• 1179 words

The job market I used to know

I've got news to share alongside a personal vent at the current state of things for devs like me trying to move up with their career.

Empty chair in the dark
Photo by Daniel McCullough / Unsplash

I need to get this off my chest.

I’ve been with what it’s about to become my previous company for something less than 4 years and the world around me, professionally speaking, changed just too much for my taste.
And it’s not primarily about tech specifically or AI, I mean it is as well but in a way that isn’t as obvious as it may seem, but mostly about the software economy which is going under “yet another” downturn and the way this affected companies’ investors and people in the hiring industry.

I’ve written code since I was a very little kid and I’ve grown to consider myself a very good web developer, mostly because at 16, when I was already writing code for 4 years for toy problems in Lua, C, Java and JS, I pioneered and rode the wave of front-end development from its very beginning with the first Angular release and from there, up until now, I’ve written a huge amount of code in JavaScript that people of my age usually don’t even read. Also, I’m considered strongly reliable by the people who counts on me to whom have my trust.
All of this while also having a BA in Computer Science.

It’s on me

For these reasons, and more, I’ve been enough of a fool to think of myself so good at what I do for so long that I’d have great chances and possibilities when coming to choose a company to work for.
Even if it turned out to be true in the end, I am extremely disgusted by the process I had to go through and especially dissatisfied by the things I could have done and that I didn’t do to place myself in a better position as an employee or as a potential hire for whatever company, both in my personal and work time.

  • I didn’t place myself in a competitive environment. As they usually say, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room, as simple as that. And generally people stop growing because they get attracted to their status quo and don’t want to leave it.
  • I ended up privileging clients and companies over myself, even if I tried as hard as possible to distinguish work from passion, mostly failing and getting poisoned and attracted to money-related rewards as well as being lazy on my projects (which is common among devs as far as I experienced). I believe having shared my story and my skills in the previous paragraphs, the open source contribution and the public work I’ve done are definitely not on par and don’t help me demonstrate this. I need to improve on this.

Despite these things, while approaching the job market, I simply knew I had to get back to demonstrate my qualities once again to the people in charge of hiring.

This is where it got bad.

It’s on them

I submitted something like 30 applications give or take (only for senior positions, mostly front-end, sometimes full-stack) for which I ended up receiving almost only automatic rejection emails except for 5 companies.

Of those 5 companies, all were fairly big except one startup, three were front-end and two full-stack JavaScript/TypeScript.

I managed to receive 4 offers out of 5.

The overall process has been painfully excruciating, with interviews lasting for entire months, speaking with a plethora of people from the same company and doing timed challenges or take-home projects that would last an entire week.

You see, this whole “job seek” of mine, I think it’s been something I wanted to do to prove to myself that I still got it and because I was feeling over-skilled for the job I’m leaving.
That is because even though I have written front-end code for the most part of my working life (mostly React), programming itself always felt simply natural to me and I’ve been able to design and develop entire apps in JS/TS as well as studied databases enough to be productive with them.

Companies proved that they’re baffled, confused, and appallingly disorganized, to say the least.

For one of the full-stack position I interviewed for, the HR at the very first meeting was doubtful to make me proceed with the technical challenge since she thought I wasn’t able to pass it because at my current job, I was doing React only.

She couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that I’m a JavaScript developer, not a [put framework x here] one.
In one week, I managed to put up an entire application with frameworks I never used and to provide almost 100% code coverage with automated testing. I passed the challenge, received and declined the offer while the HR was telling me that she was shocked I performed so well.

Another interview started, lasted one month, had to perform live coding DS algorithm and an attitude test only to find out that I passed all the tests but the job was put on hold only to get back at me three months later.

Another company (the startup) with a timed tech challenge of 2 hours from which I got discarded for not closely following one tiny detail and that I verified after to be simply impossible to complete and I mean literally, couldn’t be done with the functional constraints they did put (or at least not even Vercel managed to do it in one of their preview functions).

CVs gets discarded because they don’t contain that one npm package you didn’t mention you used.

Rapid-fire technical questions “by-the-book” were asked during an interview out of the blue as if it was university time all over again.

Read through

They know they need us, but they are also incapable of thinking about us as persons and not machines, to perceive our attitude and not put us in boxes labeled by some category. In this era of “LLMs do everything”, where if LLMs are good at one thing, it’s tricking people, companies seem to be looking for that incredibly ideal candidate that in their mind will send alien signals and answer absurd questions to prove they’re the ones.

Doing all this while keeping a full-time job got me pretty close to burn out.

It’s a jungle, plain and simple.
And I want you to hang tight in there and to do your part and to invite them to do their part.

And to companies doing interviews, please be wise on the methodologies you use to test candidates, be kind, try to avoid “right or wrong” questions and do not let interviewers shadow candidates with their confidence, interviews should be places for you to shine, not to be mocked or to decrease your confidence.

These are my 2 cents.

All’s well that ends well

I remember reading this tweet from Michele Riva (creator of Orama) exactly during that time and couldn’t stop thinking how true this has been for me:

If a career advancement didn’t make you humbler, someone promoted you too early

All I can say is that I ultimately achieved the career advancement I was searching for and this made me humbler and grateful, especially to the friends I have who supported me in one way or another.

A new adventure begins 🙏