Setting up For Success in Your Next Role: Where to start?
Staying true to our mission - enabling learning and experience sharing among community members - we are hosting regular DevRelX Community Sessions, an hour-long community-led conversation. At every session, our community members present the topic they're experts in, and together with a group of peers in Developer Relations, discuss challenges and share insights on various topics. Would you like to participate in or lead one of the future sessions? Join the DevRelX community.
This article summarises the notes from the fourth session, "Setting Up For Success In Your Next Role," which was part of our Career Month initiative, among other activities.
Wesley Faulkner, Sr. Community Manager at AWS, presented tips and led a group discussion, joined by other aspiring DevRels, on:
Practical tools to help your visibility and help you put your best foot forward
Steps to define and find the right match when looking for the next opportunity
How to best position yourself and set yourself up for success in your next role`
Let's dive in!
1. Your Online Presence
It's essential to ensure that all your online profiles are as complete and robust as possible. These are publicly accessible platforms that can highlight your work. Such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Polywork, Dev.to, GitHub, Hashnode, Stack Overflow, or any other communities in which you participate.
This is crucial because whoever stumbles upon your profile there should know what to approach you with and how. You don't want to appear as multiple personalities in each location (e.g., react developer in one and full-stack in the other). Make sure those are consistent and up to date with what you're interested in now. When someone is researching you for a role, they also want to be assured that you are the right person in all of these areas that showcase your work.
2. Define What You Are Looking For
Sometimes it can feel like you need to take the job you can find or accept what's available. It can feel like a seller's market, but as a person selling yourself, ensure that you're looking for the right environment conducive to the way you work and what you're interested in and tailored to your strengths. Here are a few things you want to consider:
Work culture. What kind of culture do you want to be a part of? Think of the company size - small companies might have more freedom to accommodate different roles and activities, but you might have limited resources. At larger companies, you might have more resources but are more likely to focus on a narrower objective or work within the existing system.`
The size of the team. You can be in a large company and be the first member of a new team. Sometimes you can be in a small company but still within a large engineering organisation or DevRel group. There are many different companies and journeys but think about the size of the team and what kind of support you'll need to do your job appropriately.
Remote vs. In-person. Most of the roles you will find will be remote, but some are in-person only or in specific locations where the company is headquartered, depending on where it operates. If you don't have the flexibility necessary to do both, don't apply for an in-person role when you're only going to be able to work remotely and vice versa. Make sure it's clearly defined by reading the job description and seeing if that's called out.
Seniority. The role's seniority is the next thing to consider. Depending on where you want to be, you might want to think about what title you wish to have. Decide if you're looking to move up or remain in the same position. You may also be open to taking a cut in seniority for a role that is more to your liking because it meets all your other requirements.
Project Type. Think about the projects you want to work on. Do you want to work on releasing another sign-in form? Do you want to work with a group doing something tried-and-true or new and exciting? Let's take crypto, for example. It's a specific niche, and you'll find more roles there because there is a lot to do, such as educational pieces, awareness, and community building. Or would you prefer a database company that's been around forever, and people know about that tech, and you're just there to concentrate on new features? So think about the kind of work that excites you.
Finding others in the same boat as you are is a great resource. As the saying goes, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. You can pass each other job leads, which companies should avoid, or they can connect you with someone explicitly looking for your skills. You can start this right here with others in the DevRelX community.
Peer Communities. Several groups specialize in specific technologies or verticals. It's fantastic that SlashData has the DevRelX community Slack. There's also Twitter, Meetup.com, and other ways to find peers. I would recommend using all of those sources to access the specific niche you want to target and find others like you, as well as find possible leads and people hiring. The bigger group you form, the better.
Past Co-Workers. Stay in touch with your previous employees, and go back as far as you can with anyone you've ever worked with. When you're switching jobs or leaving the company due to layoffs, attrition, or the company folding, ensure you're connected with all of your old co-workers on LinkedIn or any other networks they're in. LinkedIn is my preferred network of choice regarding work connections. The reason why this step is necessary is that they have experience working with you directly. They know your work ethic, what you're good at, and your style. They also might refer you to their current company, which works well for both parties since they may receive a referral bonus.
4. Vetting a Company
When looking to work at a new company, you'll need to ensure it is the right organization. Keep in mind that you aren't just looking for a role that will hire you; you are looking for a company where you can succeed.
