Anna Miller is the Founder of Second Careers where she coaches those wanting to break into tech, no matter where they come from.
We discuss the strategies that you can use to land Big Tech interviews, the value of networking, and how you can make a career highlight reel.
Anna Miller, founder of Second Careers, shares valuable insights on accelerating career changes and landing tech jobs. She emphasizes the importance of visibility and standing out in the job search process, provides strategies for obtaining referrals, and introduces the concept of creating a career highlight reel using transferable skills. Anna also discusses the options for transitioning into technical and non-technical roles in the tech industry, factors to consider when contemplating a career pivot, and the significance of reading job descriptions for self-education and evaluation.
- Anna advises against extreme methods of gaining visibility and instead suggests a multi-faceted approach, both online and in person.
- Referrals play a crucial role in getting noticed by hiring professionals, and Anna provides strategies for obtaining referrals through LinkedIn.
- Anna introduces the concept of creating a career highlight reel using transferable skills, which involves showcasing specific accomplishments and outcomes relevant to the desired role.
- Technical skills training, such as attending boot camps, is recommended for individuals transitioning into technical roles in the tech industry.
- Non-technical roles, like customer success and project management, also offer opportunities for transition but require understanding industry-specific terminology.
- Anna discusses the limitations and ceilings often encountered in certain industries, leading individuals to consider pivoting to tech for increased salary and career growth potential.
- Factors to consider when contemplating a career pivot include growth opportunities, salary potential, and lifestyle preferences.
- Reading job descriptions is valuable for self-education, understanding industry language, and evaluating skills in relation to job requirements.
- Job descriptions should be treated as research, and fitting about 60 percent of the requirements can be a good basis for reaching out and pursuing interview opportunities.
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Ryan Atkinson: Welcome, Anna. I am super excited to have you on today.
Anna Miller: Thank you so much, Ryan.
Ryan Atkinson: You are the founder of Second Careers, which helps accelerate career changes and land a job in 12 weeks, which I think is super, super cool.
We’re gonna dive into the all that, but I’m just curious, like this is a really rewarding. Like business to start. So I’m a, I want to ask like, what has been one of the most rewarding experiences from this?
Anna Miller: So a lot of times I felt like I wasn’t making enough impact as an employee and I wanted to create my own company, but for a long time I didn’t know what.
And I really wanted to help change lives. You know how everyone says I wanna help people? And I [00:02:00] was like, in what capacity am I gonna help them? And didn’t wanna do therapy work, go into medicine or any other like space there. I. And I took a step back and realized I’ve worked in tech for 10 plus years and a lot of people wanna work in tech, so why don’t I help them move into that space?
And the most rewarding times are when clients land jobs, and I can hear the sense of relief and excitement that, they’re now going to start on a new journey, um, with a company and kind of practice the skills that they’ve like spent months or years learning.
Ryan Atkinson: Yeah, because it has to be like everyone, as we’re gonna talk about in this conversation, everyone wants break in into tech.
Like everyone wants to be in tech. There’s a lot of reasons why people want to be in it. And so you’re able to place these candidates that thought maybe like, Hey, I can’t get into tech, but you are able to place them within tech.
Anna Miller: Well, I’m not placing them exactly because that’s more language around recruiting.
Yeah. I am helping them to understand the job search process and help them to actually stand out and get notice. So the number one problem in the job search is visibility. And people are doing crazy things like, you know that viral post of the guy that went skydiving with a note, a note card, and then a company hired him because they saw that and they really love that.
And the founder of that company also went skydiving in a reply and I was like, wow, that will get you visibility. Have you seen that one? I have
Ryan Atkinson: not seen that one, but I’m actually, I’m gonna look that up right after that. That is super interesting.
Anna Miller: Let’s talk about, so I’m not advising anyone to go skydiving or even that other thing where someone bakes a cake and had their resume printed on it and hand delivered it.
Like there’s, one extreme where you do these very, very unique activities or create products. Yeah. But you don’t have to go to that extreme because at the end of the day, you don’t wanna have all your eggs in [00:04:00] one basket, and that one company that you’re so emotionally attached to may not be the good, a good fit for you, or they may not be hiring, who knows?
