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In This Economy: Out of Work? Here’s Where to Start.

By Joseph Pacheco on Apr 24, 2020

In This Economy: Out of Work? Here’s Where to Start.

Joseph Pacheco is a software engineer who has conducted over 1,400 technical interviews for everything from backend, to mobile, to low-level systems, and beyond. He’s seen every quirk, hiccup, and one-of-a-kind strength you can think of and wants to share all of what he’s learned to help engineers grow.

If you’ve been laid-off, furloughed, or had your hours cut by an order of magnitude, you’re not alone. The economic impact of this pandemic is vast and indiscriminate – even for typically in-demand software engineering jobs. The good news is that there are a number of effective steps you can take now to stabilize and begin the process of finding a new job.

(Of course, Triplebyte specializes in matching engineers with job opportunities, so it goes without saying that signing up and making yourself available on the platform for quality software engineering positions open now is a no-brainer.)

Engineers != Machines

Engineers may be masters over machines — but you’re not a machine. Give yourself a minute. Having your financial security pulled from under your feet during a global crisis can be shocking. It’s natural to have intense feelings about it, and it’s necessary to take a moment to process. If you can afford it, a healthy break between jobs may be the smartest thing you can do. If not, that’s ok. Talk to your significant other, reach out to close friends, or just sit with yourself and allow what is to be. But above all, remember we are all in this crisis, and many very talented engineers are suddenly in the same position you are. It’s not an indictment of your value, and looking for fault is not helpful anyway. What is helpful is acceptance, and forgiveness of all parties involved. Whether we realize it or not, everyone is doing the best they can given the tools they’re working with, including you.

Get Concrete, Not Abstract

Just because you’re not currently aware of concrete options doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Simply taking the time to identify a handful of real possibilities can mean the world of difference for your peace of mind. A good first step could be to join and mingle in Triplebyte's HackerJobs Slack community dedicated to helping those recently impacted by layoffs. Beyond that, be sure to check in with your usual network of colleagues and former employers/clients. Finally, begin to take some cursory looks at jobs boards.

You don't have to worry about digging up great options or even good options to start with, and you’re not obligated to take any of them. Just put everything you find on a list, and prioritize that list as you go so you can see you’re not trapped. You’ll feel at least a dash more empowered when you do.

Engineer New Options

When options are scarce, make more. You’re an engineer after all. A role may be waiting for you — but outside of your comfort zone. Don’t allow limiting beliefs to quash opportunity. Perhaps you had a bad manager, but you associate those negative experiences with an entire company or industry. Perhaps you loved one slice of back-end engineering and assume that applies exclusively or universally to all back-end roles. Perhaps you ignore all UI roles because you feel weak at design, yet roles exist which require zero design skill but an advanced understanding of math and physics. You’d be shocked what’s out there. Open your mind. Challenge your insecurities. Learn the skills to bridge to other roles. Ask questions. Gather data. Test your beliefs about the world and yourself. It may be less effort than you think, and it could lead to huge returns.

Find Your Technical Baseline

The sooner you know where you stand, the sooner you can optimize your plan going forward. Try some problems on LeetCode and time yourself. See how you do compared to your last job search. Take the Triplebyte quiz for your track and get personalized feedback. (There’s no risk since you have three chances to pass.) The more data you collect, the more you’ll get a sense of how much you need to brush up before it’s strategic to start eventually booking and practicing for interviews.

Get Strategic With Interview Prep

Interview prep is worth doing even when you’re in a job-seeking crunch — especially if you’re smart about where you spend your time. Brush-up on domain-specific topics (especially the ones you haven’t touched in a while). A back-end developer should know about database basics, and an iOS developer should be clear about memory management. Then prioritize the rest according to your current strengths. If it’s been a while, an hour or two of practice coding under pressure can reactivate a productive mindset. Refreshing your basic algorithms can be the difference between bad and acceptable. Many of the candidates who interview at Triplebyte are on the fence in one topic or another, so a small investment could put you right above the threshold for a pass (wherever you interview). Companies aren’t expecting perfection; they’re often just looking for a baseline level of proficiency in certain areas depending on the role. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough. There are a ton of resources to choose from: Cracking the Coding Interview, LeetCode, HackerRank problems and videos, and many more. Get on them ASAP!

Triplebyte also has a (very long) technical interview prep guide full of practice and study resources.

Debug Your Credentials

An opportunity could pop-up when you least expect it even if prospects seem low. You want to be ready. Your resume should be rich with detail, and your online platforms should be up to date and accurate. The last thing you want is to scramble at the last minute, potentially introducing mistakes or lackluster accounts of your accomplishments. Comb through your GitHub for contributions. Polish descriptions of projects you own. Think through the business value of your latest paid work.

Consider Temporary Contracts

While some companies still may not be willing to commit to full-time hires, they may be more flexible about limited-time contracts — and this may be just what you need to carry you through the storm. In fact, Forbes interviewed several executives at freelance agencies, and the thinking seems to suggest there might be an uptick in project availability during this pandemic – or at least unchanging supply. A lot of companies are new to freelance work, and they’re using agencies to get their processes right. Some are even going with freelancers in lieu of full-time workers during the transition. Where full-time is scarce, this could be a great alternative for you for a few months.

Get Your Share of the π

You can get needed cash regardless of the hiring market. It may even be substantial. Don’t make assumptions about what you are and aren’t qualified for, because this pandemic is unprecedented, and so are the governmental relief efforts recently passed. In addition to the typical suspects like unemployment (which many states have just expanded), the Paycheck Protection Program has just received additional funding and is covering two months-plus worth of salaries for independent contractors and small businesses up to 100k per person. In other words, if you made over 100k in 2019, you may be eligible for something like 20k as part of this program. Bench.co offers an excellent general guide as well as one tailored to the self-employed.

Next Steps

The tactics described here are just the tip of the iceberg. They’re intended to begin the process of stabilizing your situation and unblocking potential near-term opportunities. Once you’re back on your feet, there is so much more you can do to shore up future success. But for now, get the basics covered. And remember: This too shall pass.

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