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Ask HN: Who has started a business because they couldn't get hired for work?
316 points by ccajas on June 15, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 179 comments
Many people start businesses for more financial independence, or simply want to be their own boss. How many of those started it out of a more dire need, from being unable to get hired anywhere and so needed to make money independently for themselves? Maybe from a pivot away from skills that are no longer in demand, or simply having trouble passing interviews due to a lack of a good network or bad soft skills.

It could be anyone from HN reading this, or just anybody else, who has shared their story somewhere about starting their business under these circumstances.

EDIT: I have years of experience as a software developer, but my inability to survive in the job market in the past three years has inspired me to make this topic. Either due to bad luck/timing, or bad soft skills, I can't get an offer anymore. So I'm considering other avenues to make a living.




Be careful with your thinking here. If it really is bad soft skills that is keeping you from getting/holding a job, then you'll have a tough go at your own business. Running a business requires a lot more soft skills than getting a job, because you live and die by your sales, no matter how good your product is.

So just make sure that you have at least an idea of how you will get some sales that involve minimal interaction with other people.


> Running a business requires a lot more soft skills than getting a job, because you live and die by your sales, no matter how good your product is.

Yes and no. The good thing about the internet is that you can get a decent sales funnel without having to talk to a single person. Write interesting blog posts on relevant topics, help others by showing how to solve their problem with your product, etc. There's a lot to learn here for a techie nerd, but the learning curve here is much easier for those who aren't naturally good at dealing with people.


Getting people into your sales funnel is only the first step, though. Converting those people into sales, however, is an extraordinarily social, soft-skills reliant activity.

I say this as someone who had no problem getting jobs, but social anxiety made me desire the idealized notion of working in my home office and seldom conferring with people -- just delivering great solutions with every waking moment.

I started my own business and quickly discovered that about 80% of my time was courting and talking to people. People love talking. Getting someone to commit to a sale is often just a brutal enterprise.

From a time perspective, the advice to write pertinent blog posts just isn't really that lucrative anymore.


>I say this as someone who had no problem getting jobs, but social anxiety made me desire the idealized notion of working in my home office and seldom conferring with people -- just delivering great solutions with every waking moment.

Same here.

>People love talking. Getting someone to commit to a sale is often just a brutal enterprise.

You just need to distinguish the types. The type that just loves talking is usually obsessed with self-importance and doesn't really care about the solved problems. You can talk them into a sale if you schmooze them good enough, but as a nerd you have a few chances. The type that appreciates great solutions doesn't care about chit-chat more than you do, but they are harder to reach because they are usually busy solving problems. There's a separate long story why the first type is better at forming hierarchies and obtaining political pull, but long story short, you need to focus your funnel on the second type. If the central part of your site is your smiling picture and a phone number, you'll attract the former. If it's a product trial, well-organized documentation and tutorials, the latter will be your catch.


I've been a freelance developer for about 20 years.

Writing blog posts is about 10% of my job.

Most of the time I'm either doing live screensharing sessions with people or writing code.

Keep in mind, this is working as someone who helps other people solve their individual problems, not so much selling a SAAS application.


there is still the remaining issue of customer support - especially with software (of any kind)


I am apparently more confident (to some people) at selling a product of my own on the internet than I am at selling myself as an employee in person. They're not exactly the same for me.

In any case I seek to find work that I would be happy with, and where my current soft skills wouldn't prevent me from doing so.

In the professional sense, I have pretty good interactions with people at work, and generally considered to be a reliable worker. But social faux pas are judged ever more harshly at job interviews.


This isn't necessarily true. One of my past mentors is somebody who just isn't wired for corporate life, but works really really well as a consultant for those same corporations. The sheer amount of work he has had to do to claw his way to the top of the web development consultancy world is insane, but it was a much better fit for him than trying to shoehorn himself into a corporate political hierarchy.


I think you can carve your little niche with a few customers and not Shooting for the moon.


Glynn Shotwell, the COO of SpaceX, recently in a Ted interview said that the rocket business is about relationships. I feel any business is a lot about people. Technology is important as well, but the relationships have a little edge.


Gwynne Shotwell handles sales relationships in addition to being COO -- SpaceX sells a high-priced product, and as they say, "people buy from people". Her engineering background is probably a huge help.


You might need less soft skills as you will be using exact skills on-demand, because you would have broader chance to find a fit. Of course, getting the client is another story..


Dude from Germany here. Without a proper school education I was unable to get a apprenticeship in an IT profession, although I started profesional coding with age of 11 and general IT with 6-7 years (~1989).

I ended up learning mechanics and after finishing my apprenticeship I founded my first company (~2000).

After 18 hard working years of entrepreneurship I managed to start and exited 2 successfull companies with 8 figures volume.

I can only suggest to start your own business if you are dedicated. Don't think it is easy, or that you will have a lot of spare time. But I won't miss a day of my journey so far. And yes, I don't need to work anymore, but can't stop!


Thanks for sharing. My story is very similar to yours but I am in the middle of it still at age 28. I've been at this since I was 11 as well when my older brother taught me about HTML, Dreamweaver, Visual Basic, OOP. The ABCs of this industry as we know it today.

I dropped out of college at 20. Worked a few jobs in cafes and then in sales and finally as a technician. First technician job was fixing ATM machines, second was building high-end gaming computers for an Amazon merchant.

I studied FreeCodeCamp after work and got into a coding bootcamp that I thought would help me get into the industry. I moved to Utah and got kicked out of it midway through for smoking weed. I lived out of AirBnb for a month and a half before getting a job on my own at startup. The school gave me a refund though because I guess they felt bad for me and wanted to help. Good on them, still grateful for that.

That job was for an MLM startup and I had to leave because it was not a good dev environment. I got hired by Bluehost and I learned all about DNS, email, popular CMSs, SEO, and all kinds of problems that everyday non-tech people run into with computers and with the Internet. It was a great learning opportunity for me. Then they laid me off along with 900 other people...they were bought out and this was common procedure for their acquisitions. I did not know that when they hired me :/

I decided to start my own agency/consultancy since I had a few friends who needed sites made. It's been miraculous how each of them always sends me new work through their network. Now I have a pipeline of clients always coming in and I just have to keep shipping work every day and money will keep coming in. :)

I've started working on ideas that I've drawn out and lost sleep over with some friends of mine who are engineers and investors. Maybe I can start a 2nd income stream too and eventually buy some real estate too!


> I started profesional coding with age of 11 and general IT with 6-7 years (~1989).

That's really interesting, can you provide more details about it? I'm really curious how a kid could make money from coding in the early 90's.


I learned borland turbo pascal by Siemens (thanks to my bigger sister). First projects where in the company of my dad, optimizing their business tasks.


Writing printer drivers, for example.


Are you in Berlin by any chance? :-)


Sorry, I'm not "arm aber sexy", therfore I'm from Munich where we are "reich und sexy" oder "reich und hässlich" but never "arm", the greatest city of Germany.

:)


I’m reasonably certain I’ve interviewed you. Send me an email (in profile) and I’ll be happy to give honest feedback/advice.

For that matter, I’m happy to provide advice to any programmers struggling to find work. Feel free to reach out.


Not OP and a hiring manager myself once but I will love to compare notes and hear your thoughts on what are the common problems/mistakes you see when interviewing developers or engineers and if you have any general advice.

Considering most of the HN population are technical folks, many will possibly find your experience & knowledge useful or at the very least, contribute to a worthwhile discussion on hiring technical people.

Edit - Added a list of problems/mistakes that I commonly see when I interview people for technical positions:

Being borderline arrogant, argumentative and/or abrasive in conversation even though they are brilliant - Yes, I've interviewed people that are smart and have a wealth of knowledge but the straight forward truth is this role (and most developer/engineering roles for that matter) requires a person to work with not only other people within the team but also with other technical teams & departments so if you can't show that you are a team player, it doesn't matter how good you are as a developer/engineer.