So it’s really about finding a way to sit, stand out, um, online and in person with more than just one company.
Ryan Atkinson: Yeah. I wanna hit on, on the topic of like visibility. Um, I think that’s like a really important topic to talk about is getting visibility in.
Anna Miller: On the topic of visibility mm-hmm. What we’re talking about is how to get seen by people that are hiring and un help them understand that you are potential matched for what they’re looking for. So there’s a lot of different ways to do that. But essentially it’s a different take on the HY process because in the previous, I guess version of the job search which I call like the older job search myth is you raise your hands and people see you.
But the job search is nothing like a classroom. I mean, if we talk about like a school or a market analogy, You have thousands or millions of people in one space and they’re all raising their hands, like recruiters and companies have no clue who to talk to, how to maneuver the hiring process. Um, what they do, which is currently the case then has always been the case, is depend on referrals.
So if we know that referrals are getting looked at, let’s get referrals. Okay, so how do we do that? So when we talk about visibility, it’s about getting certain interactions with people that can help you get into the interview process. So we know for a fact that referrals are getting looked at first.
They get interviews. So to get referrals, you wanna get in touch with people that can help you. And [00:06:00] you can do this in all kinds of different ways. There’s direct outreach, there’s commenting, there’s posting, there’s, contacting your current network. So there’s all these different methods that essentially enhance who sees you.
And when you say, Hey, I’m here. You’re not saying this to like an auditorium that doesn’t know where to look. Or an empty place. It doesn’t it like you’re actually going to see, get someone to see you because you’re doing this on a more personal level. So a theme that I’ve started to talk more about is this concept of humans hire humans.
Hmm. So another human is gonna hire you and you’re human. So like, hi, humans, hire humans. But in the. Previous like job search process of just throwing a P D F into a filing management system, which is the ats by the way. There’s no robots there. It’s a person. ATS is literally just a system to store the pdf, d f by relying on sending a piece of paper into a file management system to get seen.
In this job market and even in the future, I don’t see that happening. Like there’s simply too many people raising their hands and throwing pieces of paper above the, across the wall. So what it looks like is, you know that street after a street fair and it’s like littered with like pieces of paper and like no one looks at it cuz like it’s trash.
That’s what resumes look like when they’re put into a filing management system and no one’s at fault. That’s just simply the fact that the current process is broken and people don’t really know what to do next.
Ryan Atkinson: Yeah. And what to do next. So if you are wanting to not have your resume be on this broken street with a bunch of litter on it, you have to get these referrals referrals from people inside the company.
Can you take us on a process or like a [00:08:00] system to get those referrals?
Anna Miller: One example is if you go on LinkedIn and why I am starting with LinkedIn is because it’s the largest professional network where people go to get jobs and recruiters and companies are when they wanna hire. It’s the largest social network for just work.
Yep. You basically wanna start following people that are at certain companies that have posted openings. So if company A has posted an opening for a social media manager, you go and you find some people that are listed as employees. This is not like difficult investigation work, like this is very clear, basic information.
You find these people and you follow them. And this is even lower effort than connecting. I’m not even talking about direct messaging here. Um, following is literally allowing you to see their information in your feed. So your feed could be a way for you to see information that someone is posting at a company that has an opening.
And let’s say for example, you find a social media marketing manager and they post a couple of times a week. You start engaging with their posts and then you form a relationship with them online. And then you could ask them about the open position. And then you wanna definitely have a LinkedIn profile that is set up to be, to help you and support you, not hurt you.
What that means is you wanna talk about the role and show up as this social media manager, um, and your profile so that when you connect with others, they clearly understand what you’re
Ryan Atkinson: It’s interesting. So it’s finding those people you find company A, they’re hiring a social media manager, like you said.
So you’re gonna reach out to people that are in similar roles there and then start just interacting with like their comments. Is there a way to do this, [00:10:00] like authentically? Because I feel like a lot of people Yes. How do you do it authentically? Yeah.
