How to Get Your Dream Job In Tech by Ignoring Good Advice

Wed Nov 13, 2013

Earlier this fall, I left the higher education marketing industry for my dream job as a content marketing manager. After 10 years in one sector, the change was daunting. During my job search, I got lots of unsolicited and well-meaning “good” advice. Some examples:

“Be more realistic” (i.e. “lower your expectations”)
“Hide your online profiles”
“Don’t be so sarcastic”
“Your resume is too creative—it should be more standard”

No matter how tried-and-true it was, I kept thinking that lots of people were getting the same advice, and not getting hired. By flouting the “common sense” tips, I landed a great gig and got some new ideas about how to get a dream job in the tech industry.

Why Work In the Tech Industry?

The tech industry has a unique allure. Whether it makes you think of Steve Jobs’ iconic turtleneck-jeans-sneakers combo, Google’s famous cafeteria, or geeks playing foosball between marathon programming sessions, you always have the sense that the usual rules don’t apply there.

This isn’t the reality at every tech firm or startup, and at best it’s a shallow impression that glosses over the true rewards of a tech job.

To me, working in tech meant the opportunity to learn from people who are constantly building something; to observe and support innovation; to be constantly challenged by the fast pace of change and discovery; to help grow a company using my skills; and to work with people unshackled by old habits because to thrive here means constantly looking forward.

What It’s Like to Work at Percussion

There are delicious perks like gourmet donuts on Tuesdays, ridiculously good bagels on Fridays, free fruit and beverages daily, and the occasional surprise lunch of Italian food or a baked potato bar (tech is all about the carbs, apparently). There is a foosball table, but I have yet to see it used. We’re a busy bunch.

When you walk through the office you hear phone chatter, keys clacking, sometimes music, and often laughter. Everyone is extremely smart, committed, and hard working. Our engineers use agile methodology, constantly fixing something or creating something new, with major improvements happening every couple weeks. Everything is testable, measurable, and constantly being refined.

The expectations are high and the atmosphere is collaborative. Dedication is rewarded with recognition and appreciation, company goals and strategy are transparent, and the management team works hard to bring everyone more closely in sync. This is the hardest I’ve ever worked at any job, but it’s also the most fulfilled I’ve ever been.

How You Can Get Your Dream Job In the Tech Industry

1. Don’t kid yourself, you’re going to get Googled

If you want to work in tech and don’t have a digital footprint, people will get suspicious. Even if you don’t have a website, develop an interesting, informative, or entertaining online presence so your good reputation can precede you.

2. Always be learning

Your body of work might get you in the door, but no one will hire you for your experience. They will hire you for what they think you can do next. Don’t stop developing your skills.

3. Always be working

If you hope to change industries or do a job you haven’t done before, do some side projects on your own time that expand your abilities and portfolio beyond what your current job allows.

4. You’re the one driving, so know where you’re going

If you’re not ready to apply for your dream job, try to find a logical intermediate step. Wherever you want to go, there’s usually a path to get there, and it’s your job to map it out.

5. Look out for culture shock

A cultural fit matters in any job, but in a tech setting, you have to be extra nimble and able to communicate well with your team. Make sure you understand your values and assess whether they align with your future employer’s values. If your sense of humor is a match, everybody wins.

6. Go easy on the self-sabotage

Women are more likely to suffer from “impostor syndrome,” unsure they are qualified to do their jobs (I’ve been there), but we all find ways to undermine ourselves. You might not feel 100% ready to make a big move, but don’t let trepidation stop you from trying.

7. Be passionate and authentic, really

Whether you’re applying to a big company or a small one, you’re tasked with the responsibility of growing their business and helping delight their customers. If you can’t align with the company’s culture and mission, believe in its offering, and empathize with its customers, you’re not going to do great work, and you’re not going to keep your job.

8. Ignore good advice

The tech industry creates the emerging standards, and is not backwards-looking in hiring practices. Much of the time-tested advice you’ll hear from people outside the industry won’t help you. Take the time to understand the landscape, your value, and the companies you want to work for, and trust what your instincts tell you above all else.

Luck, timing, and who you know still matter as much as your skills and body of work. Accept there are factors you can’t control and prepare yourself to do better when the conditions are right and you have a chance to make an impression.

Karo Kilfeather, content marketing manager at Percussion Software
Karo Kilfeather
Content Marketing Manager | Percussion Software

Karo was born in Poland, and learned to speak English by watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns during her first summer in the U.S., which has left her unable to go through life without occasionally breaking the fourth wall. As Percussion's content marketing manager, she oversees and creates content that drives website traffic, engages followers, and helps fill the marketing and sales funnel. She writes about content management, content marketing, SEO, social media and web design, and how to make it all less complicated.