Here at Careerist we teach students who don’t have a technical background, and we teach students who do have a background in tech. Today we’ll hear Gary’s story. He already had a background in quality assurance when he came to us, but he made a big career change by completing one of our courses. He’s currently working in Colorado and he wants to tell you all about his new adventure.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I’m from Houston, Texas. I don’t have a Computer Science degree but I do have a technical degree. I’d say I’m a technical sort of person.
I did some software quality assurance work for Fujitsu Mainframes a few years ago. And I also did some work on some client computers for them.
During my working time I have completed some A to Z testing from the end user’s perspective, so I have a good understanding of how hardware works. Actually, constantly running software tests on various hardware gave me a lot of experience.
I also worked in Silicon Valley in the late 90s and I lived in Fremont, California, and worked in Sunnyvale. Back then it was the norm for managers to move from one company to another in the tech world. People would always be on the lookout for better positions back then.
In addition to the above, I’ve worked in system programmer and tech support roles for companies like Dell and Verizon. And I worked for Amazon before I started my Careerist course. At Amazon I worked in a customer services role, but I did help out with some Prime Video Android app things. I did some technical support.
Most of our graduates have little to no technical background or quality assurance expertise, so you’re quite rare. Typically, when a company sees that one of our graduates has IT or QA experience they get really excited. With this in mind, can you tell us about your job search?
Actually, I got a little help from Careerist on this one. I took an April class and after that I started my job search. I think I did an awesome job with Anna’s help - she was my mentor.
Anna worked with me to improve my LinkedIn profile, and together we updated my resume. I had quite an extensive resume, which didn’t discard my past work experience, rather it used it to show my potential. My resume highlighted that I was a technical person, and it demonstrated to employers that I had quality assurance work experience.
I spent between May and June working with Anna. She practiced my interview technique with me, and together we practiced answering the 15 most important interview questions. I would often draw on my past work experience to answer these questions.
My job search started on July 6. That’s when I got my spreadsheet set up and I actually went on LinkedIn.
I preferred applying for jobs myself, rather than using the service. I followed the recommended schedule, and I applied for jobs from Sunday to Thursday. And I would reach out to 20 to 40 companies a day during this period.
You can’t just apply for three jobs a day and claim that the schedule isn’t working. You really have to follow the program as recommended, and you have to apply to different companies. It is a numbers game and a lot of open positions get filled up quickly by other candidates. You just have to send your application in quickly.
Whenever we talk about applying on LinkedIn we mean LinkedIn Jobs.
Did you apply for roles just in Houston or all over the US?
I applied for jobs all over the country, including jobs in Houston. The global pandemic made a lot of companies in Houston move to remote work, and a lot of them have continued to do this. I applied for remote positions and I was ready to relocate if I had to.
It’s possible for individuals to find both remote and office based work, and they can change jobs at a later date if they like.
Which websites did you use during your job search?
That’s a great question. I primarily used LinkedIn. I always made sure that my profile matched my resume before applying for jobs - I think the key to success is to make sure your skills are updated in accordance to the position you’re applying to on LinkedIn.
On LinkedIn you can add your skills, and I listed up to 50 skills on my profile. They were all to do with testing or software-related. You want to make sure that you keep on updating your skills.
In addition to this, I would usually use filters to help me find work and I would use Easy Apply. So, I’d only look at jobs posted within the last 24 hours. Since I was applying for jobs every day, I was usually one of the first few people to show interest in new job postings, and I think I was even amongst the first few people to apply for these new jobs.
I think it’s important to apply every day, and it’s best to ignore jobs that are 90 days old, because they’re probably going to have 5,000 applicants already. You want to be the first to apply for a new posting.
I always used Easy Apply and I never applied outside of LinkedIn. When you apply somewhere else, for example, directly with a company, you usually sign in with your LinkedIn account, however your profile’s info may not match the job you’re applying for. It's important to make sure that your profile matches the information in the job posting, otherwise you won’t be seen as a good match for the role.
How much time did you spend tailoring your resume?
I’m sort of old school and I used to work by this philosophy… I’d look at a job description, I’d tailor my resume to suit the job, I’d come up with a cover letter for that job, and then I’d apply. It would take me a long time to apply for jobs using this system.
The resume I started with in July changed multiple times, and I used it to apply for 50-60 jobs.
Then I started using a new version of my resume, one which had my new skills listed on it, on August 25th. I used that resume to apply for 250 jobs. As for the cover letter, I used a standard one and I didn’t change it much.
Not all companies will want or read a cover letter, but should you need to write one, you should seek your mentor’s assistance.