Anna Miller: You are only doing it authentically. The thing is, one small talk gets a bad wrap.
That’s its one topic. Small talk is useful talk. It is basically proving that you’re a human being that can maintain basic conversation. If I have never met you, we’re gonna have small talk. This is normal and actually it’s very important. If I can’t discuss very light topics like the weather or how you’re feeling that day or how your weekend went, I probably don’t wanna ask you about like something more difficult or something more intricate.
Because I expect you to be able to answer very basic questions for, you know, the expectations that we have as humans, right? Like, how’s the weather? Fine. Like I had a good time. Okay, great. You have good emotional regulations, step one. Mm-hmm. So small talk is one way to connect. And on LinkedIn how that looks like is commenting and responding to different things.
Mm-hmm. And you do that by literally complimenting or giving an opinion on something. The information is in front of your face. Like you don’t have to invent anything. You could literally put a comment like, oh, such a great idea. I really appreciate you sharing. Okay. So maybe you wanna do a more advanced version of that.
Could be like, this is such a great idea. I actually tried it and here’s my results. Mm-hmm. So another version of, you know, some comment that may sound a bit not that genuine, but is totally okay, is okay, someone is celebrating something he say, I’m so happy for you. Congrats now. We live in a certain society, it’s granted that [00:12:00] these people don’t know each other personally.
You don’t have to literally be like overjoyed for them emotionally, right? Like it’s okay to use LinkedIn to express like surface level emotions in order to connect as a human. Okay. Like that is okay. And then you can follow up with something like a comment on their post of their action. Like, how are you liking this new position?
Or did your weekend work out like you wanted? Like, you could basically be as genuine and as detailed as you want. But if you don’t know what to talk about first, you wanna start with basic compliments. Yeah. Like if you meet someone at a dinner party, I’m gonna tell you that your shirt is nice. Okay? That does so many things.
That puts you at ease. That tells you that I’m giving you attention. And what does everyone want? Attention everyone, no matter the situation.
Ryan Atkinson: I love that. I love that. I wanna talk about another way, um, to gain visibility and stand out. Cuz you had a post on LinkedIn about a month ago discussing like four ways to stand out.
One of them, which I thought was super intriguing, was creating a career highlight reel using transferable skills. Let’s talk about that. Like what? Like what’s a career highlight?
Anna Miller: Okay. So that’s basically how you focus the conversation. That allows you to bring in skills from other positions, into the tech space.
What you wanna do there is, first you wanna understand what role you’re applying for, and two, you wanna understand what experiences you have from your previous position. So a career highlight reel is a snippet of the most interesting outcomes that you want to present to someone. And why it’s more useful than kind of like your five past positions that have Yeah.
Completely nothing to do with like software engineering and you’re a [00:14:00] teacher is because people can’t translate that. Like a hiring manager is not like a translator from teaching Yeah. To software engineering. So, You also don’t wanna be super general, like I’m a hard worker. I communicate well. I have empathy.
Wonderful. You checked the bar. The, you have, um, you have checked the boxes for being a good human being. Congratulations. But when you’re applying for work, you are not selling yourself as like a personality. You’re selling your very specific skills. So you wanna talk about communication, talk about the fact that you have led a classroom of 40 people in lessons for, year after year for 10 years.
I would imagine that someone has com good communication skills if they did that. You wanna talk about empathy? Talk about the fact that you helped a coworker create a certain project and you both got recognized because of a certain outcome that happened. That’s wonderful, right? We all work with other people.
Talk about how you work with them about what you got accomplished together. The biggest one that a lot of people rely on when you, they don’t understand transferrable skills is I’m a hard worker. Like literally every single person can say that. That doesn’t define anything or show anything. What you wanna start to do is pull out elements from your past work in terms of a project, and then yeah, create a frame of reference for what you did, who you did it with, what you accomplished, how it influenced the future.
Um, So basically no one needs to know if you work 30 hours, 20 hours, like it’s not about how much you work. We exist in the knowledge economy. People get paid [00:16:00] for their knowledge of doing certain work, which creates certain outcomes. So more business focused and less like hourly work attitude.
