How I got each of my current clients:
Person in my college class gets a job and two years later contacts the computer science department at my college and asks if they "know any freelancers." I had made it known to my professors that I was going into freelancing and they connected us. Client for 3+ years.
Joined a coworking space and chatted with a guy. Mentioned I do freelance work. Built rapport. 3 weeks later I'm siting in the coworking space and he comes up to me and says "I am getting a full time job and can't keep this client. Do you want them?" Client for 3+ years.
I was a teacher's assistant at a college class about software engineering. Made friends with a student. 3 years later his friend was graduating and interested in freelance. The first student connected us. I offered to meet for coffee with the younger student, told him everything I know about freelancing. 3 months later he contacts me and says "I decided not to freelance, but this client wants a site, do you want them?" Primary client for the first half of 2018.
I discovered a podcast I enjoyed by a thought leader in the consulting space about how to find a niche. I sent him an email saying "Hey I liked your podcast. My niche is Django development." Later another person who does Django work contacts this thought leader, he shows this person my website. This person joins my mailing list. I see that person has joined and so sent him an email saying hello what up. We connect over the fact that we both do Django. 3 months later he says "my primary client needs more help with a Django site." This is how I got my current primary client.
This doesn't really work as a short term strategy but the quality of clients compared to say Upwork is night and day. Provide value, make connections, get lucky.
I find it a lot of fun, something like hunting or foraging. There's no guarantee of putting food on the table, and yet you go out there and it's out there. There's also a kind of primal thrill in it, as opposed to full time jobs.
Needless to say, I'm a huge believer in serendipity.
I was set to go into academia. I spent my entire grad school without any tech internships, and did research every summer. Months before my graduation, my ex-wife wanted a divorce, and one reason (out of many) was not seeing a future together as I will be in remote places(where most universities are), and she want to be in a big city.
Trying to save my marriage, I declined my postdoc offers and start to look for jobs in the industry in the big cities. It was difficult, as I haven't programmed for years. I applied to every major tech companies and financial companies. I asked for referrals from my friends. I got no responses from most of the companies. The only two responded was a company I worked for before entering grad school, and a company that was trying to double their engineering team. It was very demoralizing.
It was surely the darkest days of my life. I questioned my self-worth. Feeling that I am not someone to be desired both personally and professionally.
My advisor, who was really kind and understanding and I'm forever grateful to, used his connection to get me interviews I'm sure I could not possibly gotten if I applied directly. In fact, I can't even apply directly, because some of the positions were not advertised. Finally, one of the places gave me an offer, and that is what I took, and I have been working there since.
But of course becoming the person that recruiter reached out to involved several years of study, betting on a brand new language, taking a risk on a startup with no money and a few other things.
Unbeknownst to myself, whilst I was demoing my app my boss to be was watching and my simple music maker and was rather impressed. 18 months later when a suitable role opened up he reached out to me on LinkedIn and asked me in for a chat. A month later I started.
In his mind there was no need to interview me further, since we had already collaborated and he had seen me work and problem solve in an environment that’s much more natural than, say, whiteboarding in an interview.
There's a lot more to life, and you deserve to be happy regardless of whatever else happens.
Ironically once you can be happy without Facebook, you are actually more likely to get into Facebook or whatever company because you'll be more detached from the outcome and more able to focus.
This is easier for senior folks. At some point you just know the rejection was a failure of their interview process and not your ineptitude. I have failed several interviews at different companies where I was one of the best people _in the world_ for the job due to my domain expertise. It's a roll of the dice for everyone, but earlier in my career I did not take rejection well. Now? Honeybadger don't care.
I’m afraid I’ll be stuck at Amazon, which nobody is actually impressed by, if I’m lucky and not PIPed out.
Edit: actually, I've banned this account because repeating this turns out to be all it's been doing. Single-purpose accounts aren't allowed here, and when you repeat something as much as this one has, it's indistinguishable from trolling (which is why some users have been wondering if it's a troll account). Please don't use HN this way again.
I've never gone through the front door at any company, for that matter, in the 25 years I've been working. The first job I ever got was because the teacher of a college class I was taking owned a small ISP and needed a sysadmin, and he liked how I was doing in his class. Everything since then has been through someone I know personally.
Probably the most successful strategy I've employed in my career is to remember that even though I'm reasonably good at what I do, how I get along with coworkers and management is more important. A lot more important, in fact. Turns out there are plenty of people that are competent enough, so when someone is looking for a new team member, they gravitate towards people that can play nice with others.
Luckily an ex colleague referred me and it has been an amazing journey at LinkedIn. BTW We are hiring!