Lying straight up on certain details and not owning up to it - one common interview tactic I use is to ask what version of [technology] that the person has worked on and what are their "battle scars" experiences with that particular version or [technology]. I have had people tell me they work on versions that don't exist (i.e. latest v5 and they claim v8) or claim they have 5 years experience when said version of [technology] has only existed for 3 years. Also, I find that the true experienced people in [technology] can passionately tell you about their problems using [technology] and what they did to get around it rather than simply just evangelizing said [technology].

Talking bad about anything or anyone - This might just be a personal preference but a big turn off for me is when a candidate starts bad mouthing their ex-bosses, colleagues or company. I might make exceptions for special circumstances (i.e. sexual harassment, bullying, etc) but even then, I will find it as a negative against their personality if that person keeps harping on it and don't show at least signs that they are taking steps to move on. Call me old school but I believe in never burning your bridges regardless of what the circumstances are and even if you don't, the last thing you should do is bring it up in an interview.

Note - these are my personal opinions, preferences and experiences on interviewing and I do not claim my methods to be the best way on doing so.


>Talking bad about anything or anyone

Personally, I think this should be near the top, and I think arrogance[1] should be near the bottom. And not just for interviews. If you are known for giving credit where credit is due? that's going to get you more help at this job; that's going to get you better contacts, more recommendations for your next job. You will see your co-workers again. Generally, if you can say something good and true about a co-worker, you should.

There are few times when as an individual contributor where it's in your interest to say something bad about someone else. I mean, I'm not saying to lie, just if you can't say something nice, keep your mouth shut.

[1]Yes, yes, socially skilled people see arrogance as a different thing from confidence, not just a matter of degree. But if you are that socially skilled, you don't need these tips. Me? I see it as a sort of linear progression from low self-esteem through confidence and then into arrogance. For the tech industry, this is a good enough (though incorrect) model. I mean, you can go too far in one direction or the other, but at least for me it seems to be a reasonably tunable thing, and I've seen far more people fail interviews due to being too far on the shy/humble/lacks confidence end of that scale than the other way around.


This is really an exercise in speaking diplomatically. Often we leave jobs because we can't be as productive in the current environment. That's usually code word for other failures in the company. I think at the executive level it can be helpful to have the discussion on what you would do differently. Most adults in my experience will appreciate a candid discussion as long as you are sharing your experiences in a humble and respectful manner.


I'm guilty of the first one, mainly due to how badly either money or work is handled at most places (IT in particular). It seems that most places hire whoever has a degree without actual knowledge of implementing things which turns into the old must know $VENDOR tool.


Guilty of the last one. I sort of thought it would be a good idea to trash talk the competitor (my previous employer), but when I saw the look on the CEOs face I knew I screwed up.

Got the job anyway, based on other circumstances (and maybe also because it was common knowledge in the industry that the previous employer really was a nutter, which later became a matter of public record in a court case).

But generally, definitely not a good idea to badmouth anyone in job interviews. Or ever, even.


Also guilty. I answered the question "Why are you leaving previous company" with something terrible like, "I'm tired of working with old people." Foot>>Mouth

What I meant was more "I'm tired of working on 20 year old software and with coworkers who don't seem motivated or ambitious." Oh well. Live and learn.


Hi. I was in my 30s and holding a steady job as a programmer with big corporate. Then I decided to take a small sabbatical. Before I knew it, several years had passed and my savings were getting epleted. So I tried to get bck in the job market again, landed a job, but couldn't clear their probration then landed another job and also couldn't clear probation, then spent almost year without success looking for job. That's when I decided to start my own business. It's been almost a decade since then and I still haven't made any money, but it sure beats being jobless or unwanted at a steady job.

An engineer's career usually tapers off beyond a certain age. Risk taking therefore has to be reduced as your career options get narrower with seniority -- moral of the story.


I respectfully disagree. I believe being risk averse makes you age faster and helps you live up to the "old programmer" stereotype.

I'm 40, so one foot in the grave in the tech world, yet I have managed to keep myself marketable by not being afraid to jump in and learn new things when needed, just like a college kid, but with experience. Maybe I'm wasting my time spending hours learning Vue or Kubernetes for the future but if I had stayed "safe" developing WPF calendar apps and cursing the new stuff I'd be dead in the water. And taking on new positions and companies puts me out of my comfort zone and teaches me new things.

Everyone's mileage varies on this of course.


I agree, I’m in my early 30’s but I have no problem hiring people above 40’s. The key thing that I observe is indeed the ones who are still curious and always tinkering with new things, especially combined with their experience, are extremely powerful. Wouldn’t trade them for any young kid in the world. The instances where it doesn’t work out is when they have an inability to adapt or to change.


I'm 50 and still counting, so maybe my perspective on things is a little more tired than yours.


“engineer's career usually tapers off beyond a certain age.” With the caveat that we’re talking about software, not most other kinds of engineers, I know that this is broadly true, but just now this made me think of how modelling careers or pop-singer careers taper off beyond a certain age. There’s a lot of diva-like behavior in those fields - which aren’t so much about skills acquired through hard work but rather one’s inborn gifts (and a bit of malnutrition to stay skinny). Many engineers, especially ones who bank primarily on their innate talent/intelligence as opposed to hard earned skills (in combination with natural talent) like the average non-software engineer also tend to be predisposed to diva-like or fratboy like behavior.

I’ve also noticed that many of the (s/w) engineers who’ve survived way past that certain age tend to be of a very different personality type than those who “retire early”, and their persona has more in common with the average non-software engineer of comparable experience. Of course the huge bias on the recruiting side, and the fact that a majority of apps are basic CRUD type stuff fuelled primarily by cheap VC cash, that have no real use for 20 years experience, exacerbates this situation. But I wonder as the industry matures, and the proportion of apps with serious scale possibly grows, if the need for engineers “past their prime” wouldn’t gradually rise.

Just a thought...


> I was in my 30s and holding a steady job as a programmer with big corporate. Then I decided to take a small sabbatical. Before I knew it, several years had passed

Boy does that sound familiar. I’m fine financially, but mainly due to luck. Tried looking for work before family medical issues took higher priority, but if getting a new job had been as easy as I had expected before the sabbatical, I wouldn’t have been available to help the family.

I still don’t know how much of my problem was down to me vs how much was down to looking in Berlin when all of my previous work had been in the UK.


I suspect this scenario is unique to the high tech software/hradware/IT industry due to the pace at which workers are expected to work at in this industry. With age related decline in efficiency, the only option available to you is to look for more managerial or organizational roles which are at higher levels in the jobs pyramid and hence fewer in number. In other industries, which have been around a lot longer than the 40-50 year old IT industry, I suspect this is not as much of a problem because their pacing issues are far better resolved.


> With age related decline in efficiency

I'm pretty sure you're on thin ice with this one...


That's an interesting observation. Let's take a sport. Say tennis. let's take competitive tennis, played by professionals. At the world level, tennis is both a physical and mental game where you are trying to outguess your opponent in the context of a rally. Roger Federer, who is now 36 is a rare exception in his ability to stay on top at his age. The sport requires intense focus, both mental and physical. This focus does goes down beyond a certain age. You could argus that there is a difference between physical and mental focus ...


> You could argus that there is a difference between physical and mental focus ...

Not only that, developing software is generally a "slow" task, not constant decision making in spans of milliseconds like in a "fast" sport you mentioned. If you want to compare, try a "slow" sport like golf, does your observation still hold true?

In engineering tasks you also gain a lot of productivity (at least if your metrics aren't crap, might be often a problem here) from years and decades of building up experience and knowledge. Moreover this doesn't get lost to a huge degree if you pause 1-2 years, not like physical training which goes away quickly and is hard to build up again.

I think what could play a role here is that older people may often be less focused on the job because that focus shifts to other things in life like e.g. family.


