I remember, about ten years ago, whilst in University, an insurance broker tried to sell me an income protection package in case I ever lost my job.
I remember declining it.
Fast forward 7 years later, I got a call from the finance manager to tell me they were shutting down the company. The big boss funding the projects had shut everything down and cut his losses.
That was in 2018 — about a month after returning to work from my maternity leave. What was once so certain turned into a state of immense uncertainty with just one phone call.
Fast forward a little over a year later. Countries are shutting their borders, everyone is going into a quarantine of some sort, and the economy is having a cardiac arrest as everything comes to a grinding halt.
Software development work is also not immune to the implications of this sudden and forceful economic heart attack.
Fast forward another year — my LinkedIn feed gets flooded with people searching for jobs because their companies have laid them off. Some have been hunting for over 6 months. Some are on the verge of tears as they beg for a job in their posts. However, when I look into their portfolios, it’s hard to figure out why I should hire or recommend them.
Fast forward a few years and here we are waddling towards the deep end of a recession. Here are some actionable tips to help increase the chances of landing a job in this climate.
Lurk no more
As developers, we often lurk around the internet and searching up Google for answers. When I lost my job, it felt as if someone had pulled a rug from beneath my feet.
It’s one thing to quit a job. It's a different feeling to be let go.
When you quit, it’s a conscious choice. But when you’re already redundant, the choice is not yours and you suddenly realize how very little control you have over everything in general.
It can be a shock to the system, especially in an industry that was supposed to be stable and secure.
But there’s no such thing in this world — there’s only change and you, as a developer, have to grow and change with it.
It’s the same reason we’re constantly trying to figure things out, picking up new frameworks and playing with the latest libraries.
We upskill to stay relevant. We lurk to learn.
However, one of the biggest things I’ve learned from my time playing tech HR and during the job search process is that you are anonymous. Your resume only represents your word and sometimes, they can be fictional.
Your true depth and breadth of understanding only truly shine through to companies that understand tech recruitment beyond how many acronyms you can list on a standard resume page.
When you’re home and have little else to do, switching from lurker to contributor can help you land a new job by creating new connections and industry recognition.
It was how I landed my first client job, almost by accident, because they found something I wrote about and liked the perspective it showed.
It doesn’t have to be writing
Not all developers like the idea of writing. However, there are other modes of transmitting knowledge and showcasing your skills that don’t involve the traditional written format.
It can be as a video tutorial or active participation on Reddit or LinkedIn. It can be through consistently showing up in a particular space where developers come to help, share and expand the knowledge domains of others.
When you help others with what you know, you are creating potential nodes of connection and recognition for what you can do.
If you find helping others a struggle within a particular knowledge domain, then it’s an opportunity to learn something new.
It doesn’t matter how you showcase your knowledge — just that you do.
Platforms like LinkedIn are fantastic at creating connections — but you need more than just a list of projects you’ve worked on. You need to be active. You need to create interest in yourself. You need to write, record, post, or comment.
You need to speak up and in the new age of global remote work, your digital ink trail is how people notice you.
Applying for jobs in the traditional way can often be stressful. You have about 10 seconds to build trust with a complete stranger.
However, if you use the time to build up your digital ink trail, then what you’re essentially doing is building up your network of people — and it is this network that will bring you an income of sorts in this suddenly volatile time.
But first, they have to trust you. They have to know who you are, what you do, and what you stand for.
Your digital ink also becomes part of your portfolio that helps you stand out from the myriad of applications that are just relying purely on trust. This makes you different because you have proof of your skills. It also helps you hone your communication skills on the side.
This is especially important if you’ve been working in a large team and have no clear-cut portfolio of working samples to show for it. In my case, my working samples disappeared when the company shut its doors and called it quits. The website and its apps died, and just like that, five years of my work disappeared within an instant.
So get creating and keep creating. If you’ve pursued a personal project while you wait for connections and replies, document it in some form. If you encounter a bug on your journey, write about it — how you got there, how you solved it.
When you create, you one part give back to the community that helped raise you as a developer and one part establishes yourself beyond being a junior developer.