What areas would you be interested in? Happy to chat offline.
It was ERP programming for construction company that bought assets of software company which went out of business. 11 years later, I am still working with this customer for couple of hours each month and I can still lean on it and make it pays all of the bills for my 4 person familly. It basically works as a basic income for me.
Since then, all my client work comes from businesses that use it. So, by sheer luck I'd found some kind of product-market fit, with no marketing. It's an on-going story though, I'd like to develop it more as a business in itself, with other related products.
This is a fascinating thread, by the way. It's been a learning experience just to read everyone's stories.
There was some article floating around LinkedIn about how frustrating it is for recruiters when someone ghosts them... that had to be some sort of troll right?
Heck I have respect for places that send out just an AUTOMATED "Hey man we're not picking you but best of luck and keep an eye out for other jobs on our site." email at this point.
It's that bad...
A year later Exec got acquired and I started looking for another job. My roommate had failed an interview with Uber a few months earlier and gave me the recruiter's email. I sent an email, interviewed and got the job.
I've just started my own design/engineering studio with my fiancée - most of our clients have been our network so far. Either people we've directly worked with, or a referral from them.
So I think for me, it has always been about the network. That should be a pretty good news for anyone, because my network has never been very large (except maybe now that I cumulate experience both in YC companies and Uber).
Recruiters are always very eager to talk to any lead, so nothing crazy has to get into this email except "I'm an engineer and I want to talk to you"
Also tried couple of the variations (inurl:jobs, Espoo, sre, Linux). This helped to find companies which didn't post their jobs on the usual job boards (mostly startups at the time).
For my nights and weekends gig at Cent (https://beta.cent.co) I had to make it. I first focused on becoming a super-user back in October of 2017. After that, I submitted a few un-returned emails to the founders and wrote over 50 blog posts on the project before finally receiving a follow up email asking if I wanted to chat with the two person founding team. We had an amazing first call which led to a second one where I presented a plan of what I could do for the project in terms of their social media and communications strategies. After that the team asked for my ideal conditions before making an offer to join the team which I happily accepted.
This may seem like a lot (at least it kind of felt like a lot as I was writing it), but I am well rested, excercise every evening with my wife, read a lot, meet friends, blog daily, feel like I can do more and am just having a great time being alive.
The total turn around time from resume update to sitting in the new office employed is about 4-5 weeks including interviews, 2 week notice, criminal background check and so forth. The good thing about that timeline is that you can escape employment, really quickly, that isn't going well with minimal financial risk. The bad thing is that if you move too fast you aren't shopping around and can miss out on something that better fits your interests.
In my case I needed to move as fast as possible. I believed I was facing a discrimination issue at the prior employer, even though the company was a great place to work and really took all appropriate steps to mitigate discrimination, and I thought my job was in peril. Instead of challenging the issue and waiting for an investigation I started looking for another job. The group that hired me is bigger than Google and has the best time off and benefits I have ever seen. They got back to me the same day I interviewed and ended up offering me a really high rate of compensation. These were also desirable perks and they were moving fast to bring me in.
I know the grass is always greener on the other side. One thing to always consider is the bigger the company the longer the time frame between project start and project publication. Larger organizations have more regulation to comply with, established services and architecture to wrestle with, and many more constituents to please. If you want greater benefits and financial security be prepared to work with a greater diversity of experience levels at a much slower average pace. If you want to move fast and live dangerously you generally have to look for employment with a less established organization.
Do you have a security clearance?
My two favorite gigs so far I got that way (current one and a stint at MapQuest back when it was in Lancaster, PA).
Having a reasonably active GitHub profile helped, too, and has gotten me cold-contacts from people recruiting for Apple and Facebook (didn't pursue either of those because I value living near friends and family more than working for a BigCo [and have never liked Facebook since the first time I heard about it]).
I guess my recommendations would be to network and to build up a portfolio of work anyone can see. Networking gets your name in front of a lot more people than you realize, and if you have a portfolio it makes more of an impression it goes a long way towards making people want to contact you.
I'd also add to take the time to be polite even to recruiters who haven't done their research. Talking nicely to them as long as they're not just spamming form letters has been a policy of mine for years just on the grounds that they're people too and should be treated kindly.
That policy directly got me the referral to MapQuest - when I explained what kind of work I actually was interested in, the recruiter who'd ignored my skillset passed me along to a contact of hers who was looking for devs like me.
The resulting gig, while maybe not amazing by Silicon Valley standards, remains one of the best ones I've had here in central PA.
(Of course, then upper management cut the entire Lancaster office, the majority of their technical staff, but that's another story...)
