DEV Community

Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

Posted on

What advice would you give to an unemployed software developer?

Getting that next job is not a walk in the park, what advice would you give someone in this situation?

Top comments (36)

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel ( • Edited

What advice would you give to an unemployed software developer?

My wife is in the middle of a career change.
She wants to get inside the IT sector.
I can show you how we are doing it.

1) First we defined a list of job titles that might be a good fit for her: product manager, project manager, product owner, agile coach, ...

2) Next we looked up for people around us that are currently employed with one of those job titles.

One way to do this is via a LinkedIn search:

  • LinkedIn: Search > People
  • Filters: area=Berlin ; title="product manager" ; sectors="..."

3) Next we created a list on Trello of the companies where those people work.

We went on their website to collect basic metadata. For example the Zalando card contains this:



As Europe’s leading online fashion platform we deliver to customers in 17 countries. In our fashion store, they can find a wide range of clothing, shoes, and accessories from more than 2,000 brands.

Founded in 2008 in Berlin, Zalando SE is Europe's leading online fashion platform and connects customers, brands and partners.



Zalando SE, Valeska-Gert-Straße 5, 10243 Berlin, Germany
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

4) Then my wife reviewed all of this and asked herself in which companies she would like to be. Asking questions like

  • what problem is this company solving?
  • is that something that I am genuinely interested in?
  • does that sound like a place where I could fit in?

In the end we have three lists, the top-tier where she would really love to work, the third tier where she is explicitly not interested, and the second tier "Why not?".

5) The crucial point is that we do not focus on what online job offers are or not available at any random moment. We focus on which companies she would like to work, and getting to know them very well.

andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown 🇨🇦 • Edited

Huntr is a free service that is specifically designed for this.

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel (

Looks useful, but it's centered on applying to online job offers no? As I said, they are not our focus.

Thread Thread
andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown 🇨🇦 • Edited

You can fill in any kind of job you like.
They have a DB of existing companies that pulls the internet but you enter anything in.

Thread Thread
jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel (

I tried it, good tool.

mandaputtra profile image
Manda Putra

I would say this sistematical approach is so awesome.

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel (

The crucial point is that responding to online job offers follows an inverse Pareto law:

  • That's where most candidates put 80% of the efforts
  • But companies actually hire people via this channel in only 20% of the time.

Also you avoid the imposter syndrom of not feeling legitimate.

Once you have found companies that you like, what you can do next is obvious: go and discuss with them. Maybe they will find something to do for you that is not what you first imagined but where you will be a better fit.

jlouzado profile image
Joel Louzado • Edited

It depends on what career-stage they're currently in. If they're unemployed and asking for advice they're probably more on the junior side, have been applying for a tonne of jobs and getting rejected without clear reasons. Here's what I would say to such a dev:

Dealing with Rejection

  • don't push too hard for "reasons" when you get rejected for a position. This is a waste of time because:
    • there could be any number of factors from "office-politics" to "our onboarding can't handle junior devs right now"
    • it probably won't be too fruitful to mould yourself to that particular company.
  • your biggest advantage is your energy and your enthusiasm, use that. Apply to smaller places that are understaffed and looking for people who can switch between many hats.

Improving Communication

  • Often times the thing that holds back junior devs is communication weakness.
  • The normal advice is to read a lot, but in software I'd say that high-quality argumentation is more important than grammar or vocabulary
  • Join a debate club, be more thoughtful when arguing on the internet, try and listen more and really understand what people are saying.
  • Do more writing; whenever you watch something try writing a summary of it and publish that as well.


  • Read The Two Hour Job Search or read the summary
  • If the standard job-route isn't working, you might be tempted to look into freelancing but that can be a minefield in and of itself.
  • My recommendation would be to also approach local businesses or reach out to friends and family to see if they have any paid work to get you started.For example you can ask everyone: "Do you know anyone looking for a website or an app?", instead of "Are you looking...". That way you can ask literally everyone you know for help, and not feel like you're pressuring anyone to help you.1

These are the thoughts that come to me off the top of my head. Above all, stay calm, make sure you're getting enough sleep, and use this down-time to get in touch with some hobbies and maybe catch up with friends that you might've not had time for lately.

All the best. :hug:

  1. Credit for this tactic goes to a GaryVee video btw. :) 

thecodingalpaca profile image
Carlos Trapet

This is probably the best comment I've read on in months. Props to you, sir.

jlouzado profile image
Joel Louzado

Thank you very much sir. 🙌

eljayadobe profile image

I've gotten every single position I've had through leads. From friends, from family, from acquaintances, from schoolmates.

In a bit of irony, for most of the positions I've applied for, my list of references was entirely with people already employed by the company.

I'm not a "networker", and I'm naturally shy. I work very hard at overcoming my introversion. But even I have found references, tips, and leads to be the best way to land a position.

paulasantamaria profile image
Paula Santamaría

Build some software by yourself! It's nice to have something to show off to potential employers, it denotes initiative and it's a great way to learn.

tuwang profile image

leetcode is your best friend for next 3 months. Go shake hands with leetcode 🤓

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I'm not super familiar with leetcode as a user of it, would you recommend any advice on how to approach using it to help someone out of their unemployment situation... like beyond their basic getting-started instruction?

tuwang profile image
TuWang • Edited

After some thoughts, here are the steps I would take:

  • Retrospective on the unemployed situation: anything to improve, avoid, or learn?
  • Note down a list of dream companies. Like another response mentioned, Tier1, Tier2, Tier3 and such
  • The employee recommendations are critical but don't be shy from direct emailing to recruiters on LinkedIn.
  • Prepare the resume. It is mandatory.