I have to say I have more than just some experience here... Quick decision times decline VERY slowly; that is to say the amount of time it takes to make the correct decision as opposed to just reacting to a situation. You are confusing the amount of strength it takes to play at the top level and still have enough in the tank to not lose focus.

FWIW I'm not talking out of my hat here, I "played" a very thought intensive sport in my younger day and was one of the top guys in the US on any given day. I still have ridiculously quick decision times and the concentration of a Monk with ADD when I drive, But there's no way my bod could compete with a my former self of 20 years ago. I'm in pretty good shape now but I'm not a World class athlete anymore.


You can also argue that sports and office work are not analogous.


Aging and tennis (and sports in general) reflects real, physical deteriorations that aren't in play -- at least not in the same domain -- with mental processes.


Tennis? Chess or Go if you must push sports as an analogy.

Tennis or sports coach? A typical age is much older.


With age related decline in efficiency

With any decline in focus it is important to see a therapist and find out if you are really suffering from depression. It is stunningly common for people to mistake the symptoms of depression for the symptoms of aging.


That's a double edged sword because the therapist you choose has a singificant role to play in your understanding of focus and it's level correlation with age. Your therapist's a bility to diagnose is stringly correlated with your ability to communicate the nature of your work. Every other thepaists you go with with your query will give you a different answer. In other words, it's a very subjective process and hence double edged. It's not cut and dried or objective like analysis, which as an engineer, you are likely good at.


Mid 20's SE here. I've known so many colleagues past 40, and they would mop the floor with me technically. The experience of being in the industry for 20 years is gold.

The only advantage we (younger people) have is energy and fewer responsibilities (take care of kids, grandsons, medical issues). But we are still reckless and have many unknowns unknowns compared to the older folk.


I appreciate your specific experience. But, I have a question regarding your statement regarding risk taking.

Did you mean, if you want to stay an engineer as you age, then you have to take less risks because it will be difficult to get that next job as an engineer? Do you also mean, that it actually becomes more likely that you will be forced to start a business if you fall out of the engineering career due to age / circumstance, because it is difficult to be hired as one?

I'm curious because, it seems like the older you get but are still capable of working, if you are unemployed, the higher the likelihood that you will be forced to take more risks than less to find the employment or make a business.

I have heard that you are more likely to be successful starting a business if you are older, not younger [1] [2] [3]. I'm sure it's not true for everyone, but that might make sense if you are unable to work in the normal job market but have experience and ability.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-small-business/wp/201...

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgedeeb/2015/04/16/does-age-...

[3] https://news.vice.com/en_ca/article/59jeex/the-most-successf...


That's a question with many corollaries so my answer will be a bit lengthy.

The reason you need to take less risks is because your ability to execute a task that you were used to executing before is reduced due to the ageing process. For example, you need to take longer breaks and sooner. In other words, your full speed to work goes down. So to compensate, you have to be more careful with the work you undertake. For example, it's easier to supervise someone else on a task you are familiar with instead of doing yourself at your lower efficiency.

In a sense, your conclusion about needing to take more risks is true. But the risk is being taken by your oerganization in betting on you to be able to execute on the task you have set out to do. What I am talking about is personal risk, that you take in your choice of what you will do. That choice needs to get a little more conservative as a you age so as to give some margin for error that you probably didn't need as much before.

The second part of your question regarding how things will turn out regarding whetehr you work for an org or yourself is more circumstantial than anything else.

The third observation seems to make sense regarding success of business as a function of age of founder. As you age, you choose your work better because you have more experience.


> your ability to execute a task that you were used to executing before is reduced due to the ageing process

> your full speed to work goes down

> your lower efficiency

Do you have sources on this? On its surface, it sounds like fairly ageist thinking. I'm not young, but I don't feel like I've slowed down at all. In fact, my experience keeps me from making as many mistakes as when I was younger.

I know folks, considerably older than I, who are faster still at the things with which they have experience, and quick to pick up new things, too.


Yes. This is a ageist thinking. It's in sync with the tenor of this thread.


The reason you need to take less risks is because your ability to execute a task that you were used to executing before is reduced due to the ageing process.

I don't think this is true. It might be more true if the task involves learning a lot of completely new stuff, but there's very little completely new stuff - experience helps in learning most of what comes out these days.

Execution is sped up more by doing the right thing than doing things quickly. Just like typing speed is not normally the limiting factor, speed qua speed isn't what makes things slow. I've seen younger devs work very fast in the wrong direction especially when they are lacking in code design and debugging skills.

Interesting that you mention breaks. Breaks are opportunities to get your head up. Taking fewer breaks will increase the probability of spending too much time on the wrong road.


I hire freelancers frequently. I never ask them what their age is, I ask for their portfolio and what they are skilled in. Maybe you should look into contracting.


At my age, being able to move around is limited and being able to stay in one place and work is preferred as it assists in keeping a more stable lifestyle which helps with foucs that tends todecay with age. Since contracting typically is for short terms, and requires frequent changes in job location, it's not as attractive as it would have been at an earlier stage in life.


Ideally, find a contracting role / freelance locally, but work remotely. Doing it "locally" will help build up your network and reputation and lead to more opportunities down the road. Maybe meet 1-2 times every 1/2 weeks and work remotely. More frequent communication should be limited to agile-like questions that come up and should be able to completed over email if you pick your clients well.


Needing to find clients towards the end of each project takes it's toll on the worry related centers of your mind and should ideally be avoided . This helps you maintain continuity with what you are doing and helps you with your output efficiency. The having to find a new contract every once in a while throws a spanner in this wrench.


I don't know where you live or what you do, but as a front-end dev in the UK, I get approached 2 or 3 times a week by recruiters offering me new contract roles (usually 3 - 6 months), just by having a linkedin profile with my work history.

That said, this also works for permanent jobs, so if you're struggling to find those then maybe you are out of luck.


What kind of freelancers do you usually look for?

That's honestly the question when it comes to this type of thing, there are so many different skillsets and not everyone can find contracts as easily as they'd hope; or it's not as reliable as they need for their life.


What about remote positions?


I didn’t start a business but instead made an open source website as no one wanted to or still wants to hire me.

Funnily the website solves the problem of how to learn anything in the most effective way.

Website: https://learn-anything.xyz


How is it possible no one wants to hire you? You seem way more competent than many devs out there and you've created a 10k stars github project among others.


The technical interviewing process. It's one of those things where it treats everyone if they're lying about their experience.


That's because everyone is. For every rockstar CV you'll get an identical one where the person can't even code a fizz buzz.


What will the ability to or not to code fizz buzz about their prior experience?


I sometimes wonder whether SDE employment is inversely proportional to how popular a person is... it’s not like employer is looking for a rock star to sit and fix issues all day long for years. The person will lose interest in two weeks and quit.


I don't get it either. Every team around me at big tech company is clamorong and desperately trying to hire SDEs. All my friends, even the self taught ones with history degrees from second tier schools, has no problem getting hired. I have trouble understanding these threads, I of course believe these people, but it's so different than my observation.


Networking.

Everyone is interviewing, no one hiring due to current fashion. If you don't have contacts inside a company, there's perhaps a 1% chance of getting hired.

The only other way in is to have "nerves of steel" and get lucky in the interview, where the random coding exercise is one you have recently practiced. They will attribute these two factors to you being a good hire, a connection that is tenuous at best.


Not adding anything productive to the convo - but love the design here. Very nice.

Big fan of dark interfaces and visual (relationship) flow-graphs like this.


I'm interested! This looks intriguing.


and how are you doing since? did the site help in future interviews?


Yeah it does help to get that first interview. Just passing the interview often times means having a good grasp on how to solve LeetCode style algorithmic problems and not necessarily how to build products.

So I am practicing that now and hopefully will pass some interview one day.


I can empathize with your problem. Was just talking to a friend an hour ago about this.

