Last month (before I was hired for my new job) I was hanging out with a friend when they asked about a kanban board that I had open on my desktop. I told them that it was a board made with WeKan, a self-hosted alternative to the popular project management tool Trello. I was using a program called Sandstorm to host my own WeKan instance and created the kanban board to stay organized during my job hunt. I then showed them how I was using Etherpad, another Sandstorm app, to draft cover letters with help from friends who either worked at the companies I was applying to or were connecting me with someone on the inside.
My friend told me that they thought the way I was using Sandstorm was pretty unique and that I had given them some ideas about how to use it for their own projects. That got me thinking, maybe other people would benefit from seeing how I use Sandstorm, too. So without further adieu, this is how I used Sandstorm to find a job.
Sandstorm is a cool project that was co-founded by Kenton Varda and Jade Wang and crowdfunded into existence with the support of rad people and companies from all over the world. In the Sandstorm team’s own words:
“Sandstorm enables non-technical end users to install and run arbitrary software on servers they control. Apps may be downloaded from an app store and installed with one click, like installing apps on your phone. Each app runs in a secure sandbox, where it cannot interfere with other apps without permission.”
I’ve been self-hosting with Sandstorm for over a year now, and I really like it. I’m actually using it right now to write this draft in the WordPress app. Sandstorm is slowly replacing all of the hosted services I use. Some of the apps don’t have 100% of the same functionality as their proprietary counterparts yet, but they’re always improving and sometimes even include useful features that I wanted but never got from other apps. Kudos to the Sandstorm app devs for building great apps and kudos to the Sandstorm team for making them easy to self-host.
Here’s what my Sandstorm apps administration page looks like:
As mentioned above, WeKan is a self-hosted alternative to project management tools like Trello. The app has basic kanban board functionality, allowing users to create boards, lists, and cards that can be moved between lists. The cards themselves can contain more details, including a description, attachments, labels, comments, and links to other cards. Here’s a made-up example of what a job search board would look like:
Job listings start in the Candidates column on the far left. After I submit an application for a job, its respective card will be moved to the Applied column. After a day or two, I will send a follow up email to the person inside the company who I think will be able to schedule the first interview, or connect me to the person who can, and the card is moved again into the Follow-up column. If the hiring manager wants to schedule an interview, then the card will get moved into the Interview column. If I receive (or give) a direct rejection, or don’t hear back at all (an indirect rejection, afaict), then the card will be moved to its final place in the Rejected column. If I am made an offer and accept the offer, then the card will be moved into the Accepted column and the board will be retired.
As the card moves from left to right, it will begin to accumulate metadata. Links to the job listing and information about the company, notes from my research about the company and the people who work there, final drafts of my cover letter and resume for the company, and notes about actions I’ve taken in pursuit of the job are all added to the card as it moves across the board. You can see what this looks like in the Candidate #3 example below:
Etherpad is a self-hosted alternative to writer collaboration tools like Google Docs. Users can create a pad and send the link to collaborators, who can then jump in and start editing the document. Contributions by different authors can be attributed based on the color they’re highlighted with, and revisions can be tracked and reversed using the “timeslider” tool.
I used Etherpad to draft cover letters with friends who I asked for help either because they worked at the company I was interested in and knew what the hiring managers were looking for or they knew the hiring manager some other way and just wanted to help based on what they knew about that person. (My sincerest thanks to those friends who helped!)
Here’s an example of a draft cover letter with multiple authors working on it:
Once the cover letter looks good, I would save the final draft in WeKan until I was ready to send it in with my application. Sometimes I would write a shorter version that was emailed straight to the person that I knew was hiring for the role. This shorter version could be read in less than 30 seconds but still gets the main point across: you’re hiring for this role, I have complimentary experience and can do x, y, z for you, let’s meet and discuss. If the recipient wanted to dig deeper, they would have my full cover letter and resume with the application I submitted through the company’s online form.
And that’s it!
That’s how I used Sandstorm to find a job. Simple, straightforward, and very useful for keeping myself organized while I was on the hunt. During the process of writing this blog post I also found out that there’s a resume-builder app for Sandstorm called Hacker Resume that might be useful for any job seekers out there. That’s one of the many things I love about Sandstorm: every time I look there’s something new!
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking around! Keep on reading for more links to other resources I found helpful while looking for a job. If you found this post helpful, give it a like or a recommend or whatever they call it on the platform you found it on, and if you know someone who’s looking for a job who might benefit from this then pass it along. You may also be interested in checking out my company, Abra – we’re hiring.
Bonus: hand-picked job hunting arrows for your quiver
After doing independent consulting and personal projects for several years, this was actually the first time I had actively looked for a job since leaving college. It took about three months from the time I buckled down and started using this Sandstorm system to look for a job and the time that I signed an offer. There was a bit of a process of learning through trial and error what works and what doesn’t when looking for a grown up adult job. In addition to all the one-on-one help I got from my amazing friends, I also gleaned some inspiration from the resources below (ymmv).
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