Surviving the job search post bootcamp.
I have two job searches going on now.
Priority one: searching for a software engineering gig.
Priority two: searching for a job that I’m actually qualified to do and could conceivably be hired for.
As I’m unqualified to perform any software engineering jobs at this point, you may be curious why this is my first priority. The answer is that I’m contractually obligated to make it my first priority, through the ISA agreement that I signed. I’m also contractually obligated to write these posts every week now, to “position myself as an expert.” To shore up that old reservoir of unearned confidence. My confidence ran dry on the first day of the course. I’ve never been the best at self-gratification. Anyone who expresses doubt in the curriculum’s ability to make us ‘job ready’ is just assured they have impostor syndrome. Which is a little ridiculous — impostor syndrome is a phrase to describe professionals that feel incompetent despite evidence to the contrary. As a student, I was not a professional, nor did I have any accomplishments to prove competence.
Weeks ago, I finished reading the post work curriculum and *good lord,* there’s some bad advice in there. For example, at one point they say to follow tech user’s twitter accounts and sign up for notifications — so whenever the user posts, you can like their post right away, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Creepy. Also, make sure to follow and reply to tech related podcasts — because maybe the show-runners will invite you on as a speaker! Because apparently reputable podcasts use their comment sections for recruiting speakers. Oh, and the curriculum also links to an article about getting interviews at twitter and google and the like — it says to make a list of 25 employees at the company you want an interview for, and email them until they give you one. If none of those 25 gives you an interview, make a list of 25 *more* employees from that company and start harassing them. Someone is bound to see your determination and give you an interview! After all, you were clearly determined to find their private company email directory.
According to the curriculum, there are two types of job seekers: Active seekers and Passive ones. Passives say things like “the job market is bad.” Active ones never think about it. The curriculum also says that if you’re in a “tech hub,” don’t even apply to jobs. Instead, drum up a friendship with an employee of a tech company, and get them to refer you to their boss. It actually says that. If you come from the economic class to network with middle/upper wealth people that work these jobs, congrats: you’re active. People who have friends who just give them jobs are active. The rest of us — those hundreds of people applying for jobs — are a bunch of Passives.
It’s all bad advice and soul-sucking reading material, and I think just about everyone that has to read it knows it’s bad. It’s the kind of ubiquitous bullshit that’s trivial to even write about — the world runs on it, and everyone knows the world runs on it, and everyone wishes for a world that didn’t run on it. But this is the world we have to live in, and it’s not going to change.
I’m supposed to add images to these things, so here’s one I found of myself and a business partner selling dog toys on Michigan Avenue, when I was a licensed street peddler. I don’t know who took the photo or uploaded it to the internet, but I was amused to have found it.
There I am, being ‘scrappy.’ Scrappy like it exists in the real world, not the way it’s spoken about by motivational speakers. I gained great deal of sales experience, living in this world.
At its core, searching for a job is about making a sale. And if there is a ‘secret’ to being a good salesman that I’ve learned with my history as a peddler, it’s that you can only make sales if the customer identifies with you as a person. Creating a need for your product in their life, creating that sense of urgency— all of that comes later, because what you’re selling only matters if the person identifies with you on some level. If you want to be a good ‘culture fit,’ you have to remind the hiring manager of his or herself. They have to like you. The product I’m selling is the set of skills I’ve acquired in a coding bootcamp and various other places — but no matter how I refine it, the product is unsellable if the middle-income employee responsible for hiring doesn’t identify with me as a person.
If you’re above the age of 20, you don’t need a CS degree to get a job in development. But you do need a degree. A display of status that a hiring manager can latch onto. Something that speaks to their inherent classism, that distinguishes you from the guy peddling shit on the street, that distinguishes you from the servant making their latte for a subsistence wage in the morning. If you’re younger than that, you might be able to sell yourself as some kind of tech prodigy, you might convince a manager that you’ll stick around for low pay, or you might remind them of their own wealthy upbringing and get a job that way, but I’m not young.
The product I’m trying to sell here is the skillset I’ve been shoring up — but I can’t sell that if first I don’t relate to the suits doing the hiring, which, frankly, feels like a lost cause. They don’t hire people that spent their lives working for minimum wage or near it. If I want to make money with code skills I have to find a way to do it independently, or I need to somehow scrape together a zillion dollars to get a degree. I’m working towards that goal, down the line, but I’m getting old and the likelihood that I’ll make it is slim to nil.
Now I’m going to fill out the eight applications for tech related positions that I’m contractually obligated to fill out, and send the followup emails to hiring managers as I am contractually obligated to send out. I will do my best at this job search, as I am contractually obligated to do so. But I know that there isn’t a future in it. Afterwards, I’m going to fill out applications for customer service centered, minimum wage jobs that I could conceivably get.