Got laid off in August 2023. Now questioning my career as a programmer

My dear fellow devs,

I am pouring my heart out here today first time on any public forum, seeking your invaluable advice. I know you will help me recognize where I am going wrong.

About me -
I am an Indian Frontend Developer with 1.3 years of experience. I would say I have been pretty average in programming since high school. Yes I have been coding since I was 13 or so. But never actually thought of taking it up professionally until I heard the salaries of some people I knew who passed out from premier Private Indian colleges (VIT) in 2020 July or so. These colleges were only accessible to maybe the top 5% of Indian parents, or you’d have to take out a huge student loan. Although I was pursuing a tech degree, I honestly had no plans about my future in tech (or anything for that matter) up until this point.

I got the degree, learnt jack because I was completely disinterested in Microprocessors 8085 (ugh I know), theoretical Java, and discrete maths. The curriculum essentially taught us everything except creating anything with code or even proper data structures. Software engineering is applied, not theoretical (maybe 10% if it is?). There was no coding community in my college. Maybe Indians here will understand. Even so, I think I was doing better than the toppers of my batch up until August 2023, or maybe the same as them, but not worse. I am a very fast learner (as my former Manager said, not me).

Late 2020 - Started learning JS, algo etc. from our very own FreeCodeCamp, I understood I liked JS. Thank you so much for the platform Sir Quincy Larson, and you guys.

August 2021 - Graduated from college.

May 2022 - Got my 1st frontend dev job in an HR Agency wanting to build their own HR Tech product, after 8 months of learning HTML,CSS,JS, React with some structured learning from a small bootcamp. Worked my butt off for 10, sometimes 12 hours a day on the job, got insanely praised because I handled the entire Frontend of a SaaS on my own.

May 2023 - Got another offer after trying to switch for 6 months with 35% hike. Turns out, this company is WAY worse. Developers in the company looked dead inside, with no life AT ALL. Once I had to work 36 hours straight to finish 3 webpages (and trust me they were fairly complex) with modern design and responsive styling, for which the timeline given to me was 2 days which should absolutely have no bugs. Yes, my senior was aware that this was a strict timeline, but he dare not say anything, since apparently according to the CEO these pages could be done by college students in mere hours. And laid me off 6 days before my birthday. :slight_smile:

August 2023 - I started doing DSA and applying to big companies, which didn’t work AT ALL. Didn’t receive even 1 shortlisting.

November 2023 - Got professional help with my resume and job search strategies, and started seeing some results. Started getting shortlisted by small but good Product startups. Started giving interviews but ended up eventually not cracking anything. Doubled down on my JS skills, practiced daily, applied daily, finished the mandatory assignments, gave interviews, got ‘gotcha!’ JS code questions to code from scratch, like using recursion to render a nested comments section with React. This might be an easy question to do for some, but it wasn’t for me. If I start coding complicated and medium level code questions, I forget how to do the easy ones, and vice versa.

January 2023 - Still absolutely unemployed, gave interviews for maybe 15+ companies with 3 last round tech interviews, and still zero, nil, nada.

I feel like giving up on programming but I really want to continue being a software engineer. I don’t think I am any good at it. I know I can perform on the job, I can learn fast. I am confident that I can even launch my own SaaS because of my experience I have in the SaaS startup. I do not have any other skills. Except sketching which I am actually exceptionally good at. I do not know what to do. I have been actively or passively coding for the better half of my life. I have debts. My family does not have money for me to do a masters. I am absolutely mentally wrecked and drained. I know a lot of people are going through A LOT HARDER time then I am and still are providing for their family somehow. I deeply deeply sympathize with them and I try to help people any way I can. I need a job right now guys. What do I do in this scenario?

Looking for a mentor and a friend. I have tried to keep the humor alive in this post, so you guys don’t get depressed and consider this a sob story. It is probably is. Sorry.

Thank you for your advice from the deepest core of my heart guys. :slight_smile:

HI @maitrish !

Welcome to the forum!

Sorry to hear that you went through a layoff.
Getting laid off sucks.
I was laid off from my last job around the same time as you. I knew the company wasn’t doing well but I wasn’t expecting the shear volume of people that were let go. Half of the company was let go include managers, engineers, marketing people, etc.
It sucked to hear that I wasn’t going to be working there anymore, but luckily was able to land on my feet again.

The important thing to remember about layoffs is that it is not your fault.

When a company fires an employee, that means the company believes it was your fault for termination.
When a company layoffs employees, they are admitting that they screwed up and their screwup unfortunately cost you your job.

There is also a misconception that if you are a rockstar employee and programmer that you are immune from layoffs but that isn’t true.

Take Google for example.
They have done several rounds of layoffs, including another one just announced recently.

And those are supposed to be some of the top programmers and their jobs aren’t safe.

Then take Ben Lesh. He has been in the industry for decades and created RxJS and has worked for top tech companies. Even with all of his talent and experience, we was laid off last year.

