How use the Coronavirus crisis to kickstart your Data Science career
As the global economy dwindles, tech companies are hiring en masse. Now is the time to get yourself noticed as a Data Scientist and try to land your dream job.
By Rhea Moutafis, PhD candidate in Dark Matter physics.
The great thing about Data Science is that you can perfectly do it from home. That is, if a global pandemic is not ravaging outside, you don’t have children to homeschool, elderly people to look after, and you’re not facing an economic downturn that is leaving millions of people jobless — including you, possibly.
If this is making you feel like you’re looking down the barrel, you’re not alone. In order to survive the crisis, hundreds of tech companies are doing mass layoffs, including dozens of startups in Silicon Valley alone.
And that’s a golden opportunity for you.
The theory is simple: Thousands of talented Data Scientists who previously worked elsewhere are suddenly available. That means high supply and low competition in the job market.
So from the point of view of a big tech company, they can hire lots of people with low acquisition costs — plus, those people might even be okay with a lower salary and a smaller benefits package than they’d usually be offered. Because it’s still better than being jobless.
If you want to land a Data Science job at your dream company, the time is now. But you can’t sit back and let it happen on its own. You’ll have to put in some work to get yourself noticed, to show that you’re talented, willing, and able to take the opportunity. Here’s how.
1. Pimp your LinkedIn
It’s the one platform for job search. Sure, you can pimp your other social media, too — and you should. But your first priority is to get a killer deck on LinkedIn.
Even though the platform is designed quite intuitively, I recommend following LinkedIn’s guide to getting everything right.
Try to fill in every profile section. Add a background photo, add some skills, and follow notable people in your industry. Join some relevant groups as well.
Also, there’s no way around adding a profile photo. Yes, you always look stupid on photos. And seeing your own image in the corner feels awkward. I get it. But do it anyway. A bad photo on which you look ugly is still better than no photo at all. And you can always replace the photo once you have a better one.
Try to tell a story with your profile. Think about a cool headline: “Data Scientist at company XYZ” is boring. How about this: “Unlocking the secrets of data for company XYZ.” Much better! Try to come up with headlines and descriptions that don’t reflect what you do, but who you are.
2. Revamp your CV
The average recruiter spends seven seconds on your CV. Yup, you heard me right. Seven.
So make those seven seconds count. What will another person see in seven seconds? What message can your CV convey within that time?
I make mine stand out with lots of visual elements, color contrasts, and a clear message. I want a recruiter to know that I put some thought into this, that I’m bold, and that I know who I am. This is a recent CV of mine:
A recent CV of the author for a possible science collaboration. Some contact details are omitted for privacy.
Note that I’ve used some visual language with stars, other symbols, and timelines. I’ve also added the same profile photo that I use everywhere — that’s personal branding 101. Feel free to copy any of my tricks.
Granted, you’ll hardly manage to get such a design with a standard word file. I used Adobe Illustrator to make this CV. You could also use Figma, which works great and costs less. You’ll be fiddling around with graphic details for a few hours, but it’s worth it. Really.
3. Send out applications — regularly
Sending out applications is time-consuming at best and anxiety-provoking at worst. But now that you’ve made a kick-ass CV, it’s time to show the world what you got!
Whether you fear that you’ll lose your job, or you’ve lost it already — it’s horrible when you’ve just sent off two dozen applications and then fear that you won’t get a single answer for two weeks. I’ve been there.
But the best way to master an uncomfortable activity is by doing it regularly. There’s no harm in sending out applications even if you have a secure job. You can always withdraw it. And even in that case, you can make valuable connections for years to come.
And if your job is not so secure, what do you have to lose? For the time being, plan to send out five applications each week. Or however many you might need. Focus on quality, though. And also apply for jobs that you don’t feel one hundred percent qualified for. The worst answer you can get is no.
4. Go to virtual meetups
Your network is your net worth.
Think about how you got your last job. Was it a cold application and a few interviews? Or did you know someone who knew someone else who gave you a nice intro to your now-employer?
If it’s the latter, welcome to the way most people get their jobs. Especially the good jobs. It’s about networking!
If you want a great job, you need to get to know people. How do you find them? Through events, meetups, conferences, and all that stuff.
But right now, we’re all stuck at home with no real-life events in sight. Bad news? That’s great news because it means you can save big on travel costs! Link up on virtual meetups instead.
Of course, the inperson-postconference-buffet-chitchat with the speaker and the other participants won’t be possible. But you can make yourself noticed by posing smart questions or making a contribution yourself.
Send private messages — as you can do on Zoom or Skype — to the speaker or any participant whose profile you find interesting. Tell them how much you value their talk or their profile.
It may seem awkward at first, and you’ll wonder what they think of you. So don’t spam, and be respectful. If you follow that, more people will respond to you than you imagined.
5. Do gigs
Whether you have a job or not, whether you have enough cash in the bank or not — do gigs!
Even if they’re poorly paid or bring no money at all. Even if you only landed them by chance on Upwork or Fiverr. Even if your mom or your neighbor was just asking you for a favor.
The goal of this is not to load yourself up with work and hustle yourself to the ground. Instead, gigs are an excellent opportunity to connect with new people and showcase your work.
Before I landed my current position, I worked for free for two full years. Then I interned for another whole year with a pay that didn’t cover half my expenses. I did other gigs here and there to make ends meet. It wasn’t easy, but it landed me where I am today.
And even now that I have a pretty safe position, I carry on doing gigs. Paid or unpaid doesn’t matter much. Each time I view it as an opportunity to add people to a network that, at some point, will be bullet-proof.
The point in gigs is to get to know people. The more people you know, the higher the chance that someone will give you a paycheck. And recommend you to other people who will give you a bigger one.
6. Start a blog (or a tweetstorm, if you’re feeling lazy)
Don’t wait for people to ask you for your opinion. Give it to them.
Writing stuff is perhaps the greatest opportunity to build your personal brand. People will learn how you express yourself, how you think, and what’s important to you.
Also, a nice heap of writing will allow people to browse your portfolio and take a plunge into your world. Remember the seven seconds that people spend on your CV? Try to write so much — and so good — content that a recruiter will want to spend seven hours on your profile.
I chose Medium as a platform not only because it’s paid, but also because I like the community. Every time I hit publish, something great happens. Someone leaves a really inspiring comment. A stranger with an amazing profile connects with me on LinkedIn. A celebrity joins my small but growing following on Twitter. Every time I hit publish, I grow my network.
Your network is your net worth. Every word you write grows it a little more.
Maybe you’re not impressed with your writing skills. I wasn’t impressed with mine when I started on Medium. That’s okay!
You can start with small steps. If you’re uncomfortable with full-length writing, maybe you enjoy tweeting. Aim to make two tweets a day about whatever is interesting to you.
Your aim is consistency, not perfection. You won’t write a glittery novel or a viral tweet in one day. You won’t connect with Bill Gates or LeBron James in one day either. You probably won’t in your lifetime.
But if you keep at it, you’ll make connections and produce work that you’re truly proud of. And, best of all, that lands you a job.
Your time is now
The world is falling apart, but it’s not the end of the world.
Nobody said that this was going to be easy. But despite all the misery and the tragedy, in this unprecedented crisis lie unprecedented opportunities.
The Big Four are binge-hiring, just like every other firm that can afford it.
Whether you’ve lost your job, or you think you might lose it, or you have a safe job but think you could need an upgrade — these firms are searching for you. So get yourself noticed!
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