Reviews. Check out Glassdoor and Blind app to see available reviews and what people say about the company. You can look at their current employees to see if they're on Twitter or LinkedIn and what they say about the company and their work experiences. Look at pay levels for the role that you're interested in - levels.fyi is an excellent source to understand if they are in your pay orbit.
References. If you feel comfortable enough, reach out to employees directly. Let them know you're interested in working for their company and if they'll tell you what it's like to work there. You can also reach out to past employees; sometimes, they're a little more honest about the circumstances that caused them to leave. Ask them about the work conditions or if there are better opportunities outside the company. Past employees are more candid about how the sausage is made at the company, so I would ask them about the abovementioned things - team size, responsibilities, and similar organizational challenges.
Job Description. One thing you should absolutely do is parse the job description. When you look at the job description, you can see how defined the role is or if it was templated and put together in a slapdashed fashion. It may not be defined as what that person actually does, the objectives, or how success is measured. Suppose it's copied and pasted for a generalized position for the titles they are looking for. In that case, you can tell they're just looking to fill the headcount for that position. In the job description, look for the milestones of the role and other specific indicators that show signs the company knows what they're looking for and if you're the right person to fill that role.
5. At The Interview
When you get past the application and start going through the vetting process, you'll be put in contact with a recruiter. Don't miss your chance to ask questions!
Resources & Costs. Talk to the recruiter about the investment that they allocated for the role. By investment, I mean the pay, equity, other perks, and support infrastructure for the position. Is the new hire going to be able to hire staff and contractors, and is there a budget? What resources will be available for that person to be successful? Everything that goes along with performing that role, like travel and equipment costs, should be thought through, especially if this is in DevRel. Do they have their own design team or design assets? Don't assume they have thought through all the supporting items you'll need for success. You can and should talk to the recruiter about your concerns.
Onboarding Process. Ask the recruiter to describe the onboarding process. That will tell you two things: how to prepare so you can be ready for the onboarding and if they even have onboarding, which also tells you about the company's maturity. During the first few weeks in the new role, what do they do for new employees?
Hiring Timeline. Ask the recruiter how soon they're looking to hire to get a timeline of this position's urgency. Ask about the interview process and how many rounds there are. If the recruiter is very open, ask how many candidates are in the pipeline, if they are looking to fill the role immediately, or if they are holding out for the right candidate. Is it just a minor role, or is this the critical role that they really need to get filled? You might not get all your questions answered, but understanding how significant the function is at the company will give you a better perspective.`
Milestones. When you're talking to an interviewer, ask what the definition of "done" is. If you did a good job, what would that look like? Try to get that vision from the person you're interviewing, so you can understand what they're looking for. Talk about milestones: do you need to produce on day one, a month, or 3 months in? Understand how they see your progress in the role and see if they can explain that. Ask what the day-to-day looks like and what they prioritize. How is success defined and measured? Do they do quarterly evaluations, have specific metrics in a SMART format, and how do they measure success? You need to know what they monitor to reach those goals. If they can't explain in detail, that is a red flag.
Quality Standards. What are their quality standards? Sometimes they expect work to be done quickly, and sometimes thoroughness is preferred. Figure out which side of the scale they're looking for so that you can set your expectations. Is the aim to move quickly with an MVP to get it out the door and iterate? That may be an issue for you if you want to ensure the work is done well before you put your name on it.`
Money Talk. If you ever get asked about pay, try not to answer that question directly with the recruiter. Give a wide range if you have to, but first, try saying you're looking for the best fit using the list from above. Stress that you'll have a better sense of compensation after you go through the interview process and better understand how much work there is to be done. Beware of the situation where there is one title, but it's actually 50 roles, and it feels like you have to do everything. Then you might want to change your compensation based on that workload. If you're going to be laser-focused on one thing you're passionate about, you might be open to taking a lower salary. These are some things you want to consider before saying how much you're looking for in terms of pay rate with a recruiter. Hopefully, the recruiter will be the first to divulge the actual range that's budgeted for this role.
Think it Through. If you're ever offered the job, ask how much time you have to give an answer. Try not to give a yes or no on the call whenever you're offered the job, and give yourself some time to think about it. In your excitement, you might be pushed to say yes immediately but don't. Breathe, look at the offer, review your resources and consult people you trust to ensure that it is a good fit for you before making that life-altering decision.