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What I say to people who are looking for a job (gregkamradt.com)
288 points by gkamradt 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments





One piece of advice I like to give nowadays, is that if you don't know how to get to a goal, then do this:

    1) Divide up that goal into pieces.
    2) Take those initial pieces and divide that up.
    3) Take one of the bits from 2, and create a lame, incomplete version of it
    4) Keep polishing that bit until it's great
The key steps are 3 and 4! It's hard to build even a small production ready component of something, even a very small subpart. However, pretty much anyone can build a lame, insecure, wonky version of that subpart.

An example is the movement syncing system in my MMO. First I went through an "Asteroids in HTML5" tutorial. Then I got hold of a "Chat in Websockets" tutorial. Then I hooked them up in the lamest way imaginable, then kept on iterating.

The very hardest part is 4, of course. In order to do that part, you have to know what it is you don't know. A good Comp Sci education gets you a good ways there. (Warning: If your profs and TAs keep telling you "you don't need to know [X]" because libraries/etc take care of that for you, you need to figure out if they're only saying that because they don't know themselves. If on the other hand, they give you some background information about when you do need to know [X] then that's valuable information.)


Reformatted list for mobile:

1) Divide up that goal into pieces.

2) Take those initial pieces and divide that up.

3) Take one of the bits from 2, and create a lame, incomplete version of it

4) Keep polishing that bit until it's great


4 can also be sorta solved by a lot of 1-3. Outside things you can learn from a CS class there is a lot of stuff out there that is poorly documented where the only good way to do 4 is to run many small experiments to know what constitutes an improvement and what doesn't.

A version of that is one of the more useful tidbits of advice I got from GTD. I'm not a big fan in general but there are a few tidbits and that's one of them.

Great advice, similar to the concept of building an "MVP" as a solo programmer. If you're too motivated then you'll have all these specs and wear yourself out thinking about the details - aiming to instead build a lame minimal version helps a lot with that.

Speaking as someone writing a dissertation, I am here, at the end of 4, with a nice, shiny, well-polished bit that I am really proud of and a mountain of crap still to deal with!

It's really hard to go back and pick up the next bit, but it's due so soon . . . .


Based on the title, I was expecting the article to suck, but I think it's actually pretty solid.

My takeaway is 2 things:

- if you wanna do something for living, sound like you know it well, and hopefully actually well

- if you are not financially independent, keeping shaking the money tree until you have another money tree to shake

And calling myself out, here's a couple notes to self:

- don't judge a book by it's cover (or an HN link by it's title)

- don't assume things are gonna suck just because you're in a suboptimal mood in that moment


> Based on the title, I was expecting the article to suck, but I think it's actually pretty solid.

I disagree, honestly. After reading it, I saw another stellar example of empty yet well-meaning advice. It's just enough to stand on its own, has good intentions, but doesn't actually focus on a tangible problem or set of problems that people have. Rather, it addresses a few high-level topics in extreme brevity and is just an outlet for the author to demonstrate some kind of power they feel that they hold[0]. The article looks more like a wrapper for a previous HN comment, which is in a thread about an article detailing a very specific and actually useful piece of advice, and a Data Science book.

[0] https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6...


a lot of the advice struck me as something that not everyone looking for a job can afford. 10 weeks of trying a new thing for a week? I found the best advice in the article to be the one about taking time off to travel - that it will be hard getting back (know someone who is in that state now)

Honestly: If you're looking for a job - find a friend who is hiring. Be sure that friend is not just a friend, but a friend who is going to go to bat for you.


It’s a tricky situation. I was in a position to look for hires, but I was surprised to realize how many of my friends weren’t necessarily qualified for that position. It wasn’t a high position or anything either.

If you can vouch for a friend to that degree, they probably don’t need your help.


> If you can vouch for a friend to that degree, they probably don’t need your help.

A friend of mine finished a coding camp. He'd been looking for a job for 9 months. I interviewed him and totally understood why - he just had no chill at all. Super anxious, very nervous, seemed way too eager to please, borderline desperation? Sat him down, we did a very tough coding problem, and he did just fine for a junior position, so I made an offer happen.

A lot of times people have a 'singular flaw' that nobody will tell them what it is, and it takes someone willing to come up with an excuse to get them hired.


