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Since late November last year, I have applied to about 100 positions, and all I got was two phone screening interviews, neither of which went beyond that. I am applying to a new field (web development, and I am based in Canada. I am changing career paths). I have been taking online courses for the last 18 months, and have built several personal projects to put in my portfolio, and I included a couple of them in my resume. I find jobs using LinkedIn and Indeed, and I apply online via them (if there is an option) or via the companies' portals.

As I said before, this has resulted only in 2 phone screening interviews, 15-20 rejection letters, and the rest went without any response, which I think is not a good rate to land a job. I heard that there is something called the "hidden job market" I need to tap, but I don't know anyone in the field personally to ask them to refer me, for example. I would like to reach out to some people in the field professionally, to enhance my chances to be considered.

My question is: given my limited practical experience since I am changing career paths, and lack of personal connections in the field, what's the best way to reach out, and enhance my chances to get more interviews?

  • Also, did you manage to extract any useful info from those rejection letters? (I understand most of time they are canned ones, still, if there's a clue, it'll be helpful). – Sourav Ghosh Jan 13 at 14:09
  • Do you know any developers that could review your portfolio? – Kamil.S 2 days ago
  • Do you have a related university degree of some kind? In some countries breaking into any technical field without one can be very difficult (I don't know about Canada in particular). – Peter yesterday
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So there are many ways to network - linkedin is one, and local meetups and discussion groups are another.

Covid has made everything a bit of a mess, but there are still ways to "meet" people, typically over zoom/video conerencing.

SO now you know the how (video conferencing if in-person is unavailable to you) and you know the means - linkedin.

What you do is you look at your target companies - google, goldman sachs, wwf, whatever it is - and you find people on linkedin who work in your area at those companies. Then you directly reach out to them and tell them you love working there and you want to apply and can you have a meeting with them?

You don't need to use linkedin - depending on your role/function you can target smaller companies and look at their leadership team (this is generally available on their website) and reach out to the relevant people there. They will often meet with you, or failing that find a suitable person in their team to meet with you.

IF YOU ARE UNLUCKY ENOUGH TO BE AN ENGINEER

Then it gets trickier as engineers clasically lack inter-personal skills and won't understand what is going on. Instead, you would reach out to the people with leadership skills within the engineering department - the higher level (not team leads) managers, the project managers, the sales engineers and the product managers - and ask to talk to them. These people will understand what you are trying to accomplish and will (generally) gladly talk to you and give you advice. They will be thrilled to do this, actually, as it beats talking to engineers.

How you word it:

It works best if you have something in common with the person, and it works best if it is via email (you only would use linkedin to target the person). There are various ways to get emails for people, plugins to chrome etc that you can find.

Then you email them, explain what you have in common (if anything!) - eg, same uni:

"Hi Bob, I'm also a graduate from Great Uni's Business school" and then roll into "and i'm really exicited about the construction industry. I've loved it ever since I realised how much passion and beauty exist in the space, when I saw the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona." then you discuss their company "I would love to work in the sales department in FantasticCo, I'm really excited about the work you are doing with making-spherical-bricks" finally you ask for an action point "would it be possible to meet with yourself to discuss something I know about and is relevant to fantastic co". As an example: "to discuss how the internal software architecture of fantastic co works to help make these great spherical bricks".

I mean, if you really were going for a sales role that wouldn't be your pitch but you get the general idea. Then you send out a bunch of those, and prepare, and learn more about the thing, and then soon enough you're an expert in how various companies are using thing. Failing that you're met a bunch of leaders and shown you're interested in their field.

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There's a class of people whose entire job is to find you a job: recruiters. You need to be talking to them and working with them. They will more than happily connect with you, and the good ones will give you guidance as to which jobs to apply to, and where the strengths and weaknesses of your applications are.

  • And a recruiter can help you translate skills from your prior career path into bonuses for your new career path. – ColleenV 2 days ago
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I think the problem is you're trying to find the "trick" to getting something you might not.

Truth is you said it yourself: you're trying to change career paths. That means 1) you don't have experience, and 2) the positions might require a person with more experience. It also sounds like you don't have the education to do it because you said you're taking online classes. Both of these problems are something you can solve yourself.

So that means you have extra steps aside from applying for positions. You're going to need to build the experience that these companies desire. That means building up your portfolio with using github or something. Show them that you have the skills and that although you're new, you're experienced.

I think going that route is a lot smarter than trying to figure out "tricks" to tap into this underground network. Chances are you're not going to find it and if you do, you'd have all the experiences you would at that time. This isn't like the movies where you go to a charity event as a disguised waiter and attempt to butter up the execs by giving them a cd rom of your code to check out in the morning.

Edit:

I should add one thing that might be helpful to you based on your comment. I notice you're taking online courses. I advise against this idea. If you are able, try to take in-person classes at a local place. That way you can build networks of people who may potentially have an "in" for you at some company. For me personally, I had recommended a couple of folks right out of college once I got a job and through the recommendation one got hired. I managed to get my first job through an interview process but at my second job, it was a referral through a friend of a friend. So yes, networking with your peers very important and once in the workforce, networking does help. Not immediately but at least for future prospects.

  • But as I mentioned in my original post, I already have a portfolio of personal projects to show my skills (deployed websites, source code, ...etc), yet nothing positive has happened by applying this way. I am not trying to use any tricks. People always say this is not going to work, or it's not the most efficient way given the "hidden job market" reality, where recruiters/hiring managers seem to prefer referrals. – BlackMath 2 days ago
  • @BlackMath I don't think "referrals" are the "underground network." It's pretty common for friends to refer friends to their company. I actually done it for a couple of people right out of college and one of them got the job at the place I work at. So yes, knowing someone might really help but I suppose there isn't a "trick" to do that. This is why I dislike total online learning. It doesn't let you network with fellow classmates. If you're going to in person classes, maybe you can network with people who are there. It may pay off in the future, not right now though. Have a business card. – Dan 2 days ago
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I heard that there is something called the "hidden job market" I need to tap.

There isn't one.

I believe the actual problem is that courses and personal projects count as "no experience at all". It doesn't matter what skills you actually have. You're seen pretty much as a sum of negatives from a teen looking for their first job and someone your actual age. It's not a market that's hidden, it's you having no proven skills to offer on the overt one.

The ratio doesn't seem extraordinarily bad once you look at it as "unskilled person looking for their first job". Also, risk-averting market at the moment is strongly biased against juniors, so I'd expect that someone below junior is even less desirable. I don't know what your personal projects look like, but it is possible that what was being taught on the courses you've taken is completely different from how commercial projects look like.

To answer "What can you do to enhance your chances to get more interviews?" You can lower your expectations. Whatever the course sellers promised you - discard it. Simultaneously, you can play out your useful skills from previous career path - eg. ability to navigate corporate environment is a plus for a web developer and a salesman alike.

If you can afford it, I concur with @iLuvLogix - this is this one time when doing work "for exposure" is an actual thing. Taking part in an open source project theoretically is also an option, but in reality you can't tell a desirable project (done according to industry practice) from an exotic one, that won't demonstrate any useful skills again. On a second thought, it applies to internships as well.

Answering the question in the title: "How to connect with others professionally?" My answer is: social media groups. People who sign up there want to talk, all you need to do is give them a chance. I would ask to evaluate the projects you're using in your resume. People love to complain and you'll get lots of critique - the key will be to judge who's talking from the experience and who's just a keyboard warrior. Maybe even Code Review StackExchange is a place to get good feedback, however FB or Reddit seem like better places to actually connect with someone. Someone who will guide you how to write a better portfolio project, not necessarily someone who will open you a back door to employment.

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