A sequel to “Career advice for techies”
The enquiry is usually something like…
“I’ll be graduating with a Masters in Data Science from the University of X this summer, and would love to get an internship with your team. I’m super passionate about machine learning! Can I give you my CV?”
Honestly, just having enough initiative to find someone that might appreciate your skills is already a really strong positive. However, I usually find myself giving the same few pieces of advice.
Show, don’t tell!
Like Eliza in “My Fair Lady”, I don’t want you to declare your undying love for machine learning: I want to see that passion, preferably in the form of GitHub repositories (check out this enviable GitHub profile), Google Colab notebooks, or — the gold standard! — even the tiniest web application that actually applies some of these techniques. The very best engineers love building things so much that they keep right on coding when there is no deadline and no paycheck. You are showing that you have an intrinsic motivation to build things — a dream colleague!
Make a good first impression
Suppose your CV makes to the desk — or, more likely, the inbox — of the Hiring Manager. It will be one of a stack, read (skimmed!) in rapid succession. If the position is for a recent college graduate, these will often be very similar. To stand a fighting chance, your CV should be visually appealing, a model of clarity, with all copy (text) kept as concise as possible.
- Use a template! In the age of Canva, there is no excuse for an ugly CV.
- A good template makes your CV more readable. For example, a two-column layout can make it very easy for a reader to focus either on work experience or education.
- Industrious students have often worked a lot of jobs during summers or even during the term. Listing these doesn’t hurt — it shows off your work ethic — but you don’t need to supply a paragraph for each explaining how it contributed to your personal growth. Be miserly with your word count, and keep it for work or projects that are relevant for the job you are applying for.
Remember how your CV was one of a stack? Don’t name the file “my_cv.pdf” — include your own name in the filename — “henry_higgens_phd_cv.pdf” is a lot better.
Connecting the Dots
So you’ve pushed you passion projects up to GitHub, remembering to give them a decent
readme.md (pictures are good!), and your CV is a thing of beauty and a joy forever — what more can you do? A surprisingly common mistake is to prepare a great portfolio, then forget to link to it from the CV! Remember that CVs will often be reviewed on a laptop — a clickable link in the header or close to it will make it as easy as possible for that busy manager to see the amazing things you’ve done. Take “all the things” (GitHub, LinkedIn, Twitter, www.myamazingai.com) and hook them into your LinkedIn profile.
Reduce, reuse, recycle!
If you’ve built a cool thing, tell people! For example, you could write a “making of” article or an explainer for some technique you’ve tried and post it on Medium (I love those! Connor Shorten is an excellent role model). You could make a little picture/animated GIF/video to liven up a tweet about your project (I got 99 likes, 20K impressions and 10 new followers from a recent tweet of this kind). You could do a tech talk — shout down the Inner Voice of Doubt! Just one such talk let me to a new job with opportunities I had never dreamed of.
The value of sheer bloody-minded determination is hard to overstate. The right job may take a month, 3 months, 6 months to find. Even if you “settle” don’t stop looking — jobs that make you look forward to Mondays do exist, and with a little luck and stubbornness, you can have one too.