Speaking only for myself, I've found looking for to fluctuate between quite easy and quite hard. Anytime I've really struggled to find a new job, whether I already had a job or not, it was usually because there was some factor beyond my control that I could not work around. In those hard times, I think I would have landed new employment more quickly by focusing more on making myself more marketable so I could stand out in a sea of applicants without enough to go around. Sometimes rushing to fight the wrong fight is simply not gonna work.

> ...a thread about an article detailing a very specific and actually useful piece of advice.

Anyone have a link?


Yeah I had a similar reaction, while reading it.

He seems a little egotistical for my liking. Writes as if he is "all knowing", and people are constantly badgering him for his wisdom, so he finally decided to give some. Us plebeian should be grateful.

That being said, his advice seems pretty damn good, and I plan to pass it on to some people who are burning out and/or looking to switch career paths.


Right? And then you look at the profile picture and he's like 19.

From what I can tell he worked hard, switched careers, and is still super high from his accomplishments and wishes to share that which he learned from his journey.

I was like this when I got my first engineering job out of college. It's hard to be modest and understanding when you first climb up the ivory tower after much hard work.


If the advice is good, then why shouldn't he present it confidently? Wouldn't you take it less seriously if he had a disclaimer of "i have no idea wtf i'm talking about but here are some thoughts"?

This is overly confident and gives off "I am right, and I don't need to back it up" type of vibe imo.

> "i have no idea wtf i'm talking about but here are some thoughts"

I think there is a middle ground between this and overly confident that is best for advice giving. From my experience those with the most confidence while giving advice tend to be least open minded about altering their opinion upon being questioned. Which in turn leads to bad advice.


> keeping shaking the money tree

LMAO.


Finding things funny is a crime now...

No, but pure expressions of emotion without anything else don't add to the conversation, it just adds noise.

That hit hard.

What I say: the worst thing that can happen is you take a job and realize a few weeks latter you hate the job.

You can do anything (within limits). Some miserable jobs must be done by somebody, they often pay well. Doing a "miserable" job for 40 hours a week and going home might be better than a job you love for 100 hours a week, since those off hours can be filled with other things you love. It depends on you though. One person's mild dislike is another person's hate. One person works with fun people and doesn't care about the nature of the work, another hates his co-workers and wants out of an otherwise great job.


> a few weeks later you hate the job

yes. and, to make matters a bit more confusing, any job can be made vile by extreme hours, rude/uncaring/mean co-workers, multiple bosses, unnecessary chaos and stress caused by an overprivileged unqualified manager, etc. so one needs to somehow see past all of that in order to figure out if one hates the job or this job


> Google, “[this activity I like] for dummies” and learn for a week.

I used to think this, but after guiding some folks into coding I find this flippant and discouraging.

First, tech is lucky in that you can learn essentially for free, with the not-to-be-forgotten requirements of a computer and an internet connection. Other professions - say, carpentry - have costlier barriers to entry, even for that week.

Second, what are the baseline requirements to get there? Tech is in the opposite position here: depending on what you turn up in that hypothetical Google search, you might find things for different OSes, for different kinds of work. Ops is not Database is not Data Science is not backend service code is not front end web coding is not desktop application development (and mobile is in a place of it's own). It's VERY VERY easy for someone to get a very wrong impression. Someone "not good at math" but with a logical thought process can kick ass in coding in the right area, but they can get the wrong tutorials for what they want with no clue that's happening. Most tutorials (for good reason) don't try to overload you so they make a lot of assumptions...but those assumptions are wrong for a lot of people.

Third, the assumption of "a week" is very hard for most people. They have family considerations, whatever job(s) they currently hold (and the energy it sucks out of them, which for people wanting a career change is often higher than otherwise). Do you expect an hour a day for that week? 3? 8? Make this clear before telling people that if they can't handle the week they shouldn't try this.

I applaud what the author is TRYING to do, but this approach is most likely to end up discouraging rather than inspiring most people in my experience.

In the past when I told people they could just learn the basics of programming online, I was basing it off of me trying to do so with all of my knowledge and experience that I already have (which, not coincidentally, also includes a lot of info on how to find good ways to learn online). Expecting others to do so without accidentally steering themselves into frustration is optimistic at best.