It takes maybe 20 bad interviews to get one good offer in my experience.
So I guess the lesson is, you're always in a job interview, even when you don't know it.
I know for sure I couldn't have gotten in if it was through normal interviewing channels, I always bomb interview questions in the most phenomenal ways.
At that point, I had about 10yrs experience in my career, embedded software.
I still had to target specific postings from their job board for my acquaintance's referral. I found some that matched what I was looking for, got to through the interview process for a couple postings. I was impressed by and hit it off well with the manager of one team, and got hired. That was a few years ago.
I'm really glad I was pressured to apply at this company that I would have otherwise avoided, this is my favorite job in my career so far.
I uploaded my resume, and after getting in (every potential candidate has to be accepted) I got free advice over the phone from one of their career coaches on what resume and profile changes to make in order to attract more employers. Soon after that they started reaching out to me for interviews. There is a culture in the service of being respectful of your time as a candidate, so if the recruiter knows they don't offer every single thing you specified wanting in your profile they'll get that out of the way in the first phone call. They almost always discussed salary and remote benefits on the first call so I knew if their offer was in line with my expectations.
I signed up in February and was contacted by 9 employers, interviewed with 7, and accepted an offer with 1 in March.
Full Disclaimer: if you want to check out the service via my referral link, I'd get a commission the first time an employer reaches out to you, and if you accept a job through the service. Also, if you accept an offer through Prime, you get to pick a free gift from Indeed. (I chose a PS4, which I'll start using when The Last of Us 2 comes out).
Ref link: https://prime.indeed.com/refer/c-Wrs9hjR
Non Ref Link: https://www.indeed.com/prime
Previous: Started as an intern during first year of my 2-year masters. Went to their recruiter during their open-house. Told me there would be an entrance exam on some date, if I am interested. I was, did well enough on the exam, then started in the QA part of the organization, later upgraded to full time epmloyment, and spent 6 years in the company :)
Current: a friend of mine was complainig over beer that they are looking for more senior QA people. I joked that I might actually send them my CV. In the end I did, and they gave a me good enough offer. So I switched companies.
After doing a Google search for the job description, I found the actual company that the recruiter contacted me about. I waited a couple of weeks and then directly approached the owner of the company. I got an invitation for the next week, had two interviews on the same evening and got an offer the next day.
Generally speaking intros are more important as the company gets bigger. More noise for recruiters to shift through from official channels.
Past jobs/internships have been a mixture of applying directly on college job boards, recruiters reaching out through email/LinkedIn, and Hired.
I would say that I completely underestimated the amount of time required for it. It skews more towards startups, and it seems like take-home problems have become the norm in their application processes now. If you're going to take this route, I would recommend taking 2 weeks PTO from your day job to dedicate to this.
For my last job change, I took a much more passive approach. Over a period of a couple of months, I engaged with a couple of recruiters who reached out to me, only interviewing at 2 companies, and then took this job. Far more relaxing and less pressure. The only downside is that I felt like I had less negotiating power at the end.
I guess we're the reason why they keep doing this. Sorry everyone!
5 Job ad by recruitment agency
4 Contact from previous job
3 Job ad by recruitment agency
2 Job ad by recruitment agency
1 Job ad by recruitment agency
Something like Stack Overflow jobs works a little better because people are more willing to flag deceptive job ads.
Current job is a good fit, I enjoy it and have been here for two years.
I do a lot of contract work and in the last few years got into designing/coding govt sites and technology.
Overall I started this career by doing my own startups where I had a lot of fun chasing the dream. During that time I also taught myself how to code & design.
The job wasn't quite what I'd expected when I accepted it - they merged with an insurance startup between me accepting and starting - but I've been having great fun since. These days I get paid to play with new bits of connected hardware, and mentor the other developers on my team. When I first started I got to write the first iteration of the firmware for our hub, and do a ton of work on our core infrastructure.
I then Emailed several of these places my resume, and within a half-hour I heard back from one of them. I guess you could say the rest is history.
(At the same time, I also ended up in the application process with Amazon. However, I probably flunked their tech phone screen on account of not being able to cough up minesweeper-relates algorithms off the top of my head.)
One thing I really liked about the company that responded to me was that they actually treated me as an individual, with existing projects worthy of interview discussion, rather than just another faceless resume in a pile.
The lesson I took away from it all was to make effort to stay in touch with people.
Funny that I have never heard of this huge company (and uber cool), some of the great ones are just not visible to outsiders.
10 years later I still love it.