Ryan Atkinson: I’m curious.
So let’s just say from the example you gave, like a teacher like wants to pivot into like software engineering, like computer science, like totally two opposite, like ends of the spectrum type of thing. So when they’re thinking about like, doing these transferrable skills, like what really translates to software engineering from being a teacher, um, how do you identify those transferable skills that are specific to a, to a job?
Anna Miller: Yeah. So that’s a really important skill to learn, identifying the transferrable skills. First you read the job descriptions of the engineering roles. Mm-hmm. And what you’ll notice, there are words that are. Kind of like common words to describe teamwork. Mm-hmm. So you don’t wanna use a common description of like, I’m a team player.
You wanna get into details. Basically, if you watched movie, if you watch movies, movies show you the scenario and you kind of feel like you’re in them. You want your words to act like a mini-movie, to really put someone in your shoes to explain, to show them what you did, who you worked with, and what you accomplished.
Essentially, you’re doing like a before and after. It’s like before I came into this role or this project, this happened after I came in and did X, Y, Z with these people that happened. So if people don’t have a before and after, They can’t really grasp, like, what do you really bring to the table? And do you have the critical thinking skills to really create impact and drive results?
Ryan Atkinson: Yeah. So what so how do you like, demonstrate the, like what’s this real [00:18:00] look like? Is this like a PowerPoint slide or like a resume that you’re putting these transferable skills in? Or like,
Anna Miller: it could be anywhere that you want basically. Think about when you’re interviewing, what are you gonna talk about?
Mm-hmm. So you’re gonna maybe bring up a couple of projects maybe from engineering and maybe from your teaching. Let’s say you have your engineering project, that’s great. They would have their own section. But for your teaching things, it would be like a career highlights based on. The job description of the engineering roles.
So guaranteed engineering roles require teamwork, communication to project management, like basic work skills that anyone, MM, learns if they work. Um, so what you do is you have this job description from this software engineer, and then you know what you’ve accomplished as a teacher. And what you do is you pick out a couple of moments that you feel most proud.
And you write them up in like many stories. So maybe like a few sentences each, and that builds up into a career highlight that you can share in interviews where you can use that again in your resume, in your about, on LinkedIn. In your experience. On LinkedIn, basically, you don’t ever wanna create any materials that you don’t wanna use in an interview.
So you always wanna start with like, what would I share if I was asked this question on an interview? So if someone asked me about communication skills and teamwork you could share something from your sophomore engineering project and then you can additionally mention that, given that I have 10 years experience as a teacher, I have led classrooms for over 10 years.
So I am well aware of how to like, manage different stakeholders and talk with different people. So basically you’re gaining very important fundamental knowledge of your self-worth by defining those skills. Um hmm. [00:20:00] So your self-worth in terms of your professional career, not late as a person. Those have to have some distinction.
Ryan Atkinson: I like that. I like that. So a lot of this is like ama like all amazing advice as well. And if you are wanting to like, make that pivot into being like a teacher into software engineering, um, how would you recommend them to like get started to learn like the technical skills of it? Because like you talked about, so the first.
Anna Miller: The first thing is definitely a training for the job skills itself. So I work with people after they come out of boot camps or any training programs, whether they’re self-taught or at a program. So I don’t actually go through the technical training, so I teach the skills to land the job. So, you would want to research how you wanna learn the skills.
Probably a bootcamp for product design. Software engineering is a good idea. Um, other roles have slightly different trajectories, like non-technical roles within tech, like account management, project management. Those could get moved into without a bootcamp. But that does require equal amounts of understanding of the industry lingo.
But they just could be done without a bootcamp. But if you do the more technical roles, which a lot of teachers actually enjoy there is a bigger guarantee of like a quicker timeline because you already have very specific skills that you could be tested on versus like account management. You can’t really talk about managing accounts because like you.
Have a classroom, but if you’ve done a bootcamp, you have bootcamp projects, um, in engineering. So you have like actual one-to-one projects.
Ryan Atkinson: Yeah. And like when you’re working with clients that are wanting to move into like technical roles versus like non-technical roles, like, like in account management type of role is there one that’s [00:22:00] easier to like, land a role in?
