one more proof-point that you’re professional and that you would be a positive addition to their team culture. 

Beyond the signal and data a thank you note leaves a hiring manager feeling appreciated and feeling good. A hiring manager is much more likely to remember you and see in you a positive light when they know you appreciate their efforts and time.   

Below, we’ve combined our team’s tips and a template for your next thank you to your future employers. 


Overview:

Thank-you notes should be short and sweet, and highlight specific takeaways from the interview. Start by thanking the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you and sharing insight on the position. Then, dive into 2-3 specific nuggets from the interview. These could include insights on company culture or performance, specific functions of the role, or a story about the interviewer’s time with the company. 

If you have any additional questions not asked during the interview, you can also include those below in a bulleted list. This portion is not necessary though and only recommended if you actually need an answer; do not ask a question just for the sake of asking a question. (Always ask yourself if you could address the question internally by doing research first.)

Finally, wrap with a pleasant concluding remark like “Have a great week/weekend,” and sign off with “thank you.”


When to Send:

All thank-you notes should be sent no later than 24 hours after the interview. Your interviewer may take much longer to respond, and in some cases they may not respond at all. 


Why Send a Thank-You?

There are many advantages to sending a thank-you note after an interview. Below are a few:

  • 80%* of HR employees find a thank-you note to be part of the deciding hiring factor.  
  • It brings up your name again. You’ll be fresh in your interviewer’s mind. This is especially helpful if they have interviews with other candidates that day or week. 
  • It helps you stand out in a crowd. Roughly 75%* of applicants fail to send a thank-you after the interview. 
  • It demonstrates you are serious about the role.
  • A small gesture can go a long way. People like to feel appreciated. 


Other Tips:

  • Make sure, especially if sending to multiple interviewers in the same company, that you customize your thank-you note for whomever is receiving the note. 
  • When sending your thank-you note, see if you have had any other methods of communication with the individual first. (i.e. other email chains). Responding to a previous email chain (like the one confirming your interview) means your email will be less likely to get lost or go to spam.
  • Emailed thank-you’s are the primary method, especially in these socially distanced times, but handwritten thank-you’s are also a great option.

 

Template:

Hello (interviewer),

Thank you for meeting with me today to discuss more about (insert role at company), as well as sharing more on your background with (insert company). I really enjoyed hearing about the (example one: like friendly company culture or an item they shared from their background), (example 2), and (example 3). 

After the interview, I recalled a question I had about (insert question – i.e. how the staffing model is designed for matching clients to employees) and was wondering if you could share any additional insight. 

Have a great rest of the week and thank you again for your time!

Many Thanks,

(name)

Conclusion:

Successfully completing an interview is an accomplishment all on its own. Increase your chances making it to the next round by spending a few minutes writing a thank-you to your interviewer(s). These notes are not only a great way to stand out in the competitive interview process, but also help you reflect on your experience with the company, ensuring whether this is the right career move for you.

 

* Source: Accountemps

Why Am I Not Getting Any Interviews?

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During a good economy, the average job seeker gets about 1 interview for every 10 applications. During a bad economy, that number went to about 1 interview for every 20 or 25 applications. (We know because we apply to jobs for our job seekers and have tracked response rates before and after lockdown!).

By why should you expect to get so few interviews for so much work? There are 3 reasons. To understand, you have to step into the recruiters’ shoes.

Reason #1: Competition

Employers typically get many more applications than they have job openings. The bigger the brand name of the employer, the more applications they get. The smaller the employer, the less help a recruiter has to review all of their resumes.

Reason #2: Quick Skimming

If you’re lucky, the recruiter who sees your application is able to focus their full attention on your resume. One great recruiter we spoke to gets up at 6 am. He tries to read every resume he received in the last 24 hours before his workday starts. But many recruiters are only skimming resumes on their lunch break or between meetings.

The average recruiter spends only 6 – 20 seconds reading a resume.

Reason #3: Software That’s Not on Your Side

Some resumes may never even reach a recruiter. Employers use a software called an “Applicant Tracking System” (ATS). These systems often use fairly basic and limited keyword “parsing and matching” algorithms to “read” your resume. Let me explain.

Parsing means that they use code to convert your resume file into a format that the computer can understand. Most of these systems are old and so don’t have the capability to decode color, unique symbols, or fancy designs that you might have built with Canva, Adobe, or other design tools. As a result, if you apply online, you’re safer if you stick with a plain black and white resume with an everyday font like Arial or Times New Roman.

