- An uphill job -

30th December '18

As I spoke of in the last blog, I was in the awkward predicament of trying to find a job, at the time of year that no one was hiring.

It was in the immediate run-up to Christmas, when companies were thinking more about their Christmas holidays than hiring new staff, and here I was, inexperienced in the tech world, trying to break my way in.

And things actually got off to a better start than you might imagine.

My attitude is one of if you throw enough shit at the wall, some of it will eventually stick.

That means the more that I can put myself out there, the better the chance I have of getting somewhere.

The more CVs I send-out, the better chance I have of getting a callback. The more Meetups I attend, the better chance I meet someone who can point me in the right direction.

And this scatter-gun approach has led me to sending-off resumes to openings that I haven't got a hope in Hell of getting.

Yesterday I applied for a job with an £80k salary.

There is literally zero chance that I get that job, and nor would I want it. But I figure that it gets my resume in their system, so maybe if something else turns-up, they'll think of me.

And as I wrote the last blog, I was just starting this process, and it started off rather well.

Within the first few days, having only sent-off a handful of resumes, I'd already had two phone interviews.

The first place I heard back from was a start-up company focussing on helping women with fertility issues, and they were offering a job paying £35k to £55k, and as soon as I saw their response, my instant reaction was... did they mis-read my CV?

I seemed vastly under-qualified, and you couldn't find many people less interested in women's fertility than me, but they wanted to have a phone interview, so I agreed.

This interview took place a couple of days later, and... well it didn't go badly, but I think I came across as exactly what I am, and that's someone with no experience in this field.

We spoke for about 25 minutes on this video call, and I got along with the guy very well. But the ultimate response, sent by email a few days later, was exactly what I expected it to be.

They just told me that at this stage of their business, they're not looking for someone that they'd have to mentor so much.

I had another impromptu phone interview at around the same time, when sitting at my laptop my phone rang.

The question I always hate, is 'why would you like to work for our company?'

The guy from the fertility start-up had asked me that, and what could I answer?

"Oh yeah, I've always had a great interest in infertile women."

And when I answered the phone from this other company there was a woman at the end of the line asking if I was free to talk.

"Sure," I responded.

"So why do you want to work for this company?" she asked me.

Seeing as my approach to this job hunt is throwing as much shit at the wall as possible, and hoping some of it sticks, I generally don't even look at the name of a company before sending them my resume.

Some job sites seem to have an 'Apply with one click' button, where your resume is already in their system, so you can literally click a button in order to apply.

For me, I'm really only paying attention to three things.

If the job ad includes the word 'lead' or 'senior,' then I ignore it. I'm not getting and nor do I want any senior type roles at this stage.

I'll then look at the salary, and I generally ignore anything offering more than £40k.

My best case scenario is £35k, but realistically, I'm hoping for £25k to £30k. I'm not really worth any more than that at this stage. And although I have sent-off occasional applications to companies offering more, they aren't with any expectation of actually getting the job.

And then the other thing that I look at, is the skills required.

If it's asking for a programming language that I don't know, then there's no point applying for that position.

That's all that I really look at before sending-out a CV though.

My email inbox is getting flooded with emails from job boards, and even just applying like that it can take a couple of hours every day to get through them. I really don't have the time to read the job ads any more carefully.

So when I answer the phone, and the woman on the other end asks me 'so why do you want to work here?'

"Ummm..."

I was sat at my laptop at the time, frantically trying to pull-up the website for this company, to find-out what it is that they actually did.

Unfortunately I got a different company of the same name on my screen, although I didn't realise it at the time. But luckily I was able to wing-it with generic answers about how they're a passionate company, and care for their staff, and things like that.

And after a ten-minute chat, the girl was like "we'd like you to come in on Wednesday for an assessment."

She then sent a subsequent email that started "Congratulations on passing the first-round interview."

"Hey, I passed my first interview," I thought to myself.