I am wondering whether you have considered companies that don't white board.[1]

[1]https://github.com/poteto/hiring-without-whiteboards


I did, several years ago.

My soft skills are not top-notch, but they are not bad either, and my qualifications are good enough to get hired at good places ... not just where I currently live. Mostly a big adversarial blob of "cultural matters" ... let's not dig onto that, but shortly put, locals feel uneasy around me.

Mind you, if I had tried hard enough, I could have gotten a dead-end-job with low pay and no promotions. Or I could have moved and looked for greener pastures. I decided instead to take my lemons and make lemonade, so to speak, and I opened a business.

The cultural problems didn't go away, to this day some of our customers prefer to talk to my sales guy, even when they know they would solve their problem faster by just sending me an email directly. But I don't mind having more time for the the ever growing technical team and technical customer-related work.

For brown guys in the north, jobs are overrated.


If you don't mind me asking for a tip. I'm actually in that position where I'm hoping to have a sales team take my load off new leads and conversion. How did you build / hire your sales team? Was it all on location full time hires or do you take help of Upwork / other remote options?


How north are you?


Lawyer here. Opened my own practice after the 2008 collapse because no firms were hiring. Best decision I was ever forced to make.


Congrats :) Do you feel that law school is too expensive for nearly all applicants besides those who are eventually hired by big firms to make 175k a year?


no, forget the big firms. In private practice I made 10x what my former classmates brought home, even after they made partner. The real money is in working for yourself, so if you're the sort of person who wants to be entreprenurial and work hard, there's plenty of money to be made. There's also a lot of law schools that aren't super-expensive.

The real question is one that's not unique to lawyers, but we as a profession seem to complain more loudly than others, and it's the work-life balance. Too many lawyers just don't enjoy the day-to-day of what they do. But there are plenty of options for stepping off the treadmill and making less money in exchange for quality of life. Like a lot of careers and industries.


Not op, but obviously. If you have 200k in debt and dont even break 100k per year... it isnt a positive thing.


There are a lot more factors that makes this not "obvious". If you can make 40k as a paralegal and 80k as a lawyer, and you are 25 (30ish more working years), investing 3 years and 200k in law school might make sense.

30 years * 40k/year = 1.2mil

((30 years - 3 years) * 80k/year) - 200k = ~2.3mil

This assumes you can pay that 200k all at once upon graduation and that salary is stagnant, but even if you drop that first assumption take your whole career to pay off your loans and end up paying 2-3x the principle you still come out ahead with a law degree.

Don't choose education for money though, choose it because you want to be educated.


Paralegals often make more than lawyers who don't get to big law and those jobs are not open to people who went to law school bc they are "over qualified".

I agree with not choosing an education due to money, but money is a great reason to NOT choose an education.

Law is a totally broken model where the 5% who get big law do great and the other 95% get slaughtered.


I disagree completely. That's not at all my experience. There are far too many lawyers who expect that when they get their bar cards, they're entitled to a premium wage just for showing up. The real work starts when you pass the bar.

And professional education isn't really "an education." That's undergrad. Go to law school because you enjoy the work and want to be a professional -- here I'm using the definition by the estimable Dr. J: "being a professional means doing what you love even on days when you don't feel like doing it."


Hard work has nothing to do with the fact that the market is bifurcated between haves and have nots. 30 years ago a law degree was relatively affordable and you could make it work by hustling. Now, you are toast if you don't get the big law job because your payments on $200k will be $2k/month. That will wipe out your ability to start a practice and you are effectively doomed.

Big law jobs only go to something like 5% of lawyers. (correct me if I am wrong). The other 95% would be better off doing any other job.


Your last sentence is the reason I asked my original question, and the reason I didn't go into law. I now only ("only") make 3000 usd a month, but at least I have 0 debt


Brian Acton started WhatsApp with Jan Koum in part because Twitter and Facebook rejected him for a job. Facebook later bought WhatsApp for $16 billion dollars.


Being refused a job or two is different than not being able to get no job, like a million times different.


Yeah, you're 100% right, which is why I hesitated posting this, but it's too juicy not to mention.


Sales engineer here. I tried to start a variety of businesses when I was laid off from my last job, where I lasted for 4 years.

I tried to get clients for my life coaching biz (budget, brain, and brawns as I called it). Got some traction at just 7 bux a month (I was living in Chile), but not enough once I moved back to NY.

I also tried to test product market fit for a site i was developing (a curated list of multi-month foreign apartment leases), but that was too expensive for me to scale.

Ultimately, making a prototype and getting some users wasnt even the hardest part. It was trying to grow past that base and make the unit economics work that was impossible, maybe even with outside funding.

After one year of job hunting, I found another sales engineering position that Im happy with :)


If you don’t mind sharing, how did you go about testing the product-market fit for your apartment website?


Of course, my pleasure :) I'll send you an email too just to say hi.

So, in my case, I was living in Chile and I had booked tickets to Thailand and Japan (Ironically I ended up moving back to the USA for a full time job that I wasn't planning on landing!!)

In Chiang Mai Thailand, specifically, you can book a 1-3 month apartment for about $150 a month USD cash. They speak english, there's no lease, no craziness. And only a few guest houses offer these types of prices and terms, so you really had to hear about it from a friend of a friend type situation.

So I wanted to build a site that was a "curated list" of these apartments. And I didn't even have firm data, names and numbers of landlords, availability, etc. I just wanted to make something that looked and felt like airbnb, but was light-weight and mobile friendly (text, css, and basic js only. site load files of just a few KB not MB!!!)

So, I mocked it up, and made some posts to some reddits and discords where I was only sort of a contributing member. I basically said, "guys, all of us are having a lot of problems finding legit landlords with good terms and prices abroad. I have a list of a few that are good, but I want to scale it out and make it available as like a public service to our channel. Is this something you guys would read? aka, is it worth my time to do this for fun?"

And the response was overwhelming. "YES! I want to see this list!" and "Thank you so much!!! I'm having no luck booking a room right now". and etc etc. People I've never heard of messaging me for months, "Did you finish it yet?"

From a technical standpoint, the site was a success. It looked and felt like a responsive airbnb that worked on any device. The problem was that it was extremely, extremely difficult to collect data of any kind. Language barriers, not network effects, nothing. These landlords are so hard to find, they're like ghosts!!!

So the product fell dormant because of an inability to scale to the level of service needed for it to be useful. But the demand is there, and the grassroots method I used to discover that demand was really successful and mostly by accident ;)


I know the line of business you’re talking about - getting landlords to list their properties. It is a gnarly problem, but one that’s solvable. The catch is that it is truly hyper local.

You can’t do Thai from Chile. It needs to be done by being physically present in different major Thai destinations that you want to list, going from door to door to meet the landlords you already know about, and to discover other you don’t know about. It is literally a pariah dog’s job while you’re getting started (and you’ll graduate into a working dog’s job if you’re successful), but once you have established basic rapport and have the contact numbers (not just emails) of the landlords, you could very well just call from from a nice Thai beach, as long as you maintain periodic physical contact. It is great that the app is polished, but additionally (if you already havent) you’ll have to make the technical side such that it is extremely easy to update - and the owners can do it themselves. Convice the owners to do it themselves. Make a few local friends who speak English, and are young and hungry, make them commissioned agents. Take them along with you, assign each renter to an agent, and be fair (and initially generous) with the agents. But be sure you the “keys” are with only you.

If you do it right, and are able to be accepted into the culture (important to behave as they do, be very humble, and give up the traditional “confidence”/arrogance commonly espoused in western society), and be sociable enough to blend in with the landlords, you might become a social phenomenon, and get many more landlords through word of mouth. I strongly recommend you give a serious go, physically, hyper-locally, town-to-town, house-to-house. Not just make the app and expect that the supply side will come looking (the demand side will, you’ve already figured that out). You have to go to them, convince them, request them, implore to them, show them the money, and the potential market (don’t expect them to understand the benefits straight off the bat). You’ll also get into trouble when a renter trashes a place. When you do, either sell to AirBnB or hire experienced people from that company. When you pull it off, you’ll be like a mini/local airbnb, and worth a decent fraction of what they’re worth.

