How do I stay positive when the entry-level job market is so bad?

Hey mom!

As you know, your code babies are starting their job searches now. I’m definitely feeling the stress of getting a job, paying the bills, meeting expectations, etc. How do I keep my head up through this? And how do I set myself apart from other (equally or more qualified) people as I’m competing with my classmates for a job?

-Broke AF

Dear Broke, 

First of all, I realize your message is dated March 30 – I’m so sorry for not replying yet!  It somehow ended up in the spam folder of the feedback form inbox, which I am emptying out now in July.  That’s a lesson learned for me: check the settings on the feedback form, and look at the spam folder more often! 

Now to answer your questions…. It’s rough out there for juniors right now.  Really, really rough.  The tech job market is currently experiencing a high amount of volatility, partially due to inflation and the state of the economy.  Venture capital isn’t flowing quite as freely as it was, the large companies trimmed back their workforces, and smaller companies followed suit… just like investing, it’s impossible to “time the market” and anticipate what will happen next.  I’m not going to sugarcoat the fact that entry-level jobs seem to be scarce at the moment, or that the job market is currently volatile and highly competitive.

It’s a tough thing to “keep your head up” right now, and I know it’s stressful competing for jobs when you’ve got bills to pay.  Hopefully, you have a support system in friends and/or family that you can spend time with–just so long as they’re friends and/or family who aren’t hounding you about “why don’t you have a job yet?”.  Make sure you’re setting aside some time for relaxation and self-care; an hour or two to focus on a hobby, get some exercise, or think about something that isn’t computer programming.  Also, just because you are, technically, competing with your classmates for jobs doesn’t mean that you can’t hang out, help each other, and commiserate about job searching!  If anything, your classmates know–more than anyone else–the kind of stress and anxiety you’re experiencing right now. 

Something I’ve found really helps job seekers is creating a schedule for their job search, and sticking to it.  Set aside a block of time each day to search for jobs, fill out applications, and write cover letters–and have a goal for how many jobs you are going to apply to per day.  It helps if this is some time in the morning, because it can “set the tone” for your day–once you’ve spent your allotted time and met your daily job-search goal(s), you can choose to put that work down for the rest of the day, and your brain makes the happy chemicals because you’ve accomplished a task.  It can also help you avoid burning out on your search if you’re not actively doing it all day, every day. 

As for setting yourself apart from other job seekers… remember, there is only one you.  Sure, there are a lot of entry-level developers out there, some of whom are more qualified than you, others who may be less qualified… but don’t think about them, think about you.  If you like writing or other forms of content creation, maybe you could start a blog or a YouTube channel where you talk about your learning journey, side projects, and your job search.  If you have a particular hobby, you could focus on writing an application that deals with some aspect of your hobby–like a friend of mine writing a program that reminds him when to rotate the champagne bottles in his wine cellar.  Heck, I’m known for drawing my little ponies, of all things.  What can you bring to your job search from your non-programming life? 

Also, although this is true in general, it seems to really be about who you know in this job market.  Push through the awkward and get yourself out to networking events, and try to talk to a lot of different people.  Connect with them through social media or e-mail afterward, especially if they gave you a business card.  Post on LinkedIn, and use appropriate hashtags to get your posts seen by interested parties–then always follow up on comments to up your profile’s engagement factor.  If there are meetups or user groups in your area, sign up and attend a few events–the worst case scenario is that you spend an hour or two meeting people, learning something new, and eating free snacks.  And if you’re not a social butterfly–remember those folks you were in class with?  Call a few of them up, and go as a group. 

Finally, don’t give up on your job search.  Even if you need to take a job that’s not related to technology in order to make ends meet, don’t stop practicing your code katas, working on side projects, and networking with tech folks.  The job market can’t stay this volatile forever, and will eventually cycle back around to hiring–you want to stay prepared for when it does. 

Hang in there,


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