What I Learned During My Programming Job Hunt In The Middle Of A Pandemic

What I Learned During My Programming Job Hunt In The Middle Of A Pandemic

I am now four months into my new programming job, and it’s been a joy ride so far. I also come from a much more stressful, hectic job, that I also enjoyed. I also enjoyed the job hunt, brief as it thankfully was, in the middle of a pandemic. It has really been a good year for me, so here are some takeaways from ten job interviews in as many days, and what I learned about process and the market.

Get yourself a recruiter, then another

The tech market is vast, complicated, equally hungry and stuffed, on both sides of the aisle. You have two options for getting a new job that don’t suck:

  • Already know where you would like to work, and apply there. Likely through your friends and contacts, if you are the networking kind of guy or gal.
  • Answer to one or two of those people who keep spamming you on LinkedIn, Xing, whatever platform may be en vogue at the time.

I tried my hand at the former first, because I had a job opportunity that sounded pretty interesting to me, through a guy I had worked with. I asked him if they needed programmers, then got an interview by recommendation, and the interview went pretty well. Sadly, in the end the pandemic came with a hiring stop for them and so it didn’t work out, and I was left to start from zero again.

Since time was a little pressing in the end I decided to get work through the second method, and boy did it save me hours of time. No, days, more like, just by the fact that these recruiters have a list of companies looking for new hires. That alone saves you tons of time, and they will even pre-screen the offers to make sure that they fit your tech stack.

Then, these people help you with your CV if it needs any help (mine did!) and send them to the companies, and you are that much more likely to get an interview since you basically come „by recommendation“ in a sense as well. Both you and the company save hooooours of time thanks to this man-in-the-middle, and you can get a bunch of interviews in a short time.

I got in touch in two recruiters, and within a week I had two weeks worth of job interviews. Not because I am some kind of prodigy programmer, but rather because it is in everyone’s interest to waste as little time as possible on the whole process. The recruiter needs to spend less time trying to act like a regular human being before he can go to vulture-exploit the next one, the company has to spend less time and money interviewing and you don’t have to waste so much time.

Also, as a programmer who’s been around the block for a year or two you are prime real estate, and if you add some passion and actual work-skills to the mix you won’t have trouble finding „any“ kind of work, and the struggle becomes to find work that doesn’t make you quit again immediately.

Nobody really does coding interviews anymore

I was actually a little afraid of the whole interviewing process because the type of programming work that I do doesn’t jive well with standardized programming tests. I am a bug fixer and firefighter, a generalist more than a specialist and frankly I lack some of the very basic patterns and those things that you learn from books.

I am very much a „give me google or give me death“ kind of programmer, so there was a high chance for me to either fail or fail to impress in any kind of blackboard or white-sheet kind of test.

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However, I was glad to learn that not a single of these companies did that to me, it appears that this general dislike for those tests has found its way into the heads of those tasked with the interviewing process.

The company who ended up hiring me put me through a first and second interview, the latter in person, then asked me about my general day as a programmer, my team work and communication habits, those kinds of things. It was a very enjoyable process because that is precisely the portion of the programming life that I enjoy the most, so I could show some real passion and talk about past experiences. It was a nice talk, a fluent process, and since the company itself interested me and the team members seemed fun it took less than a week before I had signed the paperwork and bought a car to commute there once the pandemic was over.

The gras is greener out there

I stayed at the same company that I started at as an apprentice for over eight years, and that is unusual in the tech world. It also means that I got my chance to really dive deep into my system and the world of programming as a whole. It also means that I was worth far more than what they paid me, in fact I even got a substantial pay raise as a new boss swooped in and tried to keep the sinking ship afloat. But there were a few too many holes, in the ship and my own mental state, so within half a year I had a new job.

Because the job market for programmers is what it is, I had very little issue adding a substantial pay raise to that substantial pay raise, and much more enjoyable work conditions as well. In fact, I even took the job that offered me (slightly) less money of the two that I found actually interesting, for the main fact that I had a better impression of the people and the company.

There are so many faceless companies out there

One of the reason why I even stayed with my first company for so long was the team, the whole work environment, and the chaotic mess of working in a company of passionate people with an actual company mission.

I saw and see friends and acquaintances working for companies that would just bore me to death – and my job hunt has confirmed my idle suspicion that those companies are actually the majority.

Be it murder-for-hire kind of consulting companies, or just your run-of-the-mill insurance company or whatnot – it’s actually harder to find a job you like than to find a job that pays you enough to not care.

Takeaway: The job hunt is fascinating when it’s quick

I feel incredibly lucky to have gone through what could have been a year-long search in many fields in just a single month, less even. That is not normal in most professions, and so far I see absolutely no reason to go on a job hopping journey, having ended up in a great company again, just this time by choice rather than by accident.

The first time round I just got lucky with getting hired at all, being the fresh-faced idiot that I still feel like despite looking like a bittered and battered cynic on the outside. Okay, I jest, but this second time around I at least knew what I wanted out of a job, and happened to find it.

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