It’s a bloodbath out there, isn’t it? Welcome to the ranks of the unemployed. Here we are, with the realisation that most of us will not be able to return to the same kind of job we once had and loved (not too long ago...). Many tech industries will not be able to return to normal, and with that, our identity and courage goes out of the window.
I have been spending some hours this weekend giving pro-bono feedback on CVs belonging to recently laid-off Engineers, and I thought that my hours could be well spent writing today. I think I’ll write about how you can take steps to hack your way back into the working world.
Now is the time to right-size
Note to startup founders: I have been quite addicted to listening to podcasts with, or about startup founders lately. Invariably, most of those founders would mention their disappointment at not being able to keep their living, breathing, awesome thing called Culture when everyone focused over-obsessively about that hockey stick growth. While succeeding at raising the profile of their company by expansion and valuation metrics, they would inevitably have to curb their growth by focusing on strengthening their culture, later on.
Often when growth and results are at an all-time high, your company culture would be at an all-time low. Nice humans hire other nice humans and when you have to down-size, look at right-sizing as well. This provides a great opportunity to relook at what really matters.
Much has been said about hiring diverse teams and making an extra effort to hire that 10x Engineer, it is a virtuous cycle identifying the mythical talent to sit in your leadership seats, or any seat in your company for that matter, those talent contributing more than you’ve ever expected. What are your current hiring initiatives to hire a diverse team (proven to be more competitive)? Yes, this brings more work to your hiring teams. Yes, if the problem is at scale it could be really hard to change, and this disruption will cause you to move slower in all processes. But now is as good a time as any.
Eat humble pie
You have done 10, maybe 15 years as an Engineer. But your Github is empty. It has 0 shades of green for the last year or so. What’s your excuse? The Dunning-Kruger effect is so strong in Silicon Valley Engineers. Sometimes, this impression is formed when those Engineers introduce themselves. They have been laid-off recently, for sure. Despite that, they do not pretend to need or to ask for a helping hand.
They do not ask for a conversation with a VC or a well-connected recruiter to get a connection into the type of companies they would die to work for. They only state that ‘they have 10 years’ experience in Computer Vision’, or words to that effect. They have no idea what sort of companies they would just die to join. It seems that their hours go to the highest bidder. It seems as though they just know how to get employed again, with no one helping them.
I tried to connect with some of them but, this is really strange - they still continue to restrict people from connecting directly to them on LinkedIn. Why? I have so many questions. The last decade has been kind to the talents in the engineering field working in the fast growing tech startup world. Being in high demand has led to an eruption of opportunities for them.
To reciprocate this kindness they often treat recruiters (someone who tries to present them with an opportunity) badly, veering on the edge of rudeness and hostility. If recruiters are not here anymore to help you find your next job, what should you do?
Many people default to taking steps to remake their CV (Remaking your CV tips later, below!), often seeming like the most logical thing to do. Before that, why not examine not just the way you treat every interaction (professionally, of course, to other recruiters whom you hated before) but also, your exposure, and your approach.
Your Exposure (in the open source community)
It is the time to be a giver instead of a taker. These days the IP constraints while being employed do not apply anymore. Use your layoff status to be social on Github. Communicate with people who are building something you might be keen to work on. If you are not yet laid off (why are you still reading this), act like you are, if you feel you might get retrenched soon (Sign: Your company just let go of 15% of their employees) do not wait 6 months later to start getting exposure in this community.
The situation will get worse over time for some groups of Engineers. I reasonably predict that the group with 2+ years experience as well as those with 10+ to 20 years experience will be the last to find jobs, primarily as the roles are much more in number for those with the requisite 3-5, or 5-8 years’ experience. (Perhaps it’s now time to bootstrap your own thing.)
Being a Hackernoon contributor has its advantages, a large audience in tech being one. If you are a fan, and have been consuming stories for ages but have not yet had the inclination to write one, perhaps it’s now time to start.
“Hey I wanna contribute to your project”
Yes, its as simple as that - check the trending projects on Github that are getting the attention of other developers, and make a contribution. High profile, big name companies often have the tools at their disposal to notice your awesome-contributions. Your peers and CTOs, Engineering Leads are also eyeballing those projects. If you are a true Senior Engineer, why not act as a mentor to help junior Engineers get ahead?
Contribute some mentorship for 10 hours and stay with your commitment for at least 2 months. For juniors, think about testing. Enter your name to help others in unit testing, end to end, and you are helping them in their open source projects. You will be on the top 1% of the junior list of notable Engineers.
Examine every opportunity to connect. When I was retrenched together with my regional team in 2018, I approached every Head of HR and Country MD in my field (we came from the sexy mobility / IoT / sharing economy space and we could join any logistics / ride-hailing / food delivery startup), I wanted to place all of the team we trained into those startup’s roles, and I spent the next month to aggressively engage with the relevant industries.
I was not necessarily looking for a role for myself as I had already planned to step away from a fulltime employment in this field, but to my surprise, everyone I hustled liked me, and introduced opportunities to help me get employed again.
Remaking your CV, tips
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Does it parse properly? I, and many others prefer to view the parsed version of CVs in our email reader instead of going into the system to collectively view all CVs. Don’t make the mistake of spending hours fine tuning the text of your CV without checking in with a parsing tool. There are many CV parsing tools around. For an old-school check, simply paste the text from your PDF version into any text reader, and see if the links all work. Always include a link to your LinkedIn (hopefully it’s unrestricted by now), and your portfolio, which is often a Github URL. (Scroll back to eat humble pie, if your Github is still empty.)
What does it say about you and your values? The contributions you’ve made as a people manager, as a junior developer, as a product owner, the types of projects you’ve worked on, how you’ve helped increase the valuation of the company and expanded its reach, how you’ve grown from a mid level Engineer to a true senior.
Your CV tells us that you didn’t abuse the company’s unlimited leave policy to work on your personal development. Your CV tells us what success means to you (and, you know, it means different things to everyone).
To pivot or not to pivot? I often find its the hardest thing to do when deciding on the next steps for those CVs who have shown a recent pivot from their roles - for instance, 10 years an Engineer but the last 2 as a Product Manager. Maybe a great Ruby Engineer who turns into an Infrastructure Engineer. Also, a freelance worker turned fulltime employee in your current or last role, and you would now prefer to go back into remote, freelance work again.
Or you only want fulltime employment. Make sure your CV (or a note attached to it) tells us that. There are some CV analytics tools that can give you a result if your CV messaging is clear on the targeted descriptions you want to apply for. If you are a hybrid engineer canddiate and that is you and your messaging, then by all means, go for that.
It’s probably better not to crack the brains of your hiring manager trying to figure out what you want and it’s probably better to give them a strong reason why they should be making the call to invite you for an interview.
Lastly, mens sana in corpore sano.