How do I get a job in AI?
In the previous article in this series on Getting Started in AI, we learned how to get certified for your AI skills.
In this article, we’ll learn how to start your career in AI by getting a job in an AI-related field.
You have everything you need to start your career in AI.
The final step in this process is getting a job in an AI-related field.
So, to help you get your first job in AI, here are the key steps involved.
Before you start your job search, I recommend building your professional network. Your network of peers is an extremely valuable asset while you’re searching for your first job in AI. Have conversations to get to know your peers better. Ask them questions about technologies, the industry, and employers. As they get to know you better, they may offer to give you a referral or recommend you for an interview.
To meet these people, I recommend attending AI user groups and meet-ups. Attending tech conferences is another great place to meet like-minded individuals. We refer to this as the “hallway track” of the conference. Finally, I recommend volunteering for organizations in AI-related fields. You can teach kids to code, mentor students, host a meetup, help run a conference, etc. You’ll meet great people along the way.
The next step to getting your first job in AI is to perform a job search. First, you need to identify the type of job you are looking for. There are numerous options to choose from based on your education and training. Some jobs involve using AI tools. Other jobs involve creating AI products and services. Others involve supporting and maintaining AI systems. Finally, some jobs help advance the state of the art in AI.
What’s important is that you get a job in the AI value stream. These are jobs that create or use productivity-enhancing AI technology. This can include jobs in AI horizontal markets building general-purpose AI technology, like Microsoft, Google, and NVIDIA. Or, it can involve jobs in vertical markets building on top of AI, like AI-assisted finance, agriculture, transportation, etc.
Once you’ve identified one or more jobs you are interested in applying for, you need to create a resume and cover letter. Your resume should quickly capture your objective, education, experience, skills, and certifications. Your cover letter should quickly summarize why you are applying for a specific job at a specific company. Your resume should be reusable, but your cover letter should always be customized.
Great resumes have a clear objective, lead with their strengths, and use outcome-centered language. You should use a clean, minimalist design with legible fonts and no spelling, grammar, or factual errors. For recent graduates, you should have only a single page, and you should never have more than two pages for the rest of your career. Learn how to create a great resume and have someone review it.
Once your resume has been accepted by a potential employer, they will invite you to join them for an interview. The interview process is a chance for employers to get to know you, your skills, and your personality. In general, employers are looking for employees who are smart, get things done, and are a pleasure to work with. It’s important that you practice beforehand using mock interviews to get feedback.
During the interview process, it is important that you find common ground so that you can establish rapport with your interviewer. Employers like to hire people with similar values and interests. They may also test your knowledge of the skills listed on your resume. Do your best to demonstrate your skills, but if you don’t know the answer, just say that you don’t know but you are interested in learning the answer.
After the interview is finished, it’s often considered a best practice to send your interviewer a quick thank you note. Nothing fancy, just a quick note thanking them for their time and reaffirming your interest in the job. This helps you to stand out from other candidates and will help the interviewer remember to advance you to the next stage. This note should be sent no later than 48 hours after your interview.
If you don’t hear back after a week or two, it is often a best practice to send a second friendly note to your interviewer to assess the status of the job. Sometimes, the job has been filled, and they forgot to inform you. Other times, they’ve gotten busy and forgot to forward you to the next stage of the interview process. However, there’s a fine line between a gentle reminder and sounding desperate or pushy — don’t overstep.
Every “no” is one step closer to “yes”. However, if you are consistently being rejected for one job after another, you’re likely doing something wrong. Do you have the necessary education, experience, certification, and skills to meet the job requirements? Are you bombing the interviews because you’re not prepared? Maybe your personality is just rubbing some people the wrong way. Who knows?
Potential employers and interviewers are often not allowed to give you any feedback on your interview or provide you with a reason that they chose not to hire you. There are laws that prevent certain types of discrimination, so to avoid any potential risk of legal liability, they will only tell you something generic like “We found a more qualified candidate” or some other uninformative reason for rejection.
The only way to know for certain is to get feedback from a neutral, objective, open, and honest third party. This can be a mentor, a family member, a friend, or someone else who has experience interviewing candidates and preferably has some experience in your industry. Have them review your resume and cover letter. Then sit down with them for a mock interview so you can practice and they can give you honest feedback.
Hopefully, this entire series of articles on Getting Started with AI has helped you take the first steps on your AI journey. There are tremendous opportunities available for those of us who are willing to invest in learning AI skills today.
The time to get started is now. Don’t get left behind!