Understand that this is a supply-demand business. Your demand will be off the internet. Market it the way you know. The supply part is very different. Do Thai landlords frequent Reddit in droves?


Yes, kind of. I helped my aging father pivot from manual labor to running his own contracting business. It was, and continues to be, a lot of work, but it was the only way my parents could continue to pay their bills (Especially here in the Bay Area).

There was a lot of learning when getting started, but the business is roughly a 10-person concern, and growing — all completely bootstrapped.

Edit:

More details on what it took to get started

- Studying the materials one needed know to get a contractor's license

- Actually getting licensed

- Setting up an online presense

- Acquiring our first customers

- Earning a good reputation

- Incorporating, hiring, worker's comp/various insurances ($$$$)

One of the biggest ongoing challenges is competing with unlicensed contractors, and being able to hire enough skilled labor.


Sorry, I ruined your 1337 karma. What do you use to stay organized? I have a friend who was in the same position as you and they're around 15 people now. Their problem is staying organized, everything is paper.


Staying organized is a huge burden! One of the ways I've helped them organize, is by moving to digital communication wherever I can:

- Customer leads are almost 100% digital (Website, Google Ads, Yelp). This means they can reply back and forth without having to call, so no paperwork is necessary until they're customers. Everyone involved seems to appreciate this.

- Estimates and invoices are delivered digitally, we currently use Waveapps, which is good enough for the small business for now. This allows us to keep track of who has/hasn't paid yet. This is a huge help with staying on top of things.

- My parents aren't tech people, so after much trying with iCal/Gcal, their best calendar to work with is actually an old fashioned paper one. Used to keep track of estimates, and project scheduling.

- Ultimately we've had to hire a 3rd party to help with tracking worker hours, payroll, and taxes. Yes there's payroll software, but again because my parents aren't tech people and they're currently at their wits just running the business, it was best to hire outside help. I'd like to help with this, but I work full-time, and screwing this up can result in extremely steep fines to the business.

- Really the only new paperwork we have to deal with on an ongoing basis is storing copies of customer contracts.


If I'm being super honest, I never would have started my first company (A Funded Startup, that had very significant revenue for 3-4 years) if I didn't have IBS.

Once the company grew to the size that we needed a real office, my need to exit was at least partially influenced by IBS as well.

I could have gotten a job in a lot of different places, but I couldn't handle the workplace environment because I needed to use the restroom more than 10 times per day. I also had accidents where I would need to change my pants at least once a week, and always carried spare clothes in my backpack. I still keep that habit, even though I've largely conquered the disease. It's a weird PSD I kind of have.

Even today, I'd probably accept a 20% pay reduction for if a company would give me a private restroom connected to my office.


I feel your pain. A large part of my rationale for freelancing is my Crohn's Disease. Gastrointestinal issues really do a number on your life.


did you hear about FODMAP?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FODMAP

Did it help you?


That's what did it for me, but I didn't know that's what it is called.

I discovered my Keto for weight loss and noticed a huge improvement in my IBS. That led me to r/ZeroCarb eventually and after a year or two of healing, I am now to the point I can have 1 high carb meal per week without a problem. I just have to take big breaks in between carbs or my body starts breaking down fast.


How did you conquer the IBD?


More info in the other reply, but basically r/ZeroCarb.


Not exactly what you are asking but, here's my story:

I graduated in 2009 from a masters with a focus on financial engineering. At the time it was very hard to get a job doing what I want (let me emphasize this point - I could get a job but just not in what I wanted).

Eventually, I took a job to afford living in a major US city. Due to my frustration I began coding much more at home.

Fast forward to now, I have a few projects under my belt that are generating more cash than my day job. Additionally, the skills I acquired working on my personal projects absolutely helped me land my current job.

I have had my share of disappointments, successes and career frustrations along the way, but I get the most satisfaction out of the work I do on my own.


Any chance you can share what those projects are, either in public or in private?


I apply the things I have learned in my degree, on the job, and reading academic research.

The projects I focus on are related to investing - buying and selling securities programmatically.


Very cool. So are you doing the investment on your cash, others, or a combination of both?


My cash for now. I work in asset management so my outside business activities cannot also be in it.

Kind of a bummer but that's how it goes.


I've known a few people who've done this. I've also recommended to a couple people to do this when they're having a hard time finding work.

Here's the thing, most businesses don't make it and many people in this position are trying to bootstrap something with virtually zero money. So you can use these circumstances to your advantage -- use the business as an investment vehicle to build you as a product so that you can sell yourself later on.

What this means is that you should take the time between filling out applications and wasting time in multi-day whiteboard interviews to start to build up a portfolio of what you can do. Start a blog, on some topic you find interesting, engage on twitter at least once a day. Write a couple simple but good looking web apps using cheap/free tiers on hosting providers. Check some code into public code repos. If you manage to launch something live, contact the press email address on every major news site you can find -- a surprising number will put a short article up about your app -- which you can then also advertise on your site/blog/twitter feed.

All of this goes on your resume, except now you get to claim "Founder/CEO" on your resume with stunning bullet points like:

- Led social media marketing strategy

- Designed web applications for <insert vertical>

Take screenshots of all this.

Use this work as part of your resume. In an interview it's much better to claim "I tried to start a company but I just couldn't get it cash-flow positive, so now I'm back on the market." than to try to figure out how to work around a large resume gap that implies you're unhireable.

This works because companies will see you as entrepreneurial and multifaceted, capable of career growth and tackling many different kinds of problems at various levels and making independent decisions. And the best part is that, as you do this, it will become TRUE!

- So the worst case is that you just build your resume for a while (instead of it accumulating jobless gaps) -- most people I know who've done this end up in better jobs than they expected after this exercise.

- Best case, your company takes off and you just built yourself a career -- I know 2 people who've managed to do this and ended up running pretty large enterprises.


Me! It was 2016, I was nearly broke from being on the receiving end of a copyright infringement lawsuit, and nobody would hire me. So, I hired myself and started a new company which pays my salary today. https://www.indiehackers.com/interview/6249ac6f67


Interviewed for 3 jobs. 1 rejected me for being too broad, 1 rejected me for not being reliable diring the interview (despite good track record and refs), 1 rejected me because they only wanted to hire cheap(ish) devs (2000 - 2500 euro per month).

It was my first round to see the world after graduation. Note: I worked on serious jobs during my studies, no internships, actual jobs.

Will start my serious round soon. If no one wants me for what I think I am worth/can offer, then I will start on my own too. I chose this profession partially because of this ‘power’.


Reliable? How does one measure that from a recent graduate during an interview? What people get rejected for is astounding to me.


On this case: coming 5 minutes late (it was tough to find), interviewing for 90 minutes and me being late for a meetup with a friend (I told them that). And I looked like I wasn’t taking care of myself according to him (I was in thesis mode, still am). I feel we have different standards about what it keans to take care of yourself.

The first one I get under certain perspectives but it is only one data point. The second one is my personal life and the interviewer made the assumption it would apply to me professionally. Since he made the assumption in his mind, I couldn’t tell him that this person has been late with me a lot of times and that we are fine with it since we can both multitask and do some work on our laptops at any given moment.


...cheap(ish) devs (2000 - 2500 euro per month).

<sigh>

Where is it?


Amsterdam


Thank you. I've been resisting moving last five years, mostly because the kid. But now that he's approaching uni age, I'm running out of excuses :)


Where are you moving to?


Before brexit I was considering UK. I'd heard that speaking English is OK for work in many other countries. No problem to learn another language later.

I had a nice offer for Vienna two years ago but I refused after strong family protests. Now the situation is different for a few reasons so, starting August, I'll be looking again.