Matching means that the software will try to match keywords that are in the job description to what’s in the resume. These tools are often not smart. For example, they often can’t match words with different tenses or spellings.

That means that your resume needs to have exactly the search terms a recruiter or the software is looking for. This means you need to make sure  your resume includes the job title, common software tools, and the most important skills that are required for a job. For example, if you’re applying to be in customer support, make sure you have the following keywords in your resume: “Customer Support, Zendesk, SQL, Intercom, Email, CSAT (customer satisfaction score), building documentation.”

In sum, many resumes get filtered out by the Applicant Tracking System. And a whole bunch more get weeded out when a recruiter skims through a resume. As a result, a 90% rejection rate actually means you’re doing just fine on the job market.

So, if you’re asking yourself why you’re not getting any interviews, here are 4 issues with your process:

  • You haven’t sent enough applications. Send at least 50 applications to have a large enough sample to start getting responses. If you might only win 1 out of every 25 times, you need to apply to quite a few jobs.
  • Your resume might need work. If you haven’t gotten at least 2 interviews within 2 weeks of submitting your 50 applications, then your resume needs work.
  • It could be that your resume isn’t getting parsed correctly. To fix this issue, pick a boring but readable black and white resume format.
  • It could be that your resume isn’t getting out of the software and into recruiters’ hands. Make sure your resume has the job title, the key software skills, and other key skills as they are described in the job posting.

If you think this is a crazy inefficient situation, you’d be right. And that’s why we built JobStep. We allow you to leave resume writing to the professionals and the numbers game to our robots and highly efficient operations team.

We’ve built a job search process where all you need to do is prepare for interviews. You focus on being a great communicator, reflecting on your past experiences, and thinking about what you want in your career.

Do I Need a College Degree to Get a Job in Tech?

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No. You don’t NEED a college degree to get a job in tech.

Does a college degree help? Yes.

Let’s unpack this:

At the end of the day, hiring managers want to know the answer to 3 questions.

Question 1: How quickly can you learn everything you need to know to do this role well?

Hiring managers want to hire folks who can learn quickly, learn independently, and learn effectively. Different employers will provide different levels of training and they want to see that you’ll be able to succeed with the training they provide. In addition, most employers have an onboarding timeline in mind. During the interview, they’re assessing how much of the skills and context you already have so they won’t have to train you.

The faster you can learn, the faster you can begin “adding value” to the business. The more independently you learn, the less time other employees have to spend training you. Employers want to spend less time training you.

Here are some ways to prove you learn quickly:

  • On your resume and in your interview, discuss the hard things you’re currently learning. For example, we highly recommend taking free courses on Salesforce, Zendesk, and SQL to get into customer support and customer success roles. However, be ready to talk about the course and prove what you’ve learned during the interview.
  • In your resume, talk about how long it took you to onboard before you were independently doing your job on your own.
  • Provide examples of skills you learned on the job or on your own and how you used those skills.

Question 2: Once you’re fully up to speed, what level of judgment, intelligence, and grit will you bring to this work? Or, what will the quality of your work be?

If you don’t have a college degree, make sure you provide clear examples of when you’ve done excellent work. If you can, provide business metrics that prove you can achieve hard goals. Here are some examples:

  • Your customer satisfaction score
  • Whether you were in the top 5 or 10% of customer service agents
  • How much revenue you brought in in sales
  • How much time you saved when you developed a new process

Question 3: Will you be an enjoyable-enough colleague to work with?

Your employer will spend 8 hours a day (often more in tech), 5 days a week with you. They don’t expect you to be their best friend but they expect to have a respectful relationship where they look forward to interacting with you. Show how you would make their workday enjoyable by being respectful, engaging, curious, and proactive.

Why do many employers prefer a college degree?

  1. Most hiring managers and recruiters in tech have a college degree. They or their parents probably spent a lot of money on that degree. They might have a somewhat misplaced feeling of justice: “If I did something hard to get here, you should have to do the same hard thing to get here, too.”
  2. Network Validation: When hiring managers know what college you went to, they might be able to see if they know people in common to backchannel to ask how quickly you learn, about the quality of your work, and whether you’re an enjoyable enough person to work with.
  3. Quality Grouping: If hiring managers have hired or worked with others who went to the same school as you and were awesome to work with, they are likely to be biased to think that you are similarly awesome. This is especially the case for quantitative and technical roles or roles where the employer will have to trust you to make good decisions about how to work with customers, how to build a tool, or how to design a new process.

