Sarah Katz

NYC-Based Full Stack JS Developer

From the mind of Sarah...

If There's No Such Thing As An Unemployed Dev, What Am I?

March 03, 2019

"There are no unemployed developers."
"There are more jobs to fill than developers to fill them."
These two statements (and variations of them) are very commonly heard within the tech community. There are so many developer jobs out there, companies are competing heavily for the few people available for those jobs. Developers basically have their choice of jobs, and if a developer does end up with unemployed, it doesn't last very long - there's another offer out there waiting for them. Or at least that's what people say is the case.

But ... I'm an unemployed developer. I know it hasn't been that long, but companies don't seem to be rushing to hire me. How am I supposed to feel about that? Am I the anomaly? Or is the popular wisdom wrong?

From what I've seen, there seems to be a disconnect between what companies are looking for and what's available. I've seen a lot of jobs available for senior developers (5+ years of experience), and while there are certainly senior developers looking to change roles, I'd say that most of the "unemployed" and looking devs are more junior level - either fresh out of school (or not school in the case of self-taught developers) or with less than 3 years of experience. I've only seen one or two jobs for new grads, and I can't remember the last time I saw a job listing looking for someone with 1-3 years experience. Personally, I will apply for jobs that ask for 3 years of experience, even though I know some of them will reject me because of my 1 year of experience, but not everyone is comfortable with that (although I would suggest becoming comfortable with that, since I've been told by companies that the experience thing is not always a hard requirement if the person is going to pick things up quickly). While there certainly are some senior devs looking for jobs and some early career jobs available, I think a large part of the disconnect between companies that have jobs available and devs looking for jobs is the experience level.

Now that we've identified one of the major reasons why some devs are unemployed and some companies can't fill their empty jobs, how do we fix the problem? If there are more jobs to fill than developers to fill them, there really should be no unemployed developers. So how do we bridge the gap and get unemployed developers into available positions? Here are some ideas I've thought of that could make a difference:

  • Rethink Experience Requirements - Yes, there are definitely jobs that need some experience coming in. But maybe it's time for companies to rethink experience requirements. Is there a way to bridge the gap between what the person needs to know and what there experience is? Can a mentorship program help bring someone with less experience up to speed? While I'm not saying a new grad should be hired for a senior-level position, there are certainly situations where someone with 2-3 years of experience can be brought to a point where they're able to do the work for a position that you might think needs 4-5 years of experience. Be open to the idea that a candidate with less experience may be the right candidate for you.
  • Share With Your Network - Networking is key in the development world (which is one of the reasons why I struggle so much). If you, as a recruiter or hiring company, speak with a dev who is not the right candidate for a job you have available, offer to connect them to a colleague who is hiring. It helps the job seeker because it gets them in front of a company that could be a better fit for you, and it helps your colleague because you're giving them a candidate that may be the person they hire. This is something that can't be done for everyone who applies for a given job, but if you have a candidate who you meet with who you think is good but not exactly what you need, this could be a great way to create a match between dev and company.
  • Don't Be Biased - Don't discriminate against people who are not currently working. When you're looking at LinkedIn profiles to see who you may want to connect with, make sure you're not just reaching out to people who are currently working, but also are reaching out to recent grads (if applicable) and people who seem to be between jobs. When speaking to candidates at a job fair or hiring event, ask if they are currently working instead of where they're working. Don't let yourself be biased against someone just because they're not currently employed - be open to finding out why they're not currently employed, because this unemployed person might just be the right person for your available job (they also might not be, but you'll never know unless you talk to them).

When it comes to unemployed devs and companies with positions to fill, I'd say half of the popular wisdom is correct. There are certainly more jobs to fill than developers to fill them. But there are also unemployed developers. We need to bridge this gap and find a way to help the unemployed developers fill the available positions. Let's see what we can do to fill some of those available positions with some of those available developers.

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