This doesn't mean they CAN'T - it just means a little guidance helps a LOT. While I only really know coding and tabletopRPGs, I assume the same points apply to other professions: A guide - not asking them to teach you, but to help you define what you're asking and avoid pitfalls ("Don't pay $200 for a udemy course, wait for their very regular $10 sales") can help you make the most of any go-get-um attitude and dedication.


I also take issue with the idea that you should try something for a week, and if you don't like it, it's not for you. There are certain ctivities where your first week will be a poor representation of how much you enjoy an activity. I found the first couple of weeks of learning how to play a guitar miserable. That does not mean it was wrong for me to persevere, it meant that certain activities only become enjoyable once you reach a particular skill threshold. I can think of a lot of activities that work like that.

Consider the case of someone who is terribly out of shape and tries something that is a bit physically demanding for a week. They will feel miserable. That doesn't mean the task is "not for them," it might mean they can enjoy it if they get into better shape.

Carpentry is easier to get into than you think. During the boom years the requirements are able bodied (sorry, if you are confined to a wheelchair you are out) and willingness to work hard. The boss will lend you tools for the first weeks until you get that first paycheck which you are expected to use to buy a few tools (but this won't cost much).

Of course it is a boom and bust profession. Some years they are not hiring, some years they can't get enough people and will hire anyone who is willing to work.


> The boss will lend you tools for the first weeks until you get that first paycheck

This doesn't line up with the "google it and try it for a week" unless some sort of apprenticeship is the norm (which also assumes you have no current job).

Now, I happen to think what you describe sounds great, but it also sounds like starting the job rather than finding out if the job is for you.


If you have no skills you can get paid to try it for a week. The pay isn't great compared to other jobs, but you don't need invest much to try it (compare to the investment to get far enough in brain surgery to decide if you like it)

This is pretty much what we try to do at Launch School (launchschool.com).

The problem with this sort of advice is that how useful it is completely depends on where you are in life. Basically, it's targeted advice, but there's no disclaimer stating that.

Arbitrary examples:

- Someone fresh out of a Chemistry undergrad

- A 40 year old laid off from their Walmart job with no savings

- A 30 year old who's just had a successful startup exit

- A young (say ~20) adult in a dead-end town

... etc

The advice given to all of them will be completely different. For most people, this stuff is completely useless, but for a specific group, it might be very useful.

It's also very much dependent on goals. Do you want to work 9-5 for a lifetime? Hard at first, easy later? Do you want to take high-risk shots to attain financial independence? etc.


I don't think this is the problem. I think you assuming a short blog post like this is supposed to be a universal, generalized solution to job searching is the problem.

You can pretty much tell if this article is meant for you in about 1 minute.


> You can pretty much tell if this article is meant for you in about 1 minute.

That's only the case if you already know what you're looking for!


No, the problem is it's mis-titled. It should probably say something like "What I say to people who are looking for a job in tech" or something.

Yes why don't we all account for every edge case in every single thing we say. Perhaps it should have been, "What I sometimes say to some people who are looking for a job in specific industries in certain age groups in given regions of the world, provided they have the resources, intelligence, financial security, and time to do so."

It's a casual blog post not a piece of code.


You're not even giving my post a good-faith reading. I suggested adding two words to the title to make the post far better and more specific, not adding a 32-word mini post in the title. Do you really believe that's what I was suggesting, or are you just trolling and looking for an excuse to downvote?

to try to account for so many circumstances would require a book rather than an article

Then maybe he should have written the book!

I know this sounds unreasonable, and perhaps it is, but I have a non-trivial amount of bitterness stemming from regret at following articles like this that, in retrospect, did not apply to me.


Such book would be really cool.

An optimist in me imagines that if a person would read the whole book instead of just the chapter aimed at them specifically, they'd gain a lot of appreciation and sympathy for hardships people in various trades and in various life situations face.


I very much liked Bolles' "What color is your parachute"

In my opinion, the single most point in job seeking is to get feedback as much as possible, as early as possible.

Consider these bad examples:

sending many resumes and didn't get any response. This is huge blow to morale and there no hint on what should be improved, which went wrong.