It's incredible how different are salaries just crossing the border. One would believe that sharing a common currency that wouldn't be the case, but we earn half the money for the same positions. And not only developers, just any profession.


the fact is many people are not worth more than 2k. certainly not juniors looking at their first position.


Then why isn’t this the case in the US or UK? How are you able to value that. Also all the people were from applied universities (hogeschool). I have been there and have been at normal universities. I feel normal uni people are way better all rounders in terms of thinking, on average (I have seen clear exceptions).

Or maybe INHolland had just terribly bad applied uni students. The vu and uva did not (bad, yes, but not terribly bad - at least everyone understood x = y at a normal uni, even the math haters).


the UK and the US are different markets. cost of living factors into it, our tax system, the fact that dutch people have some protection from firing, but mostly it is the fact that the heavy hitters like google are not here. So if you want a UK/US salary, go to the UK or US. actually, go to London or San Fran.

I council patience. I also council not doing PHP. the salaries are lower for PHP. if you manage to get in at a Java or .Net firm your salary can be raised after a year or two.


It may not be bad luck/time or bad soft skills, in my experience, as soon as you hit 50 in the United States, you're no longer a good "culture fit" in a majority of software development roles. It's my understanding that in places like China, the cut-off age is closer to 30-35 which sounds terrible if true.


I'm rather tired of drone-like hiring practices involving flunkies trying to stump you with questions about topics you might have written the book upon... (not that I'm anywhere near Ken, but the general picture should suffice) https://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/21/ken_thompson_take_o...


Some context on the Ken Thompson article: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1284524


I am a self-taught developer and marketer.

I owned (no partners) a marketing business that grew to 85 contractors and employees.

I have worked on dozens of huge development projects where I was a Senior Developer or Project Lead.

I have worked for multiple Fortune 500 companies.

More than 10 years of experience in marketing and business.

Around 10 years of experience in development.

I am unemployable really.

Why?

No formal education (I have just Highschool diploma). NDA signed for 99% of my projects (I can't even mention some of the companies I worked for). Got trapped in the referral loop, where I get referred, take a job, sign an NDA and so on. The only way for me to monetize my experience is to do contractor jobs through referrals and sometimes through freelancing sites, where rules are more relaxed.

Working on building my portfolio using side projects at the moment and creating a blog to break that loop.


Yep, left my job 8 months ago and had several promising interviews since but nothing has come of them. Recently decided to take time to polish games I prototyped during this period. To be quite honest I was also getting tired of essentially "studying for finals" before each interview. Thankfully (but probably also hurting my job search in general...) I'm in a low CoL area.


I did. I had three years experience as a software developer (full stack, but it was 2004, so it wasn’t a big stack) and leveraged an active consulting business that I would do after hours into a full time thing where I made enough to pay another employee and myself.

The problem is that I’m a shit manager. I’m a shit business manager, I’m a shit sales manager, and I’m a shit engineering manager. So, the company didn’t do well. But at least I learned that I shouldn’t be in charge of people!


I've heard of several small businesses run by people who couldn't get a meaningful job because of prior convictions; typically drugs.


Yeah, I think this is a more common occurrence in industry outside of tech. I would imagine there are many stories that echo this amongst construction trade and independent truck drivers, for example. I know of several folks in those industries that started their own business because of priors.


We don't want them to re-offend, but we won't give them meaningful work either. Terrible cycle


I think a lot of Americans play lip service to "innocent until proven guilty" and "repaid debts to society", but in reality, to many, an arrest is a conviction, and if you are a felon, you are stained for life, even if you served the terms of your conviction the law decreed necessary to atone for your crimes.


Not only that, the justice system in the US seems horribly broken. It's just one of those things you have to put out of your mind, like the chances of getting mangled in a car wreck driving to work every morning. I don't think the US will change much in regards to the justice system the near future. We seem to have full and unshakable faith in state and local police, prosecutors and juries while at the same time, berating government workers for being incompetent. It's completely illogical and bewildering.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-cost-of-convicti...


>The average time served for the 1,625 exonerated individuals in the registry is more than nine years.

That's so depressing.


Once upon a time I started doing consulting because I was tired of being laid off. Had work in like 2 days because I was already part time on upwork . Nice the former employer paid me like 2 months severance :D


Well I guess this fits under the same category...I’m currently rebooting my family’s business. My father retired but has been minimally keeping alive the LLC he founded when he lost his job. As a family we all sat down at a table, argued a bunch, and agreed to help him start it. My sister and I were great free labor as teens but unfortunately doing videography didn’t pay all the bills so my father went back to work until retiring as a webmaster for our local university. I studied business until I couldn’t afford it while working IT jobs which turned into development and then project leader. The lack of jobs here in NCFL made gov a nice fit eventually. Prior to that I worked in game development, television broadcast, and fintech fields all with concentration in dev. Companies I got to work with included CNN, Fox, Univision, Epic Megagames, Psyonix, Wells Fargo and a whole lot more. I went to my father asking if I could do something with that business he kept registered- he wanted to hear a business plan surprisingly he was no push over on this. It was difficult but he agreed so now off I go. The new pivot is really in stealth mode I think I’ll just say this will now become a “media” company. I don’t look like a typical developer I’m a pretty salt of the earth guy- people in my town think I’m a laborer or delivery guy. That doesn’t help get me hired. I’m also getting up there in years but gov provides the steady income for me to get started and so far it’s been going great. Along the way I’m open sourcing tools and getting a lot of support that way- if I can help someone out we get some good R&D in return. So to summarize- lack of jobs in the area and lack of formal CS education that would be my reason. I love my dad he taught me everything it all started with a C64 we got at a garage sale. I was 8 years old and have been programming ever since. Technically speaking I’m a co-founder! So is my sister who moved to Paris to do IP law. It’s all coming together now and feels great.


Sometimes it's not you who has the bad soft skills. The last company I was with versus the company I'm with now are like night and day in terms of how we communicate. I work remotely and my boss actually reads what I write, comments on it, and is able to tell me when I need to do something without belittling me about not having it done already.


> from being unable to get hired anywhere and so needed to make money independently for themselves?

Lots of immigrants. There are tons of folks with Ph.D.s or who were doctors or lawyers in your own country, but in the U.S. the best job they could get was bagging groceries.


It's not that I couldn't get hired, more like I couldn't find the right thing at that time, the kind of job I would want to invest myself into. I did talk with many people back then, many people wanted to hire me, I even tried one of them for some time, but left after a month.

So, from talks to ideas, I started 2 projects with a few people, and these are working quite well now. It wasn't planned, it wasn't something I thought I wanted. We tried, we built things, slowly, step by step, without a grand plan, and... it works out very well!

I wouldn't advise to go alone though: talk to your former colleagues, friends, ... find some people to work with! Apart from that, go for it, try!


I didn't graduate because I couldn't bring myself to go to classes I had no interest in.

No degree put me in a rough position. My resume claimed that I had graduated, but I had not. While I did get offers, whenever I shared that I failed out of fourth year, my offer was rescinded.

Not wanting to work for someone unethically, I went into business for myself about 10 months ago and am doing quite well, more than I would have earned in my first year of work at another company.

I would certainly have preferred the stability of a full time job while moonlighting, but either way I feel like long term success is still on the table. (Which wasn't the case 10 months ago)

If you're failing, get help. You are not alone.


> No degree put me in a rough position. My resume claimed that I had graduated, but I had not. While I did get offers, whenever I shared that I failed out of fourth year, my offer was rescinded.

Do I get this right, you servery lied on your resume and really are surprised that you got rejected once it was revealed? What did you expect?


Out of curriousity, what does your company do?


I know a few who have, but its not ideal. I think if you already have businesses that you are attracted to and the risk/reward for starting that business becomes greater than the risk/reward of what your job prospects are then it needs to be explored. The challenge is that most investors can easily sniff out someone who is starting this biz because they can't get a job, and that isn't a pattern they typically fund.

