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Getting that job at that one company that you think is cool

If you're reading this you chances are have reached out to me on {LinkedIn/Twitter/Github/Email} asking how to get a job at {Google/SpaceX/Sweetgreen/Some other company}. If so this post is for you. Instead of a short 280 character response, or an off-the-cuff reply, I believe you deserve a more detailed answer.

Why I shouldn't be the only one you listen to

Before reading the restoof the post you should know the following.

I'm only one single person

The truth is that any individual tends to be biased, when it comes to both how they experience things around them and how they tell their experience.

So you're welcome to read my tips and get the most out of them, but you shouldn't limit yourself to only my perspective and knowledge. You should also look for other people's experience so that you could get difference experiences and from your own independent conclusion.

Which brings me to my second point

Survivorship Bias

Only looking for successful cases without considering failures has a name, it's called survivorship bias.

When forming a strategy be sure to consider two different categories of folks.

  1. People that have applied for the job that interest you but didn't get it
  2. People who had that job and decided to quit

The second group provides the most valuable feedback. For example, I can tell you why I joined and left SpaceX, but I can't tell you why I left Google because I haven't left yet. Mindfully choose where your information comes from and balance it accordingly.

so, why am I here writing this?

Now that you know I'm offering my own perspective which is biased it might seem pointless for me to say anything at all. Yet again, there are three reasons why I still want to do it.

I was once like you

At the start of my career, just like you today, I also wanted to get into particular organizations and companies. I didn't really know how to do it, so I tried things like cold emailing people. And when people would respond, even with a short response, that gave me a lot of hope.

I want to counteract the bad advice out there

The other thing I often did was to google "How to get a job at ..." Now that I've worked at these companies, and more importantly conducted interviews as part of my job in these companies, I know that a lot the advice out there is factually false.

And now that when people like you are reaching out to me asking for help with landing a dream job, I feel I should provide some useful direction even if those directions potentially biased. In other words

wrong data < missing data < biased data

I want to use time efficiently

I can't give every person that pings me a 1:1 session, it would overwhelm me. Additionally providing 1:1 consultation would just be inefficient as the majority of my advice to you would be the same. I believe the most reasonable thing is to write down down my suggestions, so that you can get your questions answered in the most scaleable way. Hope this helps! With that lets dive into it

"How can I get a job at XYZ company?"

Here are some possible (and questionable) strategies!

Ask for blind referrals or advice

You're told to go to LinkedIn, find all the people who work at Google, or at the company that interests you and direct message them your resume.

Resume Engineering

You're advised to focus entirely on your resume. You fill your resume with lots of programming languages and the latest buzzwords. The more the better.

Getting your information from clickbait sources

You google common interview questions for company XYZ and memorize them. Here's one for SpaceX.

You're standing on the surfce of the earth, walk one mile south, one mile east, one mile north, and end up at the same point. Where are you? Know the answer yet? In fact this is Elon Musk's favorite question! according to!

Narrow focus

Many people believe there is that "one company" or that "one perfect job opening" that is perfect for them. Maybe its even a couple of those, or it may be one of the FAANG companies. If you focus on that one company or one position as your next step you'll surely make it.

Keep trying the same thing over and over

At this point I'm sure you've heard stories about Michael Jordan taking 10,000 shots or Steve Jobs getting fired from Apple. From this it's easy to believe "If you fail just try doing the exact same thing again until you suceed!" After all how can we achieve success if we're not ready to repeatedly fail?

These are all losing strategies!

I tried each and every one of these strategies earlier in my career, and all turned out to be quite ineffective for me.

I can understand the appeal, these strategies are directly geared toward to your end goal, which is getting a job. It feels like "If I just fix my resume, or find that one referral or check all the boxes for SpaceX I'll make it in." The biggest downside of these strategies excessively focus on the company you're trying to get which leaves you reacting to what you think they want rather than building up yourself and your vlaue in the job market.

More viable strategies

Here's some steps that I believe are more effective.

  1. Whatever project or task you're working on, Do the best work you can in a way that relates to your desired position.
  2. Be able to articulate the details of your work adnd why it brings value
  3. Showcase that work in a way that builds your reputation
  4. Trust your recruiter (if you have one)
  5. If don't get the job, adjust and try again

Instead of focusing on getting into a specific company or position as your primary outcome I strongly suggest focusing on doing your best work wherever you can. This builds a solid foundation of your aptitude for a particular kind of work which is what organizations are looking for. This should be the focal point of your effort.

Be able to explain what your work is, what it includes, and why it is valuable. For example if you're working on a machine learning project be able to explain the details of your model, and why your model is best suited to produce value with the choices you've made. Be able to explain why other choices would be less valuable.

There's the whole adage of "If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?" Find ways to showcase your work in a way that ensures your work gets noticed. If you're in college join clubs where your peers can see your work and achievements. If you are working in a company present your work internally, as your colleagues may end up working at the companies you'd like to join and be able to vouch for skill and experience.

If you do all of this your resume and your network of contacts will be created naturally as a byproduct of your efforts rather needing to be the direct focus. And instead of you needing to reach out to companies, people will start reaching out to you, and you'll be able to land an interview which brings us to the final point.

Once you start talking to a recruiter, do whatever you can to become their best candidate. Recruiter's entire job is to recruit, and really they want you to join the organization they're representing, ideally the one you're hoping to join. They'll have insights on what works and what doesn't and while they may not be able you all the answers you want, they will give you really strong suggestions on of how to get the position you want. Treat them as the strategic partners they are and take their advice.

If you get the job great! Even If you don't get the job you've the recruiter built a good relationship with them they'll likely give you useful feedback, which you can use to adjust your strategy for your next try. Again though don't focus solely on that one company, or one interview. Go back to the earlier steps and keep building your expertise and communication skills until you get another shot.

I hope these suggestions laid out above help you get the job you're looking for. I know you were where looking for personal advice, and it may feel impersonal that I've instead sent you a link to this essay so let me offer you some additional help. Ping me again with a specific question and send me the sum of numbers of today's isoformat date. With that I'll know you have read this and will be able to better help you in more detail.

My own story: 0% first time success rate

Know that I've been rejected by all the jobs you see on my resume on my resume at least once. Every. Single. One. Just because you're not in whatever company right now and just because you got rejected it doesn't mean you aren't good enough. Instead of focusing on their decision about your job application, focus on yourself. and keep working to be the best you can be.