Reducing job hunt stress

emotional intelligence , software engineering , job-hunt

Job hunts are stressful, and my goal for job hunts is getting the job I want while minimizing my stress. The stress comes from: lack of confidence, being rushed, not having options, disappointing others and the pressure from current job responsibilities. By expecting and mitigating each of these stressors I greatly reduce stress during my job hunt.

This post targets currently employed developers who want to switch jobs

Before we get started, skim decisive and listen to switching jobs or staying where you are. It takes 30 minutes, but given how hard job changes are, I strongly recommend it.

Below are my stressors and mitigations:

Lack of confidence

  • Study for technical interviews - Study Elements of Programming Interviews, system design questions, modern developer tools and hacking the SDE interview. Expect to spend 4-8 hours a week for 4 to 8 weeks. The longer it’s been since you’ve interviewed last, the longer this will take.
  • Buy a full size whiteboard. Practice answering questions on it. I’m not kidding.
  • Prepare for behavioral questions - Think through your previous projects for situations that demonstrate leadership, confidence, team building and be prepared to discuss them.
  • Do mock interviews - ask your friends and colleagues to interview you. You should fail the first few mock interviews it’s normal.
  • Remember interviews are optimized to reduce false positives, not false negatives, so expect to fail some. It’s normal.

Being rushed

The job hunting process is slow, with lots of unexpected and uncontrollable wait times. It takes time to schedule informational, then interviews, then getting news on the offer then negotiating with multiple companies. At each of these steps managers and recruiters are busy, on vacation, etc, etc. If you’re being thorough from your first informational to your final offer I’d allocate 3 months.

  • Know your “must be done by” date - don’t get stressed over your own fake deadlines.
  • Your “must be done by” date is usually much farther in the future then you think.
  • Your time it takes to get through the process is usually longer then you think (expect 3 months)
  • Space your early interviews wider apart so you have time to correct major interviewing gaps.
  • To speed things up study, and get through your informationals in parallel.

Lack of options for next jobs

  • Figure out what you want to accomplish - I use the Business model You approach to figuring it out.
  • Look around for who is hiring
  • Start and maintain a list of candidate jobs
  • Have a worst case scenario job
  • Start with non-prestigious companies and leave the best ones the last, this builds your skills and confidence, while not wasting the best companies.

Disappointing others

  • Be honest with yourself about what you can control and share.
  • Think about what you can do to reduce the impact to your customers, partners, subordinates and bosses.
  • You might think telling others early is the ethical thing to do, but the ambiguity will cause them unnecessary stress.
  • Think of your team as a river not a lake. I know, this makes no sense - until you read this.

Pressure from current job

  • Negotiate with your current boss for time to work on job hunt.
  • Recall your highest priority is the next job, but you have existing commitments.

Even when you know about the stressors, the job hunt is still an emotional roller coaster. Expect to have “ups” and “downs”. Have a support network with whom you can vent, share disappointments, and gloat.