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May 17, 2016

Women in Tech: Getting the Job You Want

4 mins read

Here at the Excella Extension Center, we’ve just completed interviews for our fall semester intake at Virginia Tech. These are always interesting events that start with a career fair where we meet young, enthusiastic students looking for part-time and summer work with Excella. I’m struck by how many great and clearly passionate young candidates we meet and by what surprises us as we whittle down the pool to a small number of hires. No matter what your age or experience, here are some things to consider to reach your goals for your next role.

What is That Job You Want? — Consider What You Are Passionate About

I recently read an article that professed we have all been asking ourselves the wrong question for a long time. The question you see isn’t about what you want, it is what are you so passionate about that you’re willing to deal with the struggle that comes with it. Because there is always some sort of struggle (or 5 or 6) that comes with everything — whether that be crazy hours, studying to learn a craft, early mornings, late nights, a crummy commute, cold weather, or something else. As a job seeker, consider what you’re passionate about in your work and whether you’re willing to do the work to prepare for and live with all that comes with it.

Don’t Follow the “Rules”

Tara Sophia Mohr’s article in the Harvard Business Review discusses how as women we tend to be programmed to follow what are, or we perceive are the “rules.” We need to realize that job postings are wishlists, not requirements, rules, or even guidelines. An old lottery slogan is “You can’t win if you don’t play.” You also cannot get that job you’re passionate about if you don’t apply! See a role posting that screams “THIS IS FOR YOU!” but you don’t have every single qualification? Don’t let that stop you! Emphasize the strong points on your resume and let your passion come through in great cover letter.

Consider What the Interviewer Wants to Know

Do your research on the employer and the role. What level is the role? What is the culture like at the employer? Consider what questions the interviewer might ask in order to determine a fit for their organization and/or the role. Decide how you’ll answer those questions ahead of time. You might not be asked the exact questions you came up with, but chances are the forethought you put into them will be handy no matter what questions you do get.

Don’t Rely on Your Women in Tech Status – Keep Your Best Foot Forward

Yes, employers are trying to diversify their hiring and include more women in tech. That’s great! That doesn’t mean that you get to slack off. Especially my early-career friends out there – there are no points given for a sloppy resume or missing cover letter. When contacted by the recruiter – respond promptly. Asked to RSVP by a certain date? Make sure you do — whether your RSVP is “yes” or “no.” Be on time. Dress appropriately. In all cases be professional, gracious and appreciative — before, during and after the interview – which brings me to my last point.

The Thank You Letter is Not Passé

I’ve debated this with colleagues and employees. A Thank You letter may, or may not make the difference in competition for a role — but if the decision is a close call, do you want to seem less appreciative? The Thank You note serves as a reminder to the hiring manager of your enthusiasm for the role and shows your appreciation for the opportunity to meet with them. Everyone loves to be appreciated. In a multi-phase interview process, the Thank You note is appropriate after a one-on-one with the hiring manager. Is an email appropriate? Yes, this is the 21st century – but take care not to be too casual. It is an email, not a text message. Need some inspiration for your thank you letter? Check out this article on

Find your passion, break the rules a little, do your homework, be your best self, and express your appreciation — rise to the top ladies.

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