I think a good mix is to start working on the business while continuing to look for a new job. Then if you get traction, you will likely have a better story to sell. It also helps you minimize your risk on the business.


I was looking for a job in 2008, unfortunately right during the stock market crash. I would go and interview for jobs and then get a call back saying that hiring was freezing as the national financial markets continued to spiral downwards.

Fortunately, companies still needed their websites maintained and I opened up shop for myself below agency rates and above freelancing rates in the hopes of building my own agency.

It worked and multiple clients signed on looking to save money and I was able to build and grow a team as a result, eventually working up to market rates as the economy improved.


As someone who runs a company coaching software engineers on landing employment, I've worked with a number of engineers who have gone down the path of running their own business or consultancy for sometime before deciding to turn towards employment in a larger corporation. Personally, I've found many of these engineers to have some of the most interesting and compelling stories and projects to add to their resume and speak to while interviewing, and in that sense believe that coming from having your own business can add greatly to being successful in the job search. That said, I do not think that is the only path towards landing a job, and in this case especially if you already have experience as a software developer.

In my opinion reflection is key to understanding where roadblocks lie in terms of why one is not finding employment, even more so as most companies almost universally do not provide feedback (another topic...). In terms of "not surviving" in the job market, I'd ask where are you running into roadblocks, is it getting interviews, moving past recruiters, the technical screens, onsites, and within those categories diving more into why those opportunities did not materialize and what potential actions led to those outcomes. Would be happy to connect (email is in profile) and learn more, and you can see a bit of what we do at http://outco.io


I came to the US to study and IT job opportunities in 2001. The IT market has collapsed. I started my online business with $100 and turned to $50m in 5 years. Boom.


Wow, congrats! What type of product?


I unintentionally backed my way into my own business. Back during the dot com bust, the large consultancy I worked for went bust, and I went back to the small consultancy I'd previously worked for. Then, after 9/11, they went bust. The economy was in rough shape, and I was only getting interviews for junior positions. Meanwhile, friends were calling to say 'Could you come do this gig for a month or two?' Having plenty of free time, I read up on how to start and run a business (Nolo Press is a great resource), set up an LLC, printed business cards, worked hard at the gigs I got, and kept my ear to the ground for new ones. I'd kept good relations with my previous bosses and co-workers, and wound up working for five years running my own little consulting shop (That might be my suggestion: keep up with your old bosses and co-workers, and see if they're aware of any suitable opportunities).

Life circumstances changed, and it made sense to go back to work for somebody, eventually, but I found the experience, and the confidence it built, to be invaluable.


I ended up out of school working in a field and role I wasn't happy with, so after saving half of my salary for a year and a few months, then I resigned. I started a marketing agency with two friends, we had the business model down but two of us were not good at sales and the one that was had a life issue occur and left. We were cash flow positive the whole time just not enough to support my two friends as I wiped out my savings. We all learned a ton though. Around a year after, I did a career switch to SWD and am currently retraining.

I would do it again if I had an idea that legitimately solved a problem. We created a marketing agency knowing how to run things as ICs but not as owners. I'm not sure I'd want to sell a consulting service again but maybe another type of business. I've always been interested in WISPs and Real Estate, so maybe something in those areas.


The org handling my scholarship & job placement were defunded just before I graduated in 1996.

This job market here was already one that won't hire w/o a personal into. The only way a coder w/o experience + buddies in HR was getting hired was thru blackmail or ransom.

I knew how to do basic hardware & some networking so got a biz license & biz cards and chatted up everyone I could find for 3 years. I went door to door to every business in town. None of them hired me but there would be other people around who thought it was novel that I was marketing like it was 1955. Those people intro'd me to people they knew & that got me established.

The 2008 crash sinkholed my clients (car dealers). I started over with med providers but by 2010 the ACA sinkholed my new clients.

I finally started writing some code 5 years ago to build blocklists for custom firewalls.


Me. Basically I have been programming long enough and perhaps with a varied enough CV and varied enough skills and some major accomplishments mixed among just normal stuff that I do not seem to get hired as an employee anymore but people are very happy to hire me as a consultant (which I make more money at mostly)

I remember there were several interviews where people suggested I would want to do more than they wanted me to do, one example: that I would not be happy just doing frontend development and they were worried I would go fix issues in ElasticSearch, and I asked "well of course I will do what I'm hired to, but why wouldn't you want me to go fix issues in ElasticSearch if I'm caught up on my frontend tickets?"

That was probably not a good thing to say, because I didn't get that job.


Also noting - I've been consulting 2 years full-time at $100 an hour which is a very good wage in my country (I'd have more but I'm subcontracting through another company) at a company that I could never get even an interview at no matter how many years I tried. I'm pretty sure I've tried dozens of times and never a peep of interest, but hiring me as consultant at more than double the amount I'd earn as an employee - oh yes that they're interested in.


Yes, sales is important, but don't forget about marketing, which comes first. I have lost my job in the 2008 crisis and couldn't get employed back. I decided to start my own business with other folks who were laid off as well. Marketing was key for us to open doors and put us in front of the prospective customers. We ran the business for 5 years until we decided to get back to regular jobs, have kids etc.

So if you are thinking on starting your own business, reserve some time to discuss marketing fundamentals: what your product/service is; pricing options and negotiation guidelines, target markets, customer profiles, niches; advertising (which I think grew exponentially complex these days).

Sales will tend to flow well once you have marketing sorted out. It will be the cherry on the top, the Showtime.


I started https://coderfit.com, a tech recruitment agency in Zurich, Switzerland while being employed as a coder. I just wasn't a very good developer and saw that I won't perform in this job as good as other people.

Tech recruitment was/is a domain with a small barrier to entry and where I could use both my tech skills (knowing what programmers like/want) and "sales" skills, helping companies and developers present themselves better to the "counterparty". Now, I am building a jobboard (https://jobs.coderfit.com) that complements my tech recruitment agency activity.


If you suspect that you have bad soft skills, try to find 2-3 people who are comfortable with them. I find it easier to work with 2-3 clients than to deal with teams. If your jurisdiction makes it easy, start by freelancing, incorporate later, if you need it (I didn't need to finally, until I wanted to work with a small team; Quebec/Canadian law is very freelance-friendly).

In the field I work, we mostly joke that we are a bunch of unemployable people. We like being our own bosses, working in small teams. I formed a worker's co-op with a few ex-colleagues and I'm happy with it. We also federate loosely with other companies in our field (around the FOSS project that we provide support for).


I did.

Despite loving to learn, and spending a lot of time self learning, I never excelled in school. I skated by in High school, but my parents weren't pumped about paying for me to fail through college.

I dropped out Junior year to teach English in Brazil.

After I got back I realized I'm a college dropout, with a work experience in manual labor & restaurants, and I knew no one would hire me to do the things I wanted to learn.

So I started a company on an idea I was passionate about.

I told myself from day 1, whether the venture was successful or not, I was going to learn the skills and meet the people to do whatever I wanted to do next.

The venture was not successful, and I did meet the people and learn the skills to do whatever I wanted to do after, and it lead great places.


Skills are overrated in interviews, you need to get lucky, it is increasingly a numbers game.


This is almost me. I wouldn't be where I am if I got hired from specific companies I applied to. I found it impossible to get a job I wanted before I learned programming.

Triplebyte denied me in a phone screening and at that time I had just read all Paul Graham's essays and would have sacrificed a lot to move back to USA and work for a YC startup.

At this point I'm very happy things turned out the way they did. One thing I will never miss is having my life controlled by an alarm clock.


I’m kind of at this point right now.


I'm assuming you already have your own freelancing setup?

But if you're looking for ft positions I would definitely consider rewriting portions of your pdf resume job descriptions. I'm confident you could sound much more impressive.


