I “graduated” from Hackeryou just a couple of weeks ago, and since then I’ve been through an incredible whirlwind of interviews, phone calls, meetings, and tests. We finished the program on a Friday and I spent Saturday and Sunday terrified that I’d made a terrible life choice, that I was now officially just unemployed and “what if no one wants to hire me?!?!” – lots of “I’m going to be living in a box at the end of the month, I know it” and other silly things that seemed to make sense at the time. But come Monday, the emails, tweets, and phone calls started coming in. I was absolutely shocked that anyone anywhere in the world would look at my portfolio and then contact me because they liked what they saw.
I assumed, if I were lucky, I might get one or two interviews because I know Heather (CEO of Hackeryou), and Heather knows everyone, and someone might feel obligated enough to hire me and maybe they think I can learn eventually. I SWEAR that was what went through my head more than once on that weekend. It’s hard for me to admit that, but I figure I should, because everytime someone says to me this is how they think, I think they’re nuts because they are clearly amazing. But really, if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that no matter how aware you are of imposter syndrome, no matter how much you talk about it, lots of people (myself included) will still fall back on to it. Even if you’re generally a confident person. There’s a lot fighting against you when you try to start your life over again in a different profession, including your own brain.
In reality, what happened is I didn’t have enough time to fill out applications, because I was constantly in interviews, sending emails back and forth, responding to people via twitter, and so on with people from companies interested in hiring me simply because they saw my portfolio and liked it, saw me on twitter, heard about me from a friend of a friend. The best of these – a complete stranger comes across you on a social network, looks at your portfolio, and decides based on nothing else they want an interview – this has got to be one of the best ways to combat that imposter syndrome I’ve found to date. You start to think more clearly. You realize you have a choice of where you want to work. That people see value in what you do (FINALLY), and they want to see you grow with them – they ACTUALLY want this, not just say they do. Which brings me to my key takeaway from this experience:
Every worker is valuable, and you shouldn’t settle for BS hiring practices in your field
Looking for a job in tech is what looking for a job should be. It’s what our parents told us would happen if we went to university. It’s what everyone tells us will happen if we just “get more experience” and “keep trying” and “keep being involved”. It’s an actual, respectful, give and take – you give them your current skills, your passion, your willingness to learn and work hard (bonus points for excellent communication or really any professional skills), and they give you steady pay, a chance, a place to learn, mentorship, tangible results of hard work, a future. Of course as someone new to tech I’m crazy naive about how wonderful it is. I get that. A lot of my developer friends tell me it’s “not that great” – but very, very often these wonderful people have never experienced the soul crushing experience of knowing you’re doing everything you possibly can to succeed and never getting anywhere because everything about virtually every other field is just systematically broken. Applying for 80-100 jobs and getting one interview if you’re lucky is not okay. So for me, I’m now making the following commitments to myself:
My commitments to myself as a young professional
- I will never work on a short term contract, unless that’s the type of work I’m looking for.
- I will not come to your company and work for a bit to see if I’m a fit. Do good, thorough interviews, and trust me and yourself.
- I will expect something from your company, because as an employee I offer a lot. Mostly right now it’s non-technical, but very soon I and the other Hackeryou grads will be an unbelievable catch because we’re the whole damn package.
- I will not settle for pay less than what I’m worth. I know what that number is, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be getting it.
- I will do something I care about. Exactly the something. Not something I hope will eventually lead to something I care about. That’s not good enough.
- I will continue to work really, really hard to be worth the above. And because I want to put all of myself into something and see great results.
- I will remember that good companies hire good people, and I’m a good person.
- I will trust (based on clear evidence) that in my new field, working hard means seeing actual results, from getting good jobs to creating something amazing there.
I’d really encourage anyone who was in the position I was in professionally to explore what else is out there, and to not be afraid to make a radical change if it’s worth it. There’s no point in wasting time, you’ll only regret it later. Reach out if you like: firstname.lastname@example.org or @agentemily on Twitter.