MSSA graduates in action: Helpful tips for the job search

Oct 27, 2020

Microsoft Military Affairs is committed to helping transitioning service members and veterans find new, meaningful careers, but right now the job market is as challenging as it has ever been. The good news is that we are here with concrete advice and support to help demystify the process of finding a new position in technology.

To glean fresh ideas for improving your job search tactics and finding a job in tech that’s well- suited to you, we asked graduates of Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) to share tips based on their own experiences doing the same thing. Here’s what they told us:

Apply for jobs even if you don’t meet all the requirements

Elaine Burton, who served in the Marine Corps and landed a role as a customer engineer at Microsoft, recommends applying for jobs even if you’re not confident you meet all the qualifications. “Don’t be afraid to apply because you think something is above your level,” she said, pointing out that companies often expect new hires to do a lot of on-the-job learning. “The worst they can do is tell you no.” Also, you could score an interview where you can highlight all the other qualities that make you the right fit for the role.

Be your authentic self

One of the most helpful job searching tips Lauren Capers received before getting hired as an Azure support engineer was to be her genuine self in job interviews. It’s important “to not try to fit the mold of the job, but to find the job that molds to you,” she explained. “When you stop trying to fit in a slot for that right-now job not meant for you, you allow yourself to be available for the opportunity that you would excel most in.”

Evaluate companies to make sure they’re a good fit for you

It’s important to do research before applying and ask questions during the interview process to make sure the company is a place you’d like to work for and one where you can picture yourself thriving. Joseph Adams, who was a member of the Marine Corps and is now an Azure Networking Team support engineer, emphasized the point: “Treat every interview as a two-way conversation. You’re interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you.”

Perform mock interviews for practice

Kimberly Castro, who was a service member in the Army and is now a program manager in Microsoft’s Cloud + AI Department, recommends practicing interviewing skills as much as you can. It will ensure you’re prepared to answer a wide range of potential questions, and limit the inevitable jitters when the moment comes. “Do as many mock interviews as possible!” she recommended. “The more you practice, the less nervous and more prepared you’ll be for the real interview.”

Distinguish yourself from the competition

In an uncertain job market, it’s even more important to find a way to stand out. Tony Hernandez, who spent eight years in the Army and is now a cloud engineer for Anika Systems, found when job searching that it was crucial to make an impression with hiring managers. “Everyone has a story that’s interesting,” he expressed. “You just need to be unique in your story.” He also recommends having an elevator pitch ready—one to two sentences that explain who you are and why you’re the perfect person for the job.

Build up your LinkedIn connections

One of the most important lessons Rochelle Garba learned while job hunting after MSSA was to network. Garba, who served in the Navy and now works as a customer engineer for SharePoint, had to get comfortable sending contact requests to people she didn’t know. But it paid off. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to others who may be strangers on LinkedIn, especially those who were part of MSSA,” she explained. “Many people are happy to help when they can, and those who also went through the program know what it was like to be in your shoes.”

Consider reskilling programs

This last tip is from us at Military Affairs. For those looking to transfer the broad range of skills and characteristics they honed through military service to a career in technology, one option to look into is MSSA. It’s an 18-week program that provides technical and soft-skills training to prepare veterans and former service members to enter a rewarding career in technology.

Learn more about MSSA, and enroll for the next cohort in your area to get started on the next stage of your career.