I have been interested in education, healthcare, gamification, and video games for a while. When my SO's opportunity came up, I found that one of the companies I follow and that is focused on most of those interests of mine (gamification of education, educational video games) was located in the same city.
I applied, went through the interview process completely remotely, and was eventually offered a job.
After helping out (paid) they kept asking for more assistance. I asked to formalise my relationship with them and got the job.
At the end of that, after a couple of months on second line I was then asked by a dev department to take over from someone who was leaving.
Stayed there for 10 years and then had another head of department come up to Manchester and beg me to work for her, with a hefty pay rise and official home working.
I did apply for one job (internally)after a bad manager took over, which I got - it wa supporting a system that I'd written, but they couldn't pay enough. On the whole I'm terrible at interviews though (the training course was mostly test based), head hunting is the only way I've managed to progress.
I looked into the company further at that point and found out their customers were evangelical fanatics about the product. I ended up getting the job and three years later, it's by far the best job I've ever had - the team, daily responsibilities, financials, etc. So when you're stuck in that long slog of a commute on 101, take the time to peruse the corporate creativity lining the freeway. It may just lead to your next opportunity.
1. A VC who I pitched to didn't invest in my startup, but he was impressed enough by my technical ability that he took me on for some work. After being conscientious in series of jobs over a year, I usually get first pick in his projects.
2. A guy whose project I failed at recommended me to a friend. Two other people also mentioned me. He was a speaker at a talk that I liked and so I added him on Facebook years ago, which broke the ice.
3. Some of my students were doing a real world project for educational purposes. They dropped out and I took on the project, which was easy and paid very well for the difficulty level.
Three years ago I bought a raspberry pi to set up a Plex HTPC. That led to bash scripts to automate little bits of my work. Fell head over heels into Linux and bash, then started learning R to do what Excel couldn’t do. Then I quit and started a Data Science masters. Now I’m employed full time as a data scientist but spend most of my time helping design a modern infrastructure at my very traditional employer. Raspberry Pi to rack servers running containerized workloads in 3 years - best time of my life.
Recruiters are a double edged sword, they can help you get your foot in the door but if you do use them as I did a few years ago, make sure you do your homework on the company and find out everything before signing the offer letter.
Current job I got via word of mouth and an email. My boss used professors he trusted and knew me to check I was okay.
Previous job I got from a friend mentioning I should ask them. I emailed them and they gave me a job.
Back before University I got two jobs in retail and fast food through my mum who worked as a bank teller and thus could ask if they were looking for work.
I've just got laid off from a very big company where I did web-crawling and general data management/delivery and I wanted out from this particular niche, but got a decent remote offer with laid back work hours.
At first I thought I'll regroup my mind for a more serious job but I kinda fancy low work load and a small team.
There's a lot of handwringing about it because it basically lets Googlers and Facebookers shit on our employee quality now (and you know they think we're inferior).
I have a reverse question for you though: has this kind of questioning worked out fine for you till now in real life?
An unwanted tip fwiw: it comes across as belittling an achievement (whatever it might be) from a quick glance. You probably don't mean it that way- in which case do look at rewording that into something like 'has it been everything you hoped for' :)
BONUS The job before this: started working for a founder, showed him I was a really hard worker and knew my stuff, then was asked to Co-found.
Be careful when searching for a job, you may find one...
Realised two months after that that my prof could have got me an introduction there, but oh well!
Ask yourself what is the most important problem you should be solving, and find companies that do that. Then prepare the hell out to be relevant in that field (follow MOOCs, read books, prepare for interviews, ...). Take a year if needed. And finally, apply.
Another risk with learning on your own is that it's still mostly unguided. Because you're not being paid, you can often go down an idealistic path that doesn't work in the real world.
Also even if you do have a year, be careful. It could take a few months to get a job, as the interviewing can be tough.
$job - 1 I found right here on "Who's Hiring?" :)
An internship (itself gotten from cold applying, and serendipity meaning I had HCI/HCD experience, when that was a big internal initiative at the company).
A recruiter reaching out.
A former boss poaching me.
A cold application sent in for an open req.
I don’t think I would have been hired through the front door.
How did that work? Most of the body shops I've worked with have clauses in their contracts specifically forbidding their clients from poaching their contractors for a period of time after termination (1-2 years).
I also had to do a typical interview at all of them.
I interviewed and was accepted for a temporary position.
They hired me full time after a few years.
Went to the interview, got an offer, took the job.
Since then: cold applications, yes they do work sometimes.
Before that LinkedIn.
This was how I got my previous job, which I already left to fund a startup for providing reconnaissance/OSINT as a service but that's another even longer story.