- to fix it: get someone in field to review the resume and give suggestions. This is simple but many people didn't do it. And it's totally possible to find somebody you never know before to review your resume.

decide to jump on a wagon (data science, machine learning) and plan years for it, like online degree, many courses, a master or even a Ph.D!

- problem: it took too much time to get some feedback, and the commitment is too big, often not executable in reality. It's possible somebody spent a lot of effort to get in a program, only to find out he/she doesn't like/fit it later.

- and the wagon may be outdated when you finished the program.

- to fix: tiptoe as early as possible, like a side project, some short courses. This of course require some existing experience and skills.

In general,

- meetup is a great way to meet with people, learn about the field.

- doing side project is very useful.


> Google, “[this activity I like] for dummies” and learn for a week.

Call me shallow, but everything I like to do is something I've researched exhaustively. This is also related to the reason why it'd be very difficult for me to come up with "30 specific activities [I'm] interested in".

Somewhat OT: We are in a dawn of the second career (or third, fourth, fifth). As we live longer and longer and are required to support ourselves with our own pensions, we'll see more and more people giving up what they know in order to pursue enlightenment in some other unrelated field. Lack of employer sponsored pensions, continuing education, and vesting schedules is a key identifier [and has been for a while] to this.


This guy seems hilariously full of himself: http://www.ischiaproject.com/purpose/ (linked from the OP)

> The purpose of the Ischia Project to to provide a visual, personal, and informational perspective of the Island of Ischia in its present state. This project does not serve to be a travel guide for the island, however, it does promote itself as a chance to visit the island through the lens and words of a fellow traveler. Through photos and interviews the reader can start to understand what it means to physically observe Ischia today. It is important to note that the stance in which this project is present is that of an outsider looking in rather than a native to the island.

Shorter: "I was a tourist in Ischia and this is my travel instagram/blog."


Serious question- did you look into the project any further than reading the purpose? I've never seen a "travel instagram/blog" that included 9 unique interviews that focus on the interviewee/local culture. There is actually minimal ego involved in the entire thing- the primary focus seems to be on shedding light on a lesser known locale with very few (3, to be exact) personal articles.

It's called an artistic attempt. A successful one I think. I found his work beautiful and interesting.

Certainly a bit overwrought

If you need a job asap, your best chance everywhere is to ask relatives, friends and friends of friends for a stop gap position, then build from that.

> “Building things” isn’t an activity. “Building furniture” or “Building a web app” is an activity.

This is a strange way of thinking, to me. What I’m building (or even if I’m “building” at all) is way down my list of priorities. You’d do better to ask me what color I want the walls painted at my job.

Building software can be fun and I’ve spent many years of my life doing that, but in that field I’ve also had some of the worst managers I could have imagined. I much prefer loading boxes in a warehouse for a great boss, than writing software for a lousy one.

Why would I start a job search with the low-order bit? That practically guarantees an inefficient search, which may not even converge on a local maximum.


I have one major problem with this advice. This advice is only actionable for people who either already have financial security and can afford to take time off, or who don't have day to day responsibilities that demand your spare time, like childcare.

If you have all of that spare time, then by all means try to follow that advice. But if you're short on time for life or financial reasons, it's much trickier, and you have to find ways to make many small adjustments to get to a career change.


Wow, this is the most ridiculous "advice" ever. I mean, just absolutely absurd. So terrible and outlandish I'm convinced it must be satire. Either its satire or its written by someone incredibly far removed from reality.

There's a ton more to deciding on a career than "I pick the thing that I find most interesting." I mean, c'mon...

Other factors (not inclusive):

What's the pay? How important is pay vs enjoyment of the work? Are you willing to sacrifice pay to do something you love? Are you willing to do a "meh" job that pays well for a few years to save up so you are in good financial shape to follow your passion?

Are other people relying on your income? How does your job choices affect them?

Hours? Will you be on call? Shift work? Mandatory unpaid overtime? Will this effect your marriage? Social life?

Is travel required and can you travel?

What's the realistic job outlook? I might find baseball the most interesting thing in the world, but making that into a career isn't feasible for everyone but the best of the best of the best. If I did pursue baseball, then I'd have to be willing to endure a poverty wage in the minor leagues for years with a 99% probability of never being called up to the majors. Even if I wanted to work a non-player role, what's the competition? Do I stand a chance?

