Being a lifelong learner is a great quality to have, but you probably went back to school for your online computer science degree for the more specific purpose of advancing your career or finding a job in the information technology industry. If you’re starting the process of looking for jobs in computer science, we’ve got some tips to help you along the way.
1. Job postings in information technology are growing, but location matters.
For example, according to a Burning Glass study, U.S. job postings for software developers increased 31% between 2007 to 2012, nearly three times faster than overall job postings. However, “many of the cities that have seen the sharpest growth in software postings are not commonly associated with strong software industries – such as Detroit, Baltimore, and Phoenix.”
In that five-year span, postings grew by 67% in Detroit, 50% in Baltimore, and 33% in Phoenix. In Detroit many of the jobs were related to vehicle manufacturing. In Baltimore, the jobs were often tied to some of the country’s top defense contractors. Finally, in Phoenix the growth in postings was related to the education industry, particularly in the online education sector.
To see where the best opportunities will be as you begin your job search, it could be helpful to find out what industries are growing in your area that will require jobs in computer science to support the growth.
2. Make sure your resume and cover letter speak to specific jobs in computer science.
Jeromey Bell, Grantham University Career Services Manager, notes that one of the most common mistakes people make in the job application process is not speaking to the specific job for which they are applying.
“If a company lists specific things they are looking for in a job posting, then applicants should speak to those things in the resume or cover letter. Speak to how you meet those qualifications.”
This means you shouldn’t include the exact same cover letter and resume with every job application you submit. Adapt your resume to highlight the specific skills the employer highlights on the job description. Use your cover letter to express interest in the particular company and job for which you are applying and to demonstrate your mastery of the qualifications the employer wants. It might take more time in the application process, but hopefully the extra effort is rewarded with more opportunities for face-to-face interviews.
3. If you don’t have many professional references, include plenty of references who can speak to your technical capabilities.
Jobs in computer science require extensive knowledge in programming and technology issues, so employers want to know they are hiring someone capable of navigating complex technology problems.
“If you’re just graduating with a computer science degree, you may not have as many professional references in the computer science industry, so if you have a relationship with instructors who can speak to your abilities to do a particular type of work, it will be important to include them. You want references who can give examples of your expertise, your work habits and who will speak highly of you and honestly about you,” Bell notes.
Burning Glass points out that different industry sectors demand different sets of technical skills, so make sure your references can speak to the skill set needed for the industry in which you are applying.
4. Research the organization before showing up for the interview.
The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace conducted a survey of employers who hire recent college graduates and found that of all the things recent graduates could do to better prepare for the job search, the top three were all related to the interview. According to employers, 79% of graduates need to research the organization more thoroughly, 67% need to improve their interview skills, and 63% need to research the industry more thoroughly.
“Research the company and know as much about them as possible so that you can give informed answers when they ask you specific questions. It also shows that you’ve taken time to learn about them and are invested in the opportunity,” Bell explained.
So other than researching the company and industry more before going to your interview, what else can you do to improve your interview skills?
5. Practice, practice, practice.
Bell says you want to spend some time understanding the typical questions you may be asked and rehearse your answers in advance.
“If you are asked to tell the interviewers about yourself, you want to give a brief rundown of your academic and professional history, but you also want to talk about your accomplishments. Take time to answer questions. When we get nervous, we rush. Take a beat and think through your response.”
You can also practice with mock interviews, which can help prepare you for questions you might not otherwise expect. Grantham’s Career Services Department offers mock interviews, so that’s a great place to start with your interview prep.
In addition to tips like these and mock interviews, Grantham’s Career Services has lots of other ways to help you through the job search process. They even have staff dedicated to helping students in the computer science program find jobs in computer science, so that way you know you’re getting expert advice. You can contact Career Services at any point in your degree program, and the staff will be happy to help you.
Good luck in your search!