How many interviews did you go to?
During the entire job search I had at least 10 meetings with recruiters. Honestly, I don’t remember all of them though.
When it came to interviews, I really only counted the ones where I managed to get to the final interview stage.
So, working on that basis, I managed to get to the final interview round with three separate companies. All of which I had multiple interviews with. Some were panel based interviews, and others were with a member of the recruitment team. Sometimes the manager and/or a technical person would be at the interviews. And occasionally representatives from various departments in the company would attend my interviews.
How long did it take you to apply for 20+ positions per day?
As I mentioned earlier, I used Easy Apply to apply for jobs, and most of the time I’d have some forms to fill in but this didn’t take me long. I could go through and write up 20-25 forms per 30 minutes.
If you don’t apply via Easy Apply, you will be taken to a company's website and you’ll apply there. The process will likely be a little slower, and you might only send out 10-15 applications per hour, because you’ll need to upload a lot more information.
Searching for a job is not a full-time job as some people say. You only have to do it for a set few hours a day.
Some people say that they can’t find jobs to apply for everyday, but there are new job advertisements being posted all day and everyday across the US.
Can you tell us about some job offers you received?
I got to the final interview round at three companies. After I’d accepted a job offer, another company contacted me and asked if I’d like to go to an interview with them, but I decided to stay with the offer I’d already accepted. The second company was paying less, so that played a part too.
It’s great when you can choose between offers. Would you like to share with us the offer you received for your current job?
I’m always honest when answering money questions. So, I got offered a salary of $85,000 a year, for a full-time job with benefits, which is great for me.
I live in Taxes and my company is located in Colorado. In the state of Taxes, there is no state income tax, so I already have an advantage over states where they claim income tax.
You’ve mentioned noting down 50 skills on your LinkedIn profile, could you tell us a bit more about this?
When I signed up for LinkedIn I signed up for the Premium version. The Premium version allows you to see extra information about the jobs you’ve applied for, like how many skills you have that match the role.
When I started applying for jobs, I noticed that I only had 3-4 out of 10 skills matched with a job. Gradually, I updated my profile, and my skills started to match 5/10 and even 9/10 in some cases with jobs. I did look into what skills other people were listing and this helped to improve my skills match score. For example, some of my opponents had SDLC skills listed, so I added this to my skill set immediately.
I continuously grew my skill set and my profile. I would take note of any extra tasks, like Postman Essential Training, and I would update my profile with new information regularly.
Confidence is key during this whole process. If you show confidence you’ll stand out from your competition. And when it comes to your interview you’ll feel a lot more confident.
We don't stipulate that you have to sign up to LinkedIn Premium, it was the graduate’s personal choice.
Are you expected to use API in your current job?
Not at the moment, but I will be using API and Charles Proxy when I go on to do some testing for the mobile app project.
I’m a learner at heart, so I often go back and rewatch videos and re-read the course material to make sure I understand exactly what’s going on.
What interview questions did you find hard to answer during your interviews?
During one of my interviews they discussed SQL servers. So my advice is, if you don’t know anything about SQL or Oracle, you should learn about their basic principles. There are many types of keys in an SQL server, for example.
I also purchased a refurbished iMac, so I could install Xcode onto it. This allowed me to practice my skills before I got a job. It was a relatively cheap investment because it was a desktop. I didn’t go for a MacBook because they are usually really expensive, but it worked well and it allowed me to practice.
What’s your advice to your fellow graduates and to new students?
Master at least the 15 basic interview questions before you go to an interview. The other questions will then just fall into place. And if you don’t know how to answer something, just be honest and tell the interviewer that you don’t know, but you’re willing to learn.
If you attended a more technical based interview, you’ll be expected to give examples.
After answering a question it’s good to make sure you’ve answered the question properly. You should consider asking the interviewer “Did I answer your question?” at the end of your answer. This is a simple way of double-checking if they’re going to accept your answer, because interviewers don’t always think you’ve answered the question correctly.
In addition to this, if the question is ambiguous, asking for clarification, or for the question to be repeated, shows your attention to detail and your dedication towards getting the job.
Finally, it’s vital that you focus and do your best to get the best job possible, in the minimum amount of time. But it’s also important to remember that if you want to grow and become a true professional, you have to be prepared to expand your knowledge, search for more jobs and to go the extra mile.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. Your story will inspire many individuals to try out a new job, or to even progress in their current role - don’t forget it’s never too late to explore new opportunities.
Your knowledge and experience in the field will drive you forward. Come back and tell us how you’re getting on in your new job in a few months.