We all want an amazing career, but wanting something isn't always enough to get it. And if that something is a job at a top tech company, your life just got a whole lot harder.
Even though just getting an interview at a top technology company is extremely hard, there are ways to make it happen. I worked in the HR recruiting space for about half a year helping job seekers get positions at some of the best technology companies.
I can tell you the basics of getting a good job, but if you want one at these companies, it takes a lot more. You need the drive to go above and beyond, an incredible amount of preparation and persistence.
No one said being the one candidate they accept out of thousands is easy; to chase the dream of working at one of these companies is not for the faint of heart.
If you don't have a Type A personality when it comes to learning and chasing goals, there will always be someone who will outwork you to get these jobs.
To be blunt, getting a job at one of these companies can take years of hard work, sweat and keeping a positive mindset. If you're lucky enough to have started preparing early, you will have a world of an advantage over those who started after they graduated from college.
It's hard for the people who realized working for companies that are not innovative can get boring fast. That's not to say that some of the jobs at either Facebook or Google won't be boring, either. But the company and the culture will allow your creativity to thrive and your career to progress very well in regard to your skills.
They invest a huge amount into their employees to help them succeed, so with time, you will be more likely placed in something that interests you. All they ask in return is that you work extremely hard on improving yourself.
You don't have to necessarily work overtime, but they expect you to be working on increasing skills and talents outside of work because you do it out of personal interest. For instance, an amazing computer programmer that goes home after work will probably continue programming once he gets home. Those are the people they want.
They look for a specific type of mentality, and they don't want people who simply just want to work at a top technology company for the name. They want people who will focus as much as possible on refining the skills they use and love.
So let's say you want to work at one of these companies out of a labor of love; you admire the culture, the investment in the employees and the fostering of creativity. Now the question is, where do you start in order to get a job at one of these companies?
1. Participate in competitive hackathons and win.
If you're asking yourself, "WTF is a hackathon?" you're probably not fit to work at a tech company. According to Wikipedia, a hackathon is where "computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects."
I competed in one of the biggest hackathons of the year, TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2014, in which 132 teams competed. You don't have to win a hackathon of this size, in fact, many schools hold hackathons and some even fly in students from around the country for free so they can participate.
It's no surprise, at these hackathons you can find recruiters from top tech companies all over the place scouring for talent. It's not as hard as it seems; from my experience, the programming is the easy part, coming up with a good idea that shocks judges is much harder.
If you can mix programming with creativity, it will help you enormously. Most hackathon ideas presented in front of judges are pretty bad because people have a hard time being innovative.
Take advantage of it. If you're able to win or even just place, having publicity about your team and your "hack" will do wonders for recruiting purposes.
2. Major in a STEM field.
This suggestion is pretty obvious, but still, many don't realize they are chasing the wrong degree until it's too late. A STEM degree makes your résumé much more attractive to recruiters. It's a must to have an interest in technology if you want to work for a tech company, and a computer science degree is a great way of showing that.
It's not just about majoring in computer science, however. The interview process is tough, and you need a great deal of programming knowledge far beyond a degree to get you through it.
If you're not technology-oriented on your free time and not focusing on continually refining your relevant skills, don't be surprised when they don't give you a job.
For positions that are not programming-related, the same set of rules applies, concerning the adherence to refining your skills as much as possible.
Many people get into these top tech companies by working in the sales department. That's no way to go about life, but you do need to learn how to sell yourself.
Moreover, you need confidence in your abilities, the skill to answer questions under pressure and to think quick on your feet. Just like any other job, they want to hire someone who believes he or she is very good at what he or she does.
4. Compete, compete, compete.
If it's not a hackathon, find other competitions to showcase your skills. You need to be competitive and win awards. Your job is to get noticed in a big way, and there are competitions all the time.
The only way to 100 percent know if you're good enough to work at one of these top companies is to beat out others trying to do the same.
5. Attend a coding boot camp.
Just like the word hackathon, if you're asking yourself, "WTF is a coding boot camp?" you're probably not fit to work at a tech company.
A coding boot camp is a vocational school for people who want a fast-track way to finding work at a tech company with good pay; it's devoted to creating software developers.
These boot camps can be grueling. They usually last anywhere between two and four months, cost thousands of dollars and require a minimum of 60+ hours of work a week. It's worth it for many.
According to The New York Times:
In a recent survey of 48 boot camps, Course Report, an online boot camp directory, found that three-quarters of graduates were employed, with raises averaging 44 percent from their pre-boot camp pay and an average salary of $76,000."
6. Go to a top-tier school.
Going to a top-tier school doesn't matter as much anymore, but it still makes a difference. People are mentally constructed to appeal to name recognition. Trust me, having a résumé that says Princeton or MIT on it does make a difference.
7. Network like crazy.
One of the best ways to land an interview at a top tech company is by a referral. It's not easy, and you have to put yourself out there to meet the people who work at these companies. Your mission should be to find out where they like to go, make friends with them and get a good referral.
Companies love referrals; in fact, that's how most employees are interviewed and hired. It's no surprise that they have a good reason to do so. Candidates from referrals are statistically proven to stay with a company longer, fit in better with company culture and produce higher quality candidates.
8. Become a freelancing pro.
If you're running out of options, freelancing is a great way to get your name out there and give you time to focus on your craft. The downside is that freelancing is very hard especially in terms of having a reliable income.
If you're good at what you, can market your skills. If don't have any options left, then go for it.
9. Invent something useful.
Easier said than done. This one is pretty self-explanatory, and you would be surprised to know that a number of people who work at these companies have already invented useful things.
Sure, many of them were relatively small inventions, but it shows they can get sh*t done and are creative.
10. Work at a well-branded company.
Companies like to hire people who are used to working in a competitive environment. They want someone who has already proven that he or she is top quality.
Having a background in working at well-branded companies is difficult to attain, but it gives you a lot of leverage and a strong network in case you need a referral.
No one said it was easy. Good luck!
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