Ask HN: How to break out of a terrible job cycle?

23 points by non-entity a month ago

I'm a self taught developer who got my start doing some freelancing some years ago. Since then, I've bad an issue finding decent jobs. I've been able to find jobs, sure but typically they end up being rather poor, both in pay and operation. I ended up burning out for a while and am just coming back. I dont believe I'm an amazing programmer right now, but I have slowly started to my spark back and playing with tech that's more interesting than legacy ASP.NET and MVC apps. I've even made my first open source code contribution to a moderately known operating system kernel. Unfortunately I'm stuck in an really bad area amd still look pretty unimpressive on paper.

I've started applying jobs,but ot feel as bad as when I did it a few years ago. Positions that I apply to that seem decent, my resume get filtered out of and the only way I seem to get interviews is spammy phone calls from foreign recruiters that hound me on not having education or not having the exact amount of experience on everything on their bullet point list.

I feel like I'm being condemned to work these crappy lower paying positions for at least the next several years. The issue is, that I need to start making more money asap, but I have weird externalities that make a lot of halfway decent jobs I get contacted about impossible.

Any advice on how to break what seems like an impossible loop?

muzani a month ago

I've been in this situation recently. I'd say treat your skills as an investment.

Right now you probably have a low risk low return investment in your current terrible job. It pays the bills. That's fine.

But pick up another high risk skill. People will give all kinds of examples here - blockchain, AI, Flutter/Dart. This can be a gamble, meaning people with good jobs are less likely to take it. Lots of people can do React Native just fine and will likely double down on doing it faster as opposed to learning Flutter.

If a tech is really good, it'll boom and need more people, and there would be openings for those positions that they're desperate to fill.

That's how I moved from C to Android, back when everyone was focused on either iOS or blackberry. Recently got a job using Cordova, which a lot of mobile developers would avoid.

  • non-entity a month ago

    This is actually my long term strategy, unfortunately, I'm getting to the point where I need a new job next month, not next year.

    Also, how do I manage to convince someone to hire me for X when all my (professional) experience is in Y and I maybe have a handful of projects in X

    • muzani a month ago

      Nobody hires just to give someone a chance. It's tough, but you have to pitch something else - total years of experience, education, debugging experience, product skill or a deep understanding of the product. If all fails, there's connections and charisma.

      Asking for less salary might work too, but it can backfire by filtering out companies that try to hire the best.

      You might also get lucky and find a company that's desperate to fill a position like I did. Sometimes a core engineer quits and they need someone good enough right now to fill in the role.

  • croh a month ago

    This is how I moved to Python years back. Now as everyone is talking about Python, time has come to switch something new.

jerleth a month ago

In that case I would try to specialize, at least for marketing purposes.

For example pick Angular/React/Vue instead of typescript/javascript or another specialized stack.

If most of your colleagues are doing c# mvc then don't do the same thing, but complement them. Either pick a frontend technology as I already mentioned or do openapi specs or something else that's useful for your ideal client.

In my experience people prefer hiring specialists and will overlook other missing qualifications if you tick a core skill.

Take care, Martin

  • muzani a month ago

    I was looking for a job a while back and honestly specialization sounds like a poor idea. Everyone seems to be leaning more towards full stack.

    Someone with 1 year iOS, 1 year crypto, 2 years Angular will probably have better luck than someone with 4 years Angular.

arenaninja a month ago

One thing will be trying to reach out to hiring managers and internal recruiters directly instead of working with third-party recruiters. Third-party recruiters try to maximize their referral fee by matching your experience to the job description exactly; hiring managers and internal recruiters get quite a bit more leeway. Is there a coding bootcamp nearby that you could teach or TA? It's an awesome way to make easy connections with local employers; growing your network is a long term investment, but if in two years it can get you a better job it is worth it.

I'm also self taught and started with a terrible job cycle that I'm still working out of. I talk to recruiters all of the time, and I also refer friends to them and it gets me bonus considerations. Recently I called one up and had a very frank conversation on my career goals; she didn't have a job for me but gave me some very nice pointers (basically how to highlight things in my resume in a way that'll stand out to the five second scan of a recruiter). Recruiters are people and you can filter the good ones, many are on LinkedIn.

  • non-entity a month ago

    > One thing will be trying to reach out to hiring managers and internal recruiters directly instead of working with third-party recruiters.

    I've tried this in the past a few times (when I could figure out the info), and always got told just to apply online like everyone else.

    > Third-party recruiters try to maximize their referral fee by matching your experience to the job description exactly

    Yeah, I specifically wrote my resume to highlight my accomplishments + impact to the organization, and recruiters seem to be very annoyed by that. Most of the time, they edit my resume into a keyword dump.

    • arenaninja a month ago

      Yes you need a keyword dump to get past the recruiter and accomplishments+impact for the hiring manager.

      Even for hiring managers knowing what technologies you used at your recent roles is helpful; they want to know how quickly you'd be able to get up to speed and it makes it easier to conduct technical interviews if they know which tech you're comfortable with. A summary section for tech isn't as helpful since it's unclear how long you used X or Y tech

  • alltakendamned a month ago

    Care to share the pointers? :)

    • arenaninja a month ago

      In my case it was very specific, I've read my resume and overall she thought it was good. My gripe was that she reaches out with positions that seems junior (e.g.: 2/3 years of experience) but I have 7 years of experience. She said to list myself as a Senior Software Engineer; I've listed Software Engineer because it's not a distinction I care for but since I made this change I've been contacted by recruiters with roles that are in line with my seniority (and this was only a week or two ago)

twoquestions a month ago

There just isn't enough to go around, sorry dude. There's legions of people who are utterly locked out of the job market, and there's no hope for them, at least you have some money coming in. Most people around here just flip burgers while they drug and drink themselves to death, or take a more direct route.

  • plasticchris a month ago

    This just isn't true. There is always a shortage of good programmers, and recognizing people who are filtered out by traditional HR practices is a good way for smaller organizations to get manpower. It's a great example of doing things that don't scale.

yellow_lead a month ago

Did you make any connections from your jobs in the past with people who are now at a decent company? You may reach out to them to ask for an introduction. Hopefully you can get past the filter with a referral. Best of luck.