Is it a job that requires luck and/or knowing the right people to get hired?

What's your fallback if this doesn't work out?

Do you have to relocate? Are you ok with that?

Do you have to go [back] to school? Crunch the numbers, does it make financial sense to go [back] to school?

Is your spouse ok with all these choices? When you're married you are a team and negotiation must happen.

Are you ok with turning something you love into something you hate? That's the biggest issue with making a "passion" into a job, it can become a chore and you can grow to hate it. Just because you love doing it in your free time doesn't mean you will love doing it when you have to.

Just because you really enjoy something doesn't mean you're good enough for someone to pay you to do it. Be realistic here, most people aren't going to get paid to do a hobby.

Just because you really enjoy doing something for yourself doesn't mean you'd really enjoy doing something for someone else. If you love building websites for yourself using your own technology stack at your own pace doesn't mean you'd love building websites for someone else, to their exact specifications, with a technology stack you didn't choose, and half of it is maintaining someone else's legacy code.

Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit or are you happier with being a cog in the machine?

Consider health concerns.

Work life balance?

If you're interested in learning something, what's the barrier to entry? Do you have to buy a lot of expensive equipment to get started? If you do, do you have both the money and the physical space for this equipment? Is teaching yourself this activity dangerous?

If you pick a job based on "things I'm interested in," you miss out on the jobs you don't even know exist yet.

Most jobs you can't have as a "side project" first. You can't be an lawyer on the side to see if you'd like to make it a career. Nor can you be an optometrist, medical biller, security guard, nuclear engineer, HVAC technician, veterinarian, offshore oil rigger, flight attendant, police officer, solider, mortician, plus an a million other things.

Finally, in the real world most jobs aren't particularity interesting nor do they usually give you "energy"! Learn to deal with it, this is real life, not some fantasy land. If you get to turn something you enjoy into something you are paid handsomely for, you're incredibly lucky. 99% of jobs out there are simply a means to an end.


Career and career transitioning advice from someone who started their (first) career in 2012.

Classic.


It seems like most of the comments are negative yet the article has over 130 votes. Weird how that works sometimes.

Last time I checked, I couldn't downvote articles here.

So instead of downvoting drivel like this into oblivion, people come and explain why they think this is nonsense.


You can flag posts.

People with the most passionate opinions are most motivated to be vocal. A strong dissenting opinion is a strong motivator.

People are more likely to tell family and friends that they hate your company than tell them that they love it.

This is really a lot more subjective than the write up makes it out to be. There's no generic algorithm for determining whether or not someone needs a new job.

what if I don't have money?

Then check your options in how you can do things that you that give you enough money and time to proceed in the direction you really want. Not having money is both a really though problem to solve and a very easy excuse.

Should've worked in finance, like this guy!

It won't be convenient, but nearly anyone with the internet, a laptop, and a lot of time and perseverance can get a well paying job today.

More from Greg here; helpful ideas on his job search approach and pitch > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6nFJzW-SDg

Offtopic, but you now do "analytics on user behavior" at Salesforce. Do your analytics let you know that logging out my brower tabs overnight to show me some marketing bullshit is really f*king annoying?

Does any of this actually matter if you've got decent connections? Does any of it matter if you don't have any connections?

I mean just looking at your linkedin, you've changed jobs every 8 months to one year, relocated multiple times, done a bootcamp, etc. That's what you should say to people who are looking for a job. None of this seems that useful to those really struggling. Look at this thread from earlier: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18401578

What can he take from this post? Doesn't seem to me that he can take anything at all. This fluffy blogspam constantly pollutes the page, but maybe I'm just a cynical asshole, what is it that people actually take away from this kind of thing?


Rule #1 for career advice: Never, ever leave a good job unless your financially ready to retire.

What constitutes a "good job" here? The pay or the work you like to do? I did a kinda stupid thing when I left my last half decent paying, but a miserable one for nothing. I just couldn't take it anymore. So I stepped off the ledge, figuratively speaking. I was lucky enough that I had money for 6 to 8 odd months, so I just packed my bags and took off backpacking. Only now just slowly trying to get back into full time work again.

So, it sounds like that wasn't a "good job".

The tricky part is defining what a "good job" is. which will be different for different people. i define it as: good work life balance, decent salary, good location, good stability.




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