Okay, all of the above should complete in 2-3 days. It's one day for resume, one day for sending messages on LinkedIn, and the rest time (a few hours) to figure out the short term goal.

After setting up the goal, the next part is training.

Going to technical interviews is much like playing sport (if not going to the battlefield). We have to be mentally & technically trained for it. Leetcode comes in at this point.

  • Make a plan about how to address Easy/Medium/Hard questions
  • Use a company filter to narrow down the coding problems to tackle, because that should cover most aspects of coding interview
  • Don't just try to solve problems on your own. Engineering is all about learning best practices, which means most beginners learned the coding interview skills through looking at others' solutions. Ironically, yes, we have to study solutions first before we all in solving a problem independently
  • Schedule phone screens to push ourselves
  • Mock interview, coding on a whiteboard, on paper
  • ...

We can find lots of practical interview skills in the book, Crack Coding Interviews.

I hope anyone looking at the steps can find them helpful :)

Let me also take 1000 steps back. I made huge assumption: my perspective is from traditional hard-core coding interviews. If your goal is small startups (where your skillsets weight more than coding interview skills), then you can ignore some of the recommendations.

When the company demands specific skillsets, perhaps a few side projects would be more helpful in the short term!

dylanesque profile image
Michael Caveney

leetcode is a really unattractive option if money is tight.

tuwang profile image

Do you mean the $159 yearly membership fee? Yeah, that was not so nice since lots of resources are community-based on leetcode.

I think there are quiet a few free alternatives to leetcode ;)

aussieguy profile image
Anthony Bruno

Reach out to your network. A majority of jobs are not advertised, and the way to access this hidden job market is through people you know: friends, family, old co-workers, etc.

Also, it might be a good opportunity to build the side-project you've been putting off, or learn a new technology. It'll help during the interview process when they ask 'Do you have any side projects?'.

sunitk profile image
Sunit Katkar • Edited

Do not try to learn too many new frameworks. Just pick one you don't know but is in demand. Get back to going deeper into a framework you already know. Prepare for all nitty gritty and obscure things they ask in interviews. Also try getting some AWS certification as it adds some weightage in today's cloud everything world.

cathodion profile image
Dustin King
  1. Hopefully this won't be true for you, but: you will probably get a lot of rejection, a lot of just never hearing back, and more rejection from opportunities that you were feeling optimistic about. This, especially the last one, can make you feel like you're garbage. Your feelings are natural in this situation, but you're not garbage. Processing these emotions is just as much a part of the process as applying, interviewing, etc.
  2. Motivating yourself in a job search is completely different from motivating yourself in a job. In a job, you have a boss, deadlines, customers and coworkers that help set expectations and define objectives (and consequences for missing them!). In a job search you're on your own. You may find yourself struggling to move forward. There's no easy answer for this, but it doesn't matter that you couldn't move forward last month (or whatever the time period), it matters what you do this month. When you fall, it may take time to get back up; but when you can, dust yourself off and take the next step, even though you can't see the whole path in front of you.
  3. It's tempting to settle; for example, to apply for or accept opportunities you're less interested in but more qualified for. This may not be a good idea. For one thing, your lack of enthusiasm can show through, so you might not even get it, and if you do you might resent not holding out for something better. On the other hand, there probably needs to be some overlap between your qualifications and the position requirements. My heuristic is: can I see myself succeeding at and being happy in this job for 3 years? You might need your own heuristic.

There are no guarantees and no universals, so the usefulness of this advice may vary, but I wish you the best of luck.

jdforsythe profile image
Jeremy Forsythe

Contribute to open source and show that on your resume. As a hiring manager, if I can see you are involved in the community and I can see some code before an interview, you get moved to the top of the list.

th3n00bc0d3r profile image
Muhammad • Edited

Dont give up, somewhere someone is desperately searching for you and your just 404: not found YET!

thorstenhirsch profile image
Thorsten Hirsch

Don't fall for the talks of recruiters! Some might indeed be able to find you the perfect job, but they are being paid for every candidate who signs a new contract. So they make money based on quantity instead of your job satisfaction.

andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown 🇨🇦

If you want a job somewhere, especially a startup, start doing the work and then apply.

So, for example, let's say I wanted to work at What I would do is spend 2 weeks contributing as much as I can, the most impactful things that I can and then apply.

If didn't want me I would leverage that 2 weeks of proof of work somewhere else.

Work for free and leverage, leverage, leverage.

mattellison profile image

That sounds nice in theory but it's like trying to contribute to an open source project. Without understanding some design patterns and design decisions they made it can be hard to jump in. With that said if you can do it you will definitely find a job much quicker.

andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown 🇨🇦

It works for me. The way I learned to program was to crack open open-source projects, but I've been at it before Stack Overflow or when video tutorials were readily available.

dana94 profile image
Dana Ottaviani

Keep going. I quit my previous software job because it's not where I wanted to stay. I took the opportunity to take on coding projects and build my first portfolio site during that time. I was very worried that I wasn't going to find a job soon, let alone reach the interview stage during my job search. I ended up finding a new job within the same year at an awesome company and I am very happy. ❤️

gsto profile image
Glenn Stovall
  • Freshen up your Resume, LinkedIn, Github, and personal site.
  • Do a sweep of social media, make sure you don't have anything that could disqualify you.
  • Start reaching out to my network, asking them if they know of anyone who is hiring.
  • Start Applying to dream companies. Use LinkedIn to see if I have any connections there.
  • Spend the rest of my time practicing interviews, and working on writing & building things to improve authority in the interim.
xowap profile image
Rémy 🤖

You are choosing your employer as much as your employer chooses you. Go work for a company that is sane for you, even if the money is tight on the long term you'll thank yourself for waiting the right one!