It seemed to all be going very well, seeing as I'd only been looking for a job for three or four days. I ultimately declined this interview though.

I was firstly put-off with them requiring me to wear formal clothes for the interview and... half the appeal of getting into tech is that you're judged based on the work that you're able to do, not on superficial things that don't matter.

I would still have been willing to go out and buy a shirt, had the opportunity been worth it. But on looking-into this company, they just didn't seem a good fit for me.

Firstly, they offered a salary of £23k to £26k, which is right at the bottom end of the spectrum of what I'm hoping for in my first job.

I would take such a salary for the right position. At this stage, working in an environment where I can progress is more important to me than getting paid a lot.

But what really put me off, was when I started looking-into the company, and reading comments of some current and former employees. And basically, they take recent graduates and train them. However, the cost of that training is then held-over the heads of these employees for a period of two years, whereby if they quit they have to pay thousands to cover it. And during that time, they're stuck on that low salary, and are at the mercy of this company as to where they work.

Yeah, that's not what I'm looking for.

So within three or four days of starting this process, not only had I passed my first interview, but I'd also turned-down my first interview.

I might live to regret that one.

Unfortunately since then, as you'd expect around this time of year, things have all gone rather quiet.

I got through to the testing stage with a company offering a salary of £55k to £85k.

I thought about whether it was worth my while to complete these tests for a job that I have no hope of getting, but I figured that it's all good practice.

I'm still trying to code for eight hours everyday.

Some days I'm successful in that endeavour, and on others life gets in the way. But it's what I'm trying to do, so... well these tests can be part of my coding for the day.

Unsurprisingly I didn't get that job, although they were complimentary about the work I submitted.

I've also had an agent say that I've been shortlisted by "their client."

I'm always apprehensive about jobs where you're applying to an agent and don't even know the name of the company.

I'd rather deal with the people that I'm going to be working for, rather than someone who's trying to fill a slot by any means necessary to get a commission but... well beggars can't be choosers.

But apart from that, and a couple of other rejections, it's all gone rather quiet.

I've sent my resume to a total of fifty seven different companies or agents so far, although many of them aren't jobs I have any hope of actually getting. But as Christmas has come at the worst time of year for me, it's hard to gage how many of these applications have simply been ignored, and how many I'll get a response from once the Christmas break is over.

I always said that I had no expectation of getting a job prior to Christmas, so to look at it positively, all the work that I've done so far was expected to be in vain.

Of course, sending-off resumes isn't the only thing I'm trying. I'm also going to coding Meetups around London; I've been to three so far, although they too have quietened down for the holidays. I'll hopefully get to at least a couple per week once New Year has passed.

I'm not really going to those with any expectation of finding a job though.

Kind of like how it's never fun to go to a night-club to try and get laid, rather you should just go to have a good time and what will be will be, I'm going to these Meetups to get to know people and learn about coding, and if I happen to meet someone who can point me in the right direction for work, then all the better.

Most people that I've spoken to though, many of whom broke-into the tech industry without the luxury of a bootcamp, said that their breakthrough came from who they knew.

They, however it happened, got lucky and met someone spontaneously who ended up hiring them, or at least putting them in touch with the right person.

Very few people seem to get anywhere by scattering their CVs about like I'm doing, so all this time working through the job boards and subsequent emails might prove to be a total waste but... well it gives me the best chance as possible.

And my hope now, and it might be an optimistic hope, is to find a job in the first quarter of next year.

Anytime that I walk past an estate agents, I look in the window. And the good thing about being as low maintenance as I am, is that I really don't need a fancy place to live.

I hope that my days of sharing a room or an apartment are behind me. But apart from that, I just need a bed, a bathroom and a small kitchen, a small desk and chair to sit at my laptop, and somewhere to set-up a TV and my PS4, and I am happy. And you can easily fit all of that in a 20m² apartment, and that will be within my budget should I be able to find a job.

