Unemployed Developer? Read This

So, you did everything you were supposed to. You got a degree, you went to a boot camp, and you have a portfolio.

You go to countless interviews, but still, NO JOB.

What gives?

“question mark neon signage” by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Well, there’s no other way to say this, but if you cannot get hired, you’re doing something wrong, such as:

  • You’re not technically skilled enough(hard-skills)
  • You’re not good at interviews(soft-skills)
  • You’re not a culture fit

The last one is the reason employers usually give people to not hurt their feelings instead of saying they weren’t good. If you ever get told this, ask them where you can improve for future interviews, they may give you actionable steps.

How do you find out if you’re technically skilled enough?

Photo by Chris Ried on Unsplash

This can be a tough one, you have a degree and you passed all necessary courses to ace your boot camp, so, you should be skilled, right?

Let’s do a quick quiz, answer this question in a separate document without googling the answer:

What happens when you type “google.com” into your browser address bar?

This is a popular interview question used to gauge the strongest points of a developer. No one expects you to know everything, so don’t aim for that, just aim for your favorite part, servers, css, JavaScript, etc.

Go ahead, write down what you know.

Done?

You’ve written your answer, now what?

Compare it to this document.

  • What did you miss?
  • What did you get wrong?
  • What terms were you not familiar with?
  • What will you take into account on your next project?

The point of this exercise was to show that no matter how much you know, there is still near infinite complexity in the simplest of things, and if you’re unaware that you’re unaware, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Other things that validate your technical skills:

  • Contributing to open source(getting past the review process is tough because the bar is usually high)¹
  • Good feedback from developers better than yourself

Things that DON’T validate your technical skills:

  • Having done lots of short-lived projects²
  • A degree
  • A boot camp
  • A second boot camp
  • Good feedback from non-developers or bad developers³

How do you find out if you’re bad at interviews?

“three women sitting beside table” by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Being good at interviews has many nuances. If you got to the interview stage, the employer probably already wants who they think you are.

All you need to do is show them that you’re who they think you are, this is pure sales.

If they feel you are too different in person from the way you sold yourself on paper, it’s not gonna work out.

This can be:

  • Claiming experience in X, but not being able to elaborate much
  • Not being receptive to feedback
  • Showing too little real world experience
  • Showing signs of immaturity or low emotional intelligence.

But this depends, if it’s for a Junior role, they won’t expect a lot of real world experience, and they will allow some immaturity(hoping you’ grow out of it)

All you need to show is that you receive feedback well and learn well. That’s usually all it takes to land a junior role for a reasonable employer.

Being good at interviews is basically sales. And this is useful for the job itself. You’re going to have to negotiate with co-workers, and you’re going to have to sell yourself in order to get a promotion and do work with more impact.

If you tend to always pass the interview, but feel that your salary is always low and you don’t get promoted, you’re bad at sales, and it’s impacting your interviews, and likely many other aspects of your career.

Things that validate your soft-skills:

This is incredibly hard to self-assess. If you think you have soft skills, but you keep blaming others for your problems, then I’d say you don’t have soft skills, as it starts with yourself by working on your emotional intelligence.

Things that don’t validate soft-skills:

  • Lots of friends
  • Lots of followers on social media
  • Everyone likes you(“liking” is like words written in sand, what you’re looking for is respect).

Receiving feedback

“people fist bumps on top clear glass jar” by rawpixel on Unsplash

When receiving feedback about your work, it’s about your work, not about you as a person. Keep that in mind, and your work will likely improve drastically.

If someone offers some feedback and they’re met with 0 consideration, they will keep a note that you’re not someone that can work with others, and especially not someone who is receptive to learning from more senior co-workers.

Learning requires admitting to yourself that you don’t know something.

Interviewers are very good at detecting this, and it’s not the quality of someone they want to hire.

Do you remember the last time you got some feedback? (either solicited or not)

How did you react to that feedback? Did you take it into consideration?

The best and most direct feedback often sounds like an attack or an insult. If you’re not sure if it’s wheat or chaff, ask them to elaborate. The genuine feedback giver will remain calm and help you out. Don’t call them names and tell them that you didn’t ask for feedback. That's a huge red flag, especially if you do it on a public forum such as twitter and it stays there forever for everyone to see.


Edge cases:

  1. Some people are naturally so good at interviews that they will slip through into technical roles. But it’s easy to find out who they are after a few weeks, so don’t try to be this person. You might have a successful career waiting for you in sales(it might even pay more than software).
  2. Some people will hire you just because they like you as a person, this is fine, but a job like this won’t always allow you to grow, and getting things done will be jeopardized by the “friendship”. Proceed with caution and be prepared to take the lead sometimes.
  3. Some employers aren’t reasonable and/or have their own internal problems. However, if you’ve gone to 10+ interviews and you still have no job, it’s unlikely that all those employers are unreasonable.

Footnotes

¹ There is usually bias here that historically has negatively affects women and minorities, but there are ways to go around it(no avatar, generic username, you’re selling your skills, not yourself), and it’s drastically decreasing as we speak thanks to the efforts of many people. No reasonable employer will discriminate based on gender or ethnicity.

²All in all I had 3 or 4 years of freelance experience before I got my first job. Although I learned a lot about many different things, I didn’t learn a very important aspect of normal employment, which is maintainability of a project and collaboration.

³When I got my first salary job, I was the first “IT” person they ever had and I got a lot of praise from my non-technical co-workers. I chose to not let that praise get to my ego. If they aren’t technical, how can they judge my work? For all I know it’s shit, they can’t judge(positively or negatively). I eventually quit that job to go somewhere that made me grow by taking me out of my safe bubble. Don’t take praise too seriously.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +384,399 people.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.