How to cope with a difficult job market

How to cope with a difficult job market
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#1

I live in Austin, TX. It’s not as weird as it used to be.

I’m here to vent, or to seek guidance, or just reassurance, as I’m finding the market here impossible to deal with. We have many bootcamps (which I can’t, or don’t want to try to, afford), we have experienced developers moving here from all over the country, and a major university with a computer science program that may or may not be up to par with current job-standards, but still yields CS grads at a pace I can’t keep up with.

Everything I hear from other people in the industry is that bootcamps aren’t worth it and that companies here won’t (often) hire bootcamp grads or junior developers. I work for a tech startup and I’ve seen it firsthand, as they won’t invest in engineering development, despite having quite a few people (myself included) with a lot of potential, and a huge amount of engineering work on the backlog. That said, I do have a couple of friends who were able to get an internship after completing a bootcamp, but even that feels like not enough reward for the monetary investment.

I have a pretty solid background, some tangentially-related development work experience, and some projects in my portfolio, so I think I should be in a good place for a junior position – but no luck so far.

Does anyone have advice for dealing with a difficult market? Do I move to another city? Attend the bootcamp? Or am I getting impatient and clouded by my own dissatisfaction with doing tech support? How do you value your own worth when there are hundreds of people with shinier resumes competing for the same jobs?


How to land that first role / gig?
#2

If you want some you-are-not-alone commiseration, I recently wrote this post in the hopes that it will help people who are asking “Is it me?” TLDR: I think that we all ask those same questions without much in the way of satisfying answers.

Here’s something I’d like to add though. You touch on the “Even University graduates/bootcamp graduates/experienced devs/etc are having trouble finding jobs!” That I’ve also heard elsewhere in the community. One comment that I’d like to make on that is that a resume doesn’t get you a job; you get you a job. Writing resumes and cover letters is a skill and takes hard work. Cold calling is a skill and takes work (and balls). Interviewing is a skill and takes work. Lots of “people with shinier resumes” don’t have those skills and/or aren’t putting in that work.

Anecdote: I have a friend here in Colorado who was in the same classes as me, knows the same languages as me, interned at the same company as me (on the same team even). We graduated on the same day. Our job hunts were extremely different. I had focused for a lot longer on practicing skills for getting interviews and then doing them. I got a lot more rejections than Allie. I got a lot more rejections because I went to a lot more interviews. We both found jobs, but Allie still feels like her job hunt didn’t go well whereas I was ultimately very pleased. Further, many of our other classmates who were even less prepared for (and committed to) their job hunt were still unemployed months after graduation.

Your resume matters, but it’s only one piece. Don’t look at the success or failures of others as too much of an indicator of your own.


#3

Don’t forget! You have one advantage over bootcamp graduates… you have a CURRENT job!

Take it easy, continue learning, continue submitting resumes, practice whiteboard/interview problems so when the time comes, you’re lock and loaded and ready for action. – and not wasting the opportunity.

There’s been some recent articles about a lot of bootcamp schools closing – I think once the for-profit schools entered the market and bought some of these established bootcamps, the quality sort of went down. It became sort of a diploma-mill… not all, but when these schools are treated as a cash-cow, you know what typically happens…

In my opinion, bootcamps only teach the language syntax or the software’s in-and-outs – something you can do on your own (books, video courses, online learning). What a college CS course teaches is the foundation and principles, the algorithms and data structures. Languages, software, and framework will come and go – but algorithms and data structures stay the same, now and in the future.

Have you looked into your current company for promotion opportunities? That’s another possibility, a lateral move. Here’s a little story –

In the 90s, I was working in a similarly “low-level/entry-level” position but in the construction/engineering field. It’s a 60+ engineering company. I was very dissatisfied and bored with my job. During one of my bored moments, I picked the user manual for the software we use and read it. Anyway, I found out the Computer Aided Software we use daily in our company has a built-in scripting language support (LISP). So I challenged myself to learn it and in the process created lots of little software utilities for me and my department to use. Later on, as my experience grew, I made even more advanced tools (automating tasks, Title24 calculators, etc). Pretty soon - the whole company and now the senior engineers were using the tools I’ve created. That got me noticed by the principals. And they green-lighted me to CODE! My boss and the engineers I report to would even ask me for feature requests. And I would happily go to work and code and make them. When the company need to use Lotus Notes/Domino app to work with a potential huge customer (HP/Hewlett Packard), guess who they turned to to program the workflow? Yep, me! And yes, we got that job! Pretty soon, I’m the company’s network administrator/MIS Manager in charge of everything computer/network and software related. I went from a cubicle to a literal corner-office with a floor to ceiling window view, went from hourly rate to salaried, with a 50% increase pay. I literally created my new position within the company. – in short, don’t forget to look for new job opportunities and job upgrades in your current company.