I'm not really worried about that part of this process.

All that I need is a job; someone to give me a shot, and I'll be fine.

I have faith in my current abilities, as well as my ability and willingness to learn. I think that once I get my foot in the door, there'll be no turning back. I've just got to somehow persuade someone to give me that opportunity. And that, really is my only focus.

I've got to code everyday, to maintain what I've already learned, and to learn new things. And I've got to somehow, some way, find someone to give me, someone with no working experience in tech, a shot. A chance to prove themselves. And I haven't quite figured-out how to do that part of it yet.

If you remember back to the last blog, I wasn't best pleased with my bootcamp for seemingly using jobs to blackmail me into leaving them good reviews.

Even though they may have at no moment had any inkling that I was unhappy, we have now smoothed things over.

With no indication that I was actually going to leave them a review, the manager from my school in Bali did send me a list of places in London who were looking to hire Le Wagon alumni.

I doubt that I'll get anywhere with them, but you never know. You've got to throw as much shit as you can.

But in response to that, I actually did write them some reviews, so I'm less frustrated with Le Wagon than I was in the last blog.

With the exception actually, that I asked the manager from Bali where he found-out about these jobs.

He told me that there is a private Slack channel that the branch managers can access, so obviously the manager of the London branch has access to them to. So his unwillingness to share them with me when I asked him about jobs is a little disconcerting. All that talk of being part of the global Le Wagon community was clearly bluster but... well it is what it is.

I did remember shortly after writing the last blog, that Le Wagon has some information available to graduates about how to find a job.

Not so much companies, more about how to approach the job hunt. And one thing that they said is that prospective employers will Google you, so you've got to really take care of your brand.

Luckily for me, I've been rather careful in that regard for years.

My Facebook accounts are both wholly private to anyone I'm not friends with, not that I've even been on Facebook for years, although I still don't want a prospective employer seeing my drunken university photos. My Twitter, also rarely used, has no mention of my name, nor does this website.

And seeing as it was available, I registered www.jethrowilliams.com, which at this stage has a very shoddy website that I quickly threw together. It works perfectly on my computer screen, but not so well on screens of other sizes, so that's something I'll have to remedy before any employers start finding it.

But... that's really it right now. That's what I'm trying to do.

I'm trying to put myself out there. I'm trying to stand-out from the sea of other people in my shoes, inexperienced and looking for a job, to hopefully get a shot. And it's the kind of thing, where my phone might ring next week, and that could be it.

Or I could be sitting in this chair six months from now, in the exact same position that I'm in now. And I don't know which it's going to be.

All I can do is keep on working, keep on plugging away, keep on meeting people, keep on sending-out my resume, and just hope that at some point, it's going to pay-off.

Like I said already, I'm hopeful that will be in the first quarter of next year, but who really knows?

The timeline on which I can commit to this full-time is for however long my bank balance reads positive, so I'm being careful over every penny that I spend.

Having to apply for and then work in non-tech jobs because I'd run out of money, would be absolutely disastrous in how much time it would cost me. So instead I'm eating cheap food, trying to get through the winter on the bare minimum of clothing, and hopefully that'll be enough.

But I don't know. That's the hard part about this. Who knows if it's going to pan-out? But even if it does fail, at least I'll know for sure.

That was my big motivator for quitting my job and giving this a shot. I don't want to spend the rest of my life not knowing. So I'm trying to look at things positively no matter how they pan-out.

But fuck I still hope that this goes well.

If I'm an English teacher again next Christmas, it'll be pretty devastating, so I'm leaving as little to chance as possible.

Sending-off a CV for a job that I have no right to get, isn't going to cost me anything, but it could somehow, some way open a door.

As far as I'm concerned though, the job hunt starts next week.

I didn't expect to be able to get anywhere before Christmas, and I haven't.

It starts next week, when companies are back from the holidays and looking to replace any departures they had late in the year.