Um mm-hmm. I, I’m just curious like a.
Anna Miller: So industry trend in terms of non-technical roles would be like customer success and project management. And then after that would be like account management. And then there’s also a lot of specialized roles for interesting industry specific people. Like there’s educational tech companies that have specialized roles for people with a background in teaching.
So there’s definitely many communities on LinkedIn for like teachers that are transitioning or nurses that are transitioning. So there’s definitely a couple of like industry transitioning communities. Not for every industry, but like nurses are a big one, pharmacist. Teachers maybe a couple more. Interesting.
And yeah, they could definitely transition into like non-technical roles. But I do see a lot go into the technical route cuz it is more paved pathway.
Ryan Atkinson: Yeah. It paved pathway as like you go to your bootcamp, um mm-hmm. Than like, basically you can get placed after that and it’s just a little bit easier to navigate where, where you can go with it
Anna Miller: if you like the technical work.
Ryan Atkinson: Oh, sweet. I’m curious as well so we talked a bit, lot, a lot about like people going like non-technical roles, technical roles. But take me a little bit like even before that as well, like how the psych is one that like, does wanna make like a huge pivot in their life. Um, take me to that and like, how do you know if like the pivot’s, like if you should make this pivot.
What are factors?
Anna Miller: So what I, what I hear from a lot of clients in the community is that people are very fed up with a certain level of salary that they can’t exceed. Hmm. And also a ceiling in their career growth. So even as a nurse, you probably will be limited by what kind of activities you do.
And then, There’s like a [00:24:00] certain limit of learning that will happen because it’s patient care and it’s not gonna be revolutionized every year. It’s pretty standard and there’s a reason for that. Yeah. Teaching does have a lot of opportunity for re change, but that doesn’t happen in the current education system.
Other industries also have certain ceilings that people hit, so basically, If someone’s making like, you know, a d k or less, and then they realize that if they don’t switch into tech, they will be doing the same thing for the next 20 years. They really try to find ways to do something else.
Ryan Atkinson: Yeah. And. So a lot of it just sounds like, Sal, so if someone’s like thinking like you’re like, oh, should I pivot here?
Or like, what should I do? It sounds like it comes a lot to like, is there room for growth? Or like, can I, I can’t exceed my salary anymore, so I need to like,
Anna Miller: and then the third thing is if it’s a very onsite role kind of role. So if you wanna start traveling more and you physically have to be present based on how the industry is set up, then.
You’re gonna be limited by location and vacation DS and such. Yeah. So it really comes down to how you wanna lead your life. Like what lifestyle do you want? And if you could, I, if people started imagining themselves like 10, 20 years down the line and they’re still leading the lifestyle that they’re ha doing right now, and they’re like, I don’t wanna be doing that, I’ll be so unhappy.
Um, then they probably will look into other options.
Ryan Atkinson: Hmm. That’s interesting. So we are winding down on time here. I want to ask just like an overall like tech question, um, like what advice would you give to someone that is wanting to break into tech? We’ve had a lot of advice already on this show on this particular episode.
Like just overall advice, like what advice would you give to someone that is wanting to break into tech?
Anna Miller: To read job descriptions, [00:26:00] one of the best sources of information, but also one of the myth is job descriptions. So some of them are not, are not very good, and some are those are also signals of something within the company and how the company’s run.
But basically, by reading job descriptions, you can start to educate yourself on the specific language within tag. You can start to start picture yourself in a specific role, um, and you can start to evaluate where your skills land versus the kind of skills kind of required or being asked for in the job description.
The last thing is most job descriptions, if you fit 60% of it, you and the company has a good like reputation and culture. You can definitely. Reach out and kind of try to get an interview. So job descriptions are very informative, but they should be treated as like research, not like fact basically. So that’s very helpful piece of material to study.
Ryan Atkinson: Nice. I love it. And we’ll end with that. Anna, thank you so, so much for being here. A lot of great stuff on here, just about transferrable skills, creating that highlight reel. So thank you so, so much for joining us today. Thank you.