College can be an incredible educational experience where you’re surrounded by smart and experienced people of all ages who give you a perspective on the world and how to make better decisions. A great college education can give you foundational knowledge that makes it easier to learn new things throughout the rest of your life. In a college setting, smarter and experienced people are structuring your information diet in a (hopefully) optimal way.

But, with free resources like EdX and Khan Academy, podcasts, colleges posting their syllabi online, and even free training resources offered by the software platforms themselves (Mode Analytics, Salesforce Trailhead, and Zendesk), you can replicate much of the educational experience on your own.

If you don’t have a college degree, here are 5 things you can do to help you break into tech:

  1. Take online courses for in-demand skills like SQL, Salesforce, HTML, Zendesk, and Excel.
  2. Use those skills in your job, volunteering, or freelance gigs to have an impact on your business. For example, use those tools to save time with automation, pull data to make recommendations to your boss, or create new content.
  3. Aim to have measurable results in your job. For example: earning the top 5% of customer satisfaction scores on your team, bringing in 5% more monthly revenue each month, reducing the time it takes to execute a process by 50%, or addressing customer concerns for 50 people a day. Metrics show employers that you can work under pressure and drive impact and overcome any reservations they have about your pedigree.
  4. Take every opportunity to communicate the quality and quantity of your achievements. Showcase your impact on your resume, be clear about how you achieved that impact in interviews, and bring it up (naturally) while networking.
  5. Remember, even a perfect candidate will only get 1 interview for every 20 jobs they apply to. 

Not sure how to showcase your impact in your resume?

Still worried about the fact that you didn’t go to or finish college? JobStep helps talented people, regardless of pedigree, get into tech jobs. 

JobStep writes your resumes and cover letters–and get you interviews with employers who will measure you by your skills and impact — not your pedigree. 

How to Answer: “What Is Your Expected Salary?”

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When employers ask “what is your expected salary?” or  “desired salary?” or “Minimum salary?” most of the time they’re trying to make sure that they have the salary budget to match your interests.

Your goal is to put a range that gets you the most money while staying within their budget. Most employers have a salary band for each level of seniority. If you put a salary range that is lower than the salary band, employers might think that you’re less experienced than the role qualifies you for. If you put a salary range that is dramatically above the salary bank, an employer might think you’re overqualified for this role.

Here’s what you do to prepare for this question:

  1. Go to Glassdoor, Payscale, levels.fyi, Indeed, Linkedin, or other salary sources to estimate the salary for this position at this company.
  2. If you can’t find the salary for the company, you can use Payscale and Linkedin to estimate the salary based on the industry and years of experience required.

Here’s how to answer salary questions on an application:

  1. If it’s not required, leave the question blank. Recruiters care more about your skills than your salary range. They’re going to check you have the required skills first and are unlikely to weed you out if you have the skills, but no salary requirement
  2. If it’s required, try to put “negotiable.”
  3. If you can’t put “negotiable,” try to put a range. If you have to put a number, pick the average number you’ve found from your research.

Here’s how to answer salary questions in a first round interview:

  1. Try to punt it:
    • “I’m looking for a competitive offer that includes benefits and other kinds of compensation, but I’d like to know more about the specifics of what this job requires first.”
    • “Based on my research on Glassdoor or Payscale showing the range of competitive salaries for this position, I feel confident we can align on salary expectations”
  2. If they really push, you can ask:
    • “Do you have a sense of the budget or salary range for this position?”
  3. If the recruiter is really stubborn and says that you cannot continue without providing a salary range, then provide a salary range:
    • “Depending on the role responsibilities, I’m looking for a salary somewhere ranging from “X to Y.”
    • Not sure what a good range is? Subtract $5K from the average—that’s your X. Add $15K to the average, that’s your Y.

To summarize:

  1. Try your best to avoid answering your salary preference until you have a verbal offer.
  2. Use resources like Glassdoor, Payscale, Linkedin, and Indeed to figure out what the average salary range for a specific role is. You can use the industry average when you can’t find the data for a specific company.
  3. If you have to share a salary preference, try to share a salary range.