Written by Prachi Singh and Courtland Alves
Students join Bloc to start a new career. After any structured educational program, including Bloc, many students become frustrated during the job hunt. Students don’t know how to effectively spend their time, find a job, or set themselves up for success. The most effective way to quickly find a job is to focus on a single industry vertical (also called a business model or industry) as early as possible.
Students become frustrated during the job hunt for many reasons. Many students aren’t sure how to spend their time, they become demoralized when they start to feel like they’re moving away from a job instead of towards one, and ultimately get frustrated when they can’t find a job.
Not Knowing How to Spend Your Time
The first common frustration that students have is not knowing how to spend their time. Students know that they’re supposed to keep learning after Bloc, but what should they focus on? Interview questions? New technologies? Maybe a side-project? They know they should be networking, but how? Who should they network with? What should they talk about? They know they should be applying to jobs, but applying to every open position they see is daunting.
Losing Focus and Forgetting Fundamentals
Another common frustration is that many students move backwards during a job search. Instead of continuing to grow and learn as developers, students forget the fundamentals and haphazardly learn trendy technologies that don’t help their resume. Instead of tactfully building a network of relationships, students weaken their existing network by asking everyone they know for a job. Instead of feeling confident after completing a difficult program, they begin to feel like they’re not worthy of an amazing job.
General Difficulty in Finding a Job
The most unfortunate frustration is the actual difficulty in finding a job. Job seeking students will constantly hear that they need more experience – if their applications even make it to the interview stage. Students who try to network will often find that no one is hiring. We’ve seen amazing students apply to 175 jobs and only hear back from 5 (all rejections) – not because he wasn’t talented, because his approach for his job search wasn’t optimized.
In the end, graduates know they’re supposed to be improving their skills, networking, and applying for jobs, but they don’t have the time to do it all. After weeks or months, they lose their skills, their focus, and their hope.
To streamline and ensure success in your job search, you should choose and focus on a single industry vertical. An industry vertical is a large group of companies that solve the same problem for a group of customers and share a common business model – think Facebook for social media, Bloc for education, or Amazon for e-commerce. Even with no prior work experience you can choose an industry vertical that is hiring and interesting to you by looking at job openings. This industry will then become the focus of research, networking, and your projects at Bloc.
Analyze Open Positions in Your Area
The first step to focusing on an industry is choosing an industry by analyzing local jobs. By looking at a large number of local jobs that seem interesting, you can figure out what industries near you are hiring. In the assignment at the end of this checkpoint, we’ll build a spreadsheet to do this analysis.
Meet the Right People and Learn the Right Skills
Once you’ve chosen an industry, you’ll learn about the industry and focus on it throughout your time at Bloc. You’ll learn about the industry by researching its companies, products and trends. You’ll meet with professionals in the industry, learn about the problems they solve, and learn what a day in their shoes is like.
The industry you choose will be a focus throughout your time at Bloc. You’ll continue to build your professional network during your time at Bloc. Working with your mentor, you’ll discuss the technologies that the industry is using and whether there are ways that you can learn them at Bloc. You will build projects that focus on your industry as a way to immerse yourself in the industry.
Why Focus Helps
The many frustrations of an unsuccessful job search are mitigated by choosing an industry vertical to focus on. Students who focus on an industry vertical are better able to prioritize what they should learn, who they should meet, and what jobs to focus on. Every week is motivating because they feel themselves moving towards an attainable goal. Students who focus quickly differentiate themselves as job candidates and find jobs they like much faster than they would otherwise.
Focus Helps with Time Management
Managing time becomes much easier once an industry vertical is chosen. Students create projects based on the industry using the technologies that the industry uses. Students are able to prioritize who to reach out to, who to meet, and have industry knowledge to discuss. They know which companies, products, jobs and people to focus on, and which to ignore.
One recent example is a student of ours in Atlanta who chose to focus on Digital Marketing. She learned about digital marketing companies and products and reached out to friends in the digital marketing space. She built an app that helped her track email open-rate and talked about her new project with her friends. Within four weeks she had a paid internship at her dream company.
Focus Drives T-Shaped Skills
We’ve seen how motivating this focus can be and the momentum that it can generate. When students are focused on a single project and technology stack, their knowledge becomes representative of T-shaped skills. Every new connection is able to introduce them to more people in their industry vertical. The student’s project, networking, and job search all reinforce each other and are all focused on an industry that the student is interested in and that is hiring. It’s amazing to see how quickly this focus helps disheartened students become inspired.
Get Better Jobs Faster
Most importantly, students who focus on an industry get better jobs faster. The student becomes familiar with the same technical challenges that engineers at the company face daily. It’s easier for these students to network inside of an industry because they know the same companies and trends as the people they’re meeting with. They transform from “just another junior engineer” to a candidate that has relevant technical experience, is familiar with the customer, and is passionate about what the company is working on.
List of Industry Verticals
Industry verticals group companies by the problems they solve and the way that they solve them. Industry verticals are closely related to business models and revenue models. Although there is no comprehensive list of industries, our favorite is this one created by well-known venture capitalist Fred Wilson.