What to do when you suddenly find yourself unemployed?

Preface

The following advice, thoughts, and ideas are my own, and not attributed to any company that has employed me, or will do so in the future. As with any advice please make your own decisions about what you think is good and bad, and please refrain from blaming the advisor if the advice turns out not to be helpful. My perspective is as a white male software developer in the Midwest United States, keep that in mind as some of this may not apply to your current, past, or future situation.

So your looking for employment, now what?

You may find yourself in this position for one of many possible reasons, maybe you were terminated, maybe you quit, you could have just graduated college, or you want to try out a new career path. From any of these starting positions you may feel a few different emotions, excitement, sadness, worry, joy, nervousness, anxious, concerned, or may other emotions. Most of these could probably be classified as positive or negative emotions.

If you are experiencing negative emotions, I’d say its best to try to work through those quickly. Talk with someone about how you are feeling, write it down, go outside and yell, cry perhaps. But you need to release those into the wild so you can feel a little better. Usually life goes in cycles, soon after you encounter something bad, something better is usually on the way.

If you are feeling positive emotions then you probably realize that now is the time that opportunity is knocking on your door. After the negative emotions pass, I hope you would arrive at this conclusion as well. I know a lot of people in the world including software developers depend on having a steady paycheck to survive. I completely understand that, and how long you can live your current lifestyle or a lifestyle that you are comfortable with before you receive more income will also vary. The understanding of your cost of your lifestyle presents another sort of opportunity I will talk about later.

Opportunity

Some people use the word opportunity as a synonym for problem. In this very situation, I tend to agree. Its looking at the problem of "I need to find a job." from the other perspective which is, "I get to figure out a new way to make income." This to me is empowering. There are lots of ways to make income. As software developer you have more options that most.

Work for a Company

The first is most obvious, find a company or person who wants to hire a full time software developer. For a lot of people who might be reading this, this is probably where you started. You worked full time for a company developing some kind of software. Its very natural to instantly think that you need to return to that kind of work as soon as possible. Depending on where you live and how good your professional network is, its probably the safest, fastest, and easiest way to "figure out a new way to make income". Software developer is one of the most in demand professions in the United States and likely in much of the world.

Start a business

Another possible opportunity is to start your own business. I think most professional software developers at least consider this as an option at some point during their career. If you do start a business you have a few typical routes you can go. You can offer your services as a consultant to companies where they would pay you an hourly wage, and you are essentially self employed paying your own taxes, acquiring your own medical benefits, and setting up your own 401K, etc. This seems like a great option. If you do decide to go this route, one thing you should consider is specializing. Look at the market see what skills are in demand, and become an expert in a particular area of software development. As I write the most popular skill set in demand in the Midwest United States is Angular. If you are an expert Angular developer you can probably get paid pretty well as a consultant. Angular has one the mind share of CIOs and CTOs a like. I personally don’t think it makes much sense for a lot of applications its being used for, and the consumers I’m sure wouldn’t care at all if there were no javascript written for the applications they use, but that is my perspective. If companies are paying a lot of software developers to write Angular apps, then please do yourself a favor and learn Angular.

Do Training

Another business idea, which can be combined with the independent consultant options is to start a training business. Just as I mentioned companies want Angular developers many of them are willing to invest lots of money into making their existing developers angular developers. This is another trend I don’t completely understand. I would think that if you really need an angular developer you would find the top guy in your city and pay them to build your app or be consultant on the team to build your app. That would probably save you a lot of time in the long run. These two ideas kind of go hand in hand. If everyone knows you are the top angular guy they’ll assume by sending their developers to your training session they will end up being just like you.

This fallacy has been perpetuated for years in various industries. The only way to become an expert is to live and breathe that thing and make mistakes and complete tasks that these experts do. An expert’s wisdom is gained over thousands of hours of practice including thousands and thousands of problems solved. You will not become an expert from 40 hours in a class room with another expert.

Market yourself

So please keep that in mind, if you want to be an expert consultant, then you have to find a niche, and pour your heart and soul into it. The other piece of this puzzle is marketing your skill set. You can do this from day one of trying to become an expert. If you are the greatest angular developer on the planet, and no one has ever heard of you, then you may find it difficult to get the most lucrative consulting contracts. The simplest way to market yourself is to create content and share it. This content will likely be in the form of a blog, videos, white papers, ebooks, etc. Also if you want to do even more, you can speak at user groups and conferences. This will definitely get your name out there. People tend to associate these kinds of things with experts. You may be branded an expert way before you actually are if you do these activities in tandem with your thousands of hours of learning and doing.

Networking

Regardless of whether you want to start a business or work for someone else, you need to use your network. Even if you don’t think you have a network, you are probably wrong.

Recruiters

If you are software developer its very likely that with in the last 36 hours you were contacted by a recruiter who saw your linkedin profile. Look at your email, maybe even in the spam folder depending on who you have it set up, and call those recruiters back. If you want to start your own business those people can still be excellent connections to help you out. If by some chance you didn’t have a recruiter call you in the last three to seven days, then you probably know some other people to contact who can help.

Former Co-Workers

I’m guessing if you are in this situation then you probably have worked at other places and have made some professional software development contacts there. Call them and let them know you are on the job market. Its likely they have either been contacted by a recruiter recently or they might know of some open positions.

Family

My family is usually aware when the company they work for is in a growth mode, and hiring people. A lot of companies need software developers, and chances are someone in your family can look at internal company job boards, and maybe get you an in or refer you to someone at their company that can help.

Internet Job Boards

Probably the first and last place to start trying to find work is on the popular job search sites. My favorite is indeed.com, also there are others like monster.com, careerbuilder.com, dice.com, ziprecruiter.com and several others. Its nice to have a referral through your network but this is a great place to find work if you can’t find anything viable through your network of friends, and colleagues.

Conclusion

If you suddenly find yourself unemployed, take a few minutes, and breathe. Then realize there is a vast array of opportunities in the world for you. This situation doesn’t have to be dire, it should be looked at as a way to figure out what you really want to do with your time. If you love your industry and what you do, feel free to continue it, if not try something else. You can always go back to what you were doing before. Opportunities are plentiful, sometimes you just have to know where to look. Good luck!

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Adam.Wright
 

Adam Wright is a technologist specializing in software development using Microsoft technologies.

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