searching for a Data Science job
December 5, 2020

Are you searching for a Data Science job right now?

By Paul Laughlin

It’s a tough time to be searching for a Data Science job, so I want to share some positive experience to encourage those who are.

I first met Tim Johnson when doing some consultancy, mentoring & training work for Royal London. We’ve kept in touch since then as he’s changed roles as both a Data Scientist & Econometrician. So, when he contacted me to share his experience of job hunting, I leapt at the chance.

Tim has lots of tips from his personal experience to share. So, I hope this post really helps others in that position right now. Over to Tim, who is now a Senior Consultant at ScanmarQED, to share his story…

Yes, it’s a tough time to be searching for a Data Science job

I get it – finding a new role during a global pandemic is hard. The news is full of big companies closing down or announcing new redundancies. And for every new data science role out there, there may be thousands of people applying.

I took a career break sabbatical at the end of 2019. I spent two years on multiple contracts with Royal London, helping them bring marketing effectiveness in-house.

My wife is from New Zealand, and I became a permanent resident in 2018. We took a 6-week holiday to visit her family and tour some of the beautiful scenery. When we returned to the UK in January, I gave myself another 6 weeks to find work.

I’ve learnt that this means you need to really focus on your job search. You need an active LinkedIn profile. You need to practice video call interviews and you need to talk to your network. These are my 5 tips.

Improve your visibility

Tip 1) Focus your job search

The first thing I learned was that my CV wasn’t working for me. When jobs reappeared in August and September, I applied for data science roles. Naively I thought, “I’ve done this before, so surely I can get a job?” 

What I didn’t know was that firms are getting 2-3 times as many applications, mostly from people who are massively underqualified. Firms are more risk-averse.  I started getting interviews once I started applying for roles matching my recent experience. 

Tip 2) Be active on LinkedIn

I then learned I wasn’t active enough on LinkedIn. Several years ago, recruiters always contacted me about new roles. I didn’t have to actively search, I could just work with recruiters who contacted me.

However, I didn’t use LinkedIn when contracting. So when I needed it, LinkedIn wasn’t there for me. LinkedIn is now a social network and wants you to be active.  You don’t have to logon every day, but you should find ways to post original content.  I posted blog posts I was reading, and recruiters started contacting me again.  

Tip 3) Do personal projects

Most of us do data science because we love it. However, we need to keep learning. From January to March I revisited Python and Cloud, including Practical DataOps.  

And from April to June, I researched reinforcement learning for marketing mix modelling. This kept me focused when there were no jobs to apply for.

Reach out and talk to people

Tip 4) Practice video calls

I wasn’t prepared for video call interviews over Zoom and Teams. I had used Skype video conferencing at work, but this was new to me. A video call is much closer to a phone call than a face to face meeting, and I needed to adapt my style to it.  

I found I could not build rapport in the way I used to. For example, the informal conversation between the waiting area and the meeting room. Humour is much harder, and you will have a lot less time for questions. Write these down in advance!

Tip 5) Talk to your network

There were many people in my network I hadn’t talked to for years. However, when I was job hunting, I picked up the phone and reached out to my network. This included ex-colleagues I know well and people I’ve only met once or twice.  A recruiter gave me great advice on the current landscape for data jobs.

I also messaged my contacts on LinkedIn. Some I didn’t even remember!  But they had interesting roles and had worked with people I was now interviewing with. Sure, some people won’t reply, but others will be glad to help!

Talking to people helped me feel normal. It flushed out some of the anxiety and gave me valuable information about who was hiring and what else was going on.

Be prepared to work full time

It is true, finding a new role can definitely be a full-time job! When employed full-time, I focused on one new role at once. This time, each interview process had several stages, and I was talking with multiple firms at once. I had to prepare case studies and analysis presentations while refreshing my skills for technical tests.  

The main advice I would give is what worked for you in the past may not work today. So be prepared to test new strategies and learn what works for you.  Good luck!

What has helped you the searching for a Data Science job right now?

Many thanks to Tim for sharing his practical & timely experience. Many of his tips resonate with what I have heard from others & make a lot of common sense. I hope they help others in a similar position.

What about you? If you are currently between role or preparing for potential redundancy, what is working for you? As UK unemployment is forecast to exceed 7% next year, let’s keep sharing advice & resources to help. Best wishes to all those whose full-time job is a job-hunting now.