There are so many more people who did well at their jobs, but the company ran into serious money problems and started cutting people left and right.

I had a friend who was unemployed for 8 months and felt the same way you do right now.
He thought about leaving the industry all together.

But he continued to apply and push through the rejections and was able to land a job and even an interview with Microsoft!

So I know things suck right now.
My advice is to surround yourself with a good support system to help you get through this tough time.
And continue to apply for jobs, because one of these companies will say yes again.

Hope that helps :heart:

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Hey @jwilkins.oboe Thank you so much for the kind words. I really needed this.

Yes it’s true that being a rockstar dev doesn’t help in these situations, but it also means not being unemployed for this long, I assume. It thought it was only me getting rejected after interviews, but now I think if it’s happening with me, there’s chances a lot of other people are facing it as well. I will stick around, and continue to upskill myself!

Again, I know I have it better than some of the more unfortunate souls out there. I really wish I could do something for them.

Thank you so much again

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This is the best thing you’ve to get your dream job, please follow below strategy

  1. I hope you’ve good GitHub profile and projects to showcase to new employer. If not start building projects on daily basis

  2. Start searching for jobs through Linkedin, Stackoverflow and my personal favourite Y Combinator Jobs page

  3. Daily spend 1 - 2 hours to send out application to companies, don’t worry even if they ask for 5+ years of exp for Frontend Developer, just apply

  4. Wait for 1 week and re-send them email asking for update

  5. Get connected with CEO and CTO of respetive companies on linkedin and explain your situation as well.

If you follow above steps religiously, am sure you will get your dream job within 1 - 3 months max even in today’s conditions

All the very best and god bless you.

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I wonder what’s the need to do MS ? I had CTO ( from USA ) who was just high school passout and musician by profession.

He learnt programming as he was passionate about solving real world problems with programs. IMO if you’re a good programmer, it doesn’t matter even if you’re high school dropout.

Many students from India got for MS just to get job in USA, but if you’re a good programmer then you can apply to US based company directly and they will sponsor your visa.

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@vikramvi Thank you so much for the advice Sir. I will immediately start following this.

I just had 2 questions about this -

  1. Should I create bigger projects that could potentially have a user base, however small it is (for eg. a bookmark manager or job search app, or a small SaaS), or continue creating toy projects to showcase my frontend skills (for eg. a frontend Kanban board, or dashboard app with random data) ?

  2. Should I start learning and creating the backend for my applications with Node/mongo/postgres? Or focus on the frontend for now until I get a job?

Thank you so much again for the invaluable advice sir.

Hello!

If I may chime in: Best focus on one big project: Start with a basic version 1.0.0 and add on to this with more features. Document your progress on GitHub in the read.me file, the technologies you are using, what didn’t work out and had to be re-planned. ChatGPT and other LLMs are a big help in this regard and can provide you with a development plan with milestones.

This will show your skills not only as a programmer, but also as a project manager and will train your documentation and communication skills. These soft skills are overlooked and might get your foot in the door. If you manage to gain some users, even better!

Best of luck and you are not alone, many people including me who loves to work in tech are wondering every day what is going wrong in our industry?

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Hey @DanielHuebschmann Thank you so much for such a definitive guide. I will get started on a big project immediately, and hope to someday become a better software engineer! :blush:

Here’s a video that lists the skills you should have in addition to coding, including conversational skills and documentation:

Web Dev Cody is a senior developer who documents his own projects, you can learn a ton from him!

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I will go with project with topic which I’m passionate about e.g. Tennis 101, Formula 1 101 etc and add complexity of the project can be measured with user stories / features’ complexity it has ( social sign up, sign in, payment gateway integration, push notification etc ).

If you’ve such projects, then you will stand out of crowd as well.

Why ?? have you checked the job sites I have shared earlier and found out how many openings are there for front end developer.

If I were you, I will just concentrate on building nice projects and get into dream company, later on job I can / will learn backend tech.

For now make use of existing free API to build nice web app and get job at the earliest.

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having TDD skills ( also religiously following clean coding practices ) will put anyone on top 5% for sure.

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Those are some great ideas @vikramvi Sir, I absolutely love them and I’ll start creating awesome projects from these ideas! Thank you sir, I have no doubt if I follow this I’ll definitely get an actually good company. These were some of the burning questions I had for a LONG time. Thank you so much Sir.

Thanks for your kind words and happy that you’ve found those helpful.

Few more suggestions

  1. Join frontend mentor discord community and help others

  2. Also join popular YT community on discord as well e.g. Traversy Media etc and help others as well.

  3. Build your network along the way

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Thanks for sharing this @DanielHuebschmann .
It seems being a developer is more than writing lines of code.

Hi,

there is. The marketing around bootcamps like “Become a six figure developer in six months” has given many people a wrong idea about the profession. I know because I was there myself. It’s a rude awakening for many now.

Good news is you can still start a career if you really want to be a software developer. Just be aware that it will take thousands of hours to become efficient for most.