As one of the leaders of the Chicago tech and startup communities, our CEO, Amanda Lannert, gets asked a lot of questions about running a company, finding great talent, and dealing with rapid-fire growth. But by far, one of the most frequently asked questions she gets is, “How do I get a job in tech?” Here’s how Amanda answered that question for one Chicago jobseeker.
It’s impossible to give specific advice without knowing you, but I’ll offer some thoughts nonetheless: I do not believe that gender, race, or industry experience present barriers to landing a job in a Chicago tech company and/or startup. I just don’t buy that as a universal theme. So let’s instead focus on how to get a job, perhaps anywhere, but certainly with me:
1. Focus all communication-cover letter, interviews, follow-up notes – on what you can do for the prospective employer vs. what you want for yourself.
“Dear Company, I really want a job in tech” or “I’ve seen myself thriving in a startup vs. corporate environment” is not the way to go. Instead, go with “Dear Company, I’m a hustling, hard-working, self-starter who knows the value of paying attention to detail / taking care of the customer / collaborating with a small creative team (whatever it may be) and I’d love to bring what I’ve learned to your awesome company.” In other words, make sure your pitch focuses on “what’s in it for them,” and say specifically how you’ll make their lives easier.
2. Do your homework and show it.
Don’t just blast your resume. Target your search on companies, people, and verticals that are really interesting to you, and explain why you’re interested. Startups need “believers” as much as they need staff. The more honest you are about who you are and what you like, the more likely you are to find a great fit.
3. Don’t be boring.
Just as job descriptions are the most important marketing a company will ever do, the cover letters and resumes you send out are the most important self-marketing you’ll ever do as a job seeker. Cover letters and resumes are ads for yourself, like it or not, and boring ads never work. So be creative. Be charming. Be helpful. Use good judgment and don’t be scary-eager, but put a lot of effort into standing out from the crowd because most employers really value any sign of work ethic.
4. Be likable.
Employers hire because they need help to grow their business. But don’t underestimate the power of pure likeability in business and life. People do business with people they like. Do research on people you’re interviewing with prior to meeting them and bring up a topic of common interest. Smile, be gracious and warm, and a don’t be afraid to show that you have a sense of humor.
Bottom line: there are companies that need specific experience and skills sets. But more than anything, startups need hires with hustle, heart, adaptability, and resilience. These characteristics can be found and nurtured in anyone, at any stage of their career, and most hiring companies know it.
Hope this helps,