I see you live in the same local area as I do. Would you mind if I could have a chat with you? I have worked about as long as you have, and am technically freelancing, although not to the point where I can make a sustainable living. I also can't grok interviews which is one of the inspirations from making this thread.


From your resume you don't seem to be one who is having trouble being hired.


Well he is self-employed, but if I called myself self-employed that would be an understatement. I'm actually unemployed and wondering what I could to to capitalize on my current skills that will also not be hampered by my weak soft skills.


Why don't you put a link to your resume in your profile? Now you got people reading...


Give Dave and Jamison a listen to on Soft Skills Engineering[0]. They are great to listen to and their episodes are driven by their listener's questions.

Most of their immediate responses are go get a new job if you are unhappy with your current position, but that is more of them being entertaining, but I guess a truthful answer in most of the scenarios they are presented with.

[0] https://softskills.audio/


I'm interested in seeing where this discussion goes, I'm in a similar position and will have to consider different options and paths beyond the normal job path.


I work on a freelance basis pretty much due to my inability to "play the game." My poor "soft skills" don't seem to be bother my clients much.


I've ran into the issue of only being able to be hired by Startups, this is both good because I like the environment and bad because there's never enough need for my skills in business development, marketing, and professional-level creative, legal, and business writing.

This means I eventually get replaced and scramble for another job. I'd like to start my own thing but it doesn't feel viable sometimes, seeing as I'm not a developer.


First... people with bad soft skills don't have the ability to self-reflect and admit it, as you have. Give yourself some credit.

Second... the dire circumstance means any entrepreneurial venture will only be successful if you have the humility to work on problems the clients don't want to do.

I would suggest poking around on Upwork, Fiverr, or other gig economy sites and experiment with some short-term engagements.


> First... people with bad soft skills don't have the ability to self-reflect and admit it, as you have. Give yourself some credit.

This is a nice sentiment but I don't think it's true. 'Soft skills' is a pretty broad category, and you can definitely be bad at some of them without being arrogant or oblivious.

(I'm confident that this is more than just a technical possibility, because I think it applies in my own case: I'm aware of and willing to admit many of my flaws, but that doesn't always save me from awkwardness, underdeveloped social instincts, etc. I can even manage to come across as arrogant, despite having quite a low opinion of myself.)


I started two small software companies before uni because no one would hire me; note that those were very different times (80s-early 90s); now people would have hired me. Both companies still exist and both are still profitable. I have never had ‘a job’ in my life, so you can say the experience was a positive one.


I graduated in 2009 and couldn't get a job due to the recession (and me having a poor understanding that "graduating" was not all employers were looking for).

I ended up doing what I now would call an "apprenticeship" and then eventually turning that into a job and then my own business.


This post is literary the story of my life...

After 20 years in the Marine Corps, I don't have the "polish" to work in corporate world and need the intensity of a start up or my own business.

My frustrations, probably started here: http://www.strategic-options.com/insight/you-cant-have-more-...

In that time, I have had numerous run ins with trying to find job in the FinTech and Tech.

http://www.strategic-options.com/insight/how-do-you-get-a-jo...

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15551623

http://www.strategic-options.com/insight/the-best-or-worst-w...

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9107657

http://www.strategic-options.com/insight/best-cover-letter-e...

With all that said... I think that I have finally come to terms with the fact I'm not corporate guy and ageism seems to be running rampant in the tech field. If I'm going survive over the long term, I'm going to have to carve out a space for myself. About a month ago, recommitted myself to a strategy of carving out a space for myself in the FinTech space or working in some form of start up that I have a stake in, immediately I feel a "H E double hockey sticks" better about my career future. Soon after I wrote this educational / semi self promotional piece, I picked up some side work in the next week. Side work in this case, is step in the right direction and eases the pain of my minding numbing, over paid programming job. (but I'm grateful to have a job, cause there are times I haven't and being unemployed is a horrible burden.)

http://www.strategic-options.com/insight/the-best-and-worst-...


Jack Ma.


Thing is most businesses take time to build. If you're in "dire need", like really about to starve, you probably would take a job you might even be overqualified for.


I am considering starting a business right now to fill a gap in the insurance industry. The company I worked for just wont step up so I put in 2 weeks notice.


Many immigrants become entrepreneurs because there is no place for them among average joes.


I did, twice, and I'm about to go on a third run (though this time it's not because of any particular run of back luck with the job market). I have a weird-looking resume that doesn't look quite right at first blush, and most of the hiring decisions that brought me on board I later found out were someone "taking a chance" on me. I was in the Guard for many years, and deployed a lot (a lot). Even though it's against the law, startups just don't have the resources to give up a team member and save their spot while they deploy. I actually completely grok this. But for most of my adult life, it looks like I've jumped from job to job with weird breaks in between, which is a huge red flag. I'm actually pretty good at what I do, if you'll pardon me for saying so, and so I have a pretty good network to lean on now, but throughout my 20s I didn't truly understand the power of one's network and so didn't cultivate relationships that I should have. No problem, life lesson. We aren't all jumping out of our mother's womb in full armor swinging a chain.

Anyway, I have had both success and failure when I started my own businesses. The first time was a failure, but I saw it at the time as a success, because I had to make rent, and it paid the rent. I literally sat there with a notepad thinking of things I could do in less than 60 days to make rent. Incidentally, I have always paid rent one month ahead of time. It's just something I started doing by chance when I was 16, and it turned out to be the difference between having a place to sleep and living in my car or out on the street.

Anyway, that paid the rent but wasn't sustainable. Everything was wrong with it, since I thought I was smarter than everyone hah! But that was another life lesson, that the world is full of way smarter people, and history even fuller. The second time I started a business I was much older, late-20s, and by then had worked at a bunch of startups and a network full of sensors (the army says "every soldier is a sensor" and likewise your friends and professional network are like your sensors) and also had been taking notes the entire time. I still take notes every day on the things I learn, the decisions I make, or people around me are making and why, if I can discern it, or if they'll tell me when I ask (another life lesson about taking notes). That time I consider it a success, because the people I started the business with are still running it today, and I was able to sell out of my share of the business. I went back into working at startups (because that's where the action is yolo), and now I'm feeling the itch really badly. This time around I've got solid business partners / cofounders on board, and few "green leaderbooks" full of notes and ideas (another army thing) and a couple servers full of prototyped side projects. I've got enough saved to bootstrap whatever we do and most importantly, as a lifelong transient with wanderlust, I feel that same comfortable feeling of "going places and doing things and taking risks" that won't let me put down roots in one place for too long. Sorry for all the text, but that's my story.


One of my friends who is a successful entrepreneur (bootstrapped, high double digit million yearly revenue) now recals that he never managed to find a job because he looks arogant.

He also lacks apathy. (I think it's some medical condition and not something sinster).

He is very honest and trustworthy but sometimes he ends up insulting us like Linus. But he is also super talented, so we ignore his cons as limitations beyond his control.

Currently, he is GP of our VC fund. He is lot better!

So he had no choice but to bootstrap his own company.


Did you mean empathy instead of apathy?


Elon musk did


Did Elon get rejected or did he just say "Fuck it, I don't want a job"?


Yeah he got rejected by Netscape. Also not sure if it was an 'all-eggs-in-one-basket' situation, or if it was the only place he wanted to work at the time. Then the X.com story


I believe he couldn't get a job at Netscape, as he didn't have a formal CS background. Unclear if he applied for other jobs or just this one.


Not to contradict Elon, but: I worked at Netscape and did not have a "formal CS background" nor did I ever ask interview candidates about their formal background. recall we hired a guy who's previous job was mixing a Nine inch Nails album. Fantastic coder..

In my experience the whole "must have formal background" began with Google, some years later.


Do you remember if it was Steve Duda, the guy who owns XFER Records? He was an engineer for NIN in the late 90's.


Do you recall which album?




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