Are You Applying to Jobs Wrong?

Dozens of Rejections Might Mean You Aren’t Listening. Consider This Instead.

Photo by Richard Dykes on Unsplash

Browse on LinkedIn or Twitter, and you’ll see developers struggling to find work. There are stories of developers who applied to hundreds of jobs that have yet to receive an offer.

Often this isn’t seen as a negative. Instead, it’s a signal of this person's hustle and willingness to grind. It’s something to brag about.

But should this be seen as a badge of honor? In my mind, it means you tried the same thing over and over again with no results and didn’t stop to think that there might be a better way.

For some people, it does eventually result in a job. It gets their foot in the door. So I don’t want to discount that it can work. But for every person it works for, another developer gave up because they couldn’t break into the industry.

I don’t want aspiring developers to give up, and I don’t want to see developers avoid finding a more fulfilling or lucrative job. So it’s for those developers that I share an alternative method for finding work: Direct connections.

Direct connections and referrals beat hustle.

Personally, I don’t enjoy looking for work. I want to be as efficient as possible so that I don’t have to do more of it than necessary. So I’ve historically focused on direct connections rather than cold applying for jobs.

When you can leverage a referral or connect with the person responsible for hiring directly, you are prioritized over the developers cold applying through a job ad.

Ideally, try to dig the well before you are thirsty. Build a network of people around you who you get along with and who also happen to be developers, and you won’t starve for work. You won’t need to ask for a referral. Instead, you’ll find opportunities simply by mentioning you’re looking for work.

However, even if you don’t already have a network, you can still create direct connections now to find better work faster.

Reach out to employees of companies you're interested in. Don’t start a conversation by requesting a referral. No one likes transactional relationships.

Instead, your goal is to get to know the people you might work with. If everyone already knows you and likes you, you’ll find it easier to get the job. Consider reaching out for a video call to ask them about their experience at the company. Most people are happy to talk with you.

Here’s a real example of a message I sent a future coworker.

I’ve redacted the name of the company.

Notice the “also.” Your primary focus of talking with them is to enjoy chatting and get to know them. We had already had several conversations at this point completely unrelated to their company.

Support people and be helpful. Focus on giving to others, and even if you can’t help them directly, being kind and showing interest go a long way.

Do not reach out to anyone and everyone begging for work. Instead, create a real network based on mutual friendship and trust. That way, you have people around you who want to support you, and you want to support back.

You will enjoy yourself more.

On top of being more successful, it’s also much more fun. Do fewer interviews that are much more likely to result in a job. As a result, you’ll be less stressed and enjoy the process a lot more. In addition, you’ll enjoy getting to know new people rather than applying to dozens of faceless companies.

You don’t need to wait until the next time you’re looking for work. You can start making these kinds of connections today simply by reaching out. So enjoy the process and dig that well. You don’t know when you’ll be thirsty.

Software Engineer. I create educational content focused on technology for mobile and web applications.