Searching for a tech job is a tough journey filled with numerous applications, interviews, resume tweaks, and competitive conferences. The tech industry, once seen as invincible, has been facing a significant challenge in recent times. Throughout 2022 and 2023, tech companies worldwide let go of over 400,000 employees, as reported by Layoffs.
FYI, a platform monitoring industry job losses. Even a year later, job seekers are encountering a difficult job market, contending for fewer available positions in an industry that once offered high pay, extravagant benefits, and job security.
According to Julia Pollak, Chief Economist at ZipRecruiter, the tech job market is yet to show signs of improvement. Previously experiencing robust growth during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the information sector has witnessed a decline of about 2.5% in jobs over the past year, Pollak notes.
This has resulted in people sticking to the same jobs for longer durations, reducing opportunities for promotions. While there’s still a demand for tech workers in non-traditional tech sectors like government and healthcare, the salaries in these areas are often lower.
Prominent tech companies like Meta, Google, and Amazon have let go of tens of thousands of employees in recent months, leading to hiring freezes in many firms. Meta did rehire some of the employees laid off in late 2021, but it was a small fraction compared to the significant layoffs.
This followed a period of unprecedented growth in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, where companies hired more than they could sustain — and now workers are bearing the consequences.
“The ongoing downturn in the tech job market is causing anxiety and driving people to become more assertive in their job searches. In September, a surge of men attended the Grace Hopper Celebration, an annual conference and career fair primarily for female and nonbinary tech workers, who are underrepresented in the field.
Videos from the conference revealed long queues, with attendees rushing to the job expo while staff urged them to slow down. The conference, initially intended to connect and honor women in tech, showcased the desperation job seekers are feeling as they strive to secure positions after completing computer science-related degrees.
Despite the conference’s purpose, the organizers did not respond to inquiries. Kari Groszewska, a senior studying computer science and economics at Vanderbilt University, shared her experience of attending the conference.
She arrived 15 minutes early one day, only to find that the line to talk to company representatives was already several hours long. Groszewska noticed a change in the atmosphere compared to the previous year. The lack of a job offer after her graduation the next year left her disheartened.
“I have done ‘everything right’ by studying computer science,” she expressed, recounting how she followed advice to engage in personal projects, pursue internships, and join clubs. Groszewska is disheartened by the current state of the job market she is about to enter.
Others who are unemployed are feeling the heat too. Nia McSwain has been striving to switch into the tech industry from hospitality for the past month, aspiring to become a project manager. She devotes her days to sending out job applications from morning to night, estimating that she applies for around 40 roles each day. “It’s been a little rough,” says McSwain, who resides in Florida. “I’m trying to break into it.”
Philip John Basile, a full stack engineer, completed a contract in May and has been on the hunt for another since August. He estimates that in the past month, he’s had about three interviews a day, coming close to securing a role in a few companies, but hasn’t secured one yet.
Basile, residing in the suburbs of New York City, has focused on networking by engaging with people on LinkedIn and Discord. Many recruiters he knew from previous positions are also seeking jobs, so he’s had to build new connections.
In his free time, Basile has been studying AI tools and constantly refining his résumé, initially reducing it from 10 pages to two, and then expanding it to 24. “There’s a lot of jobs out there, but there’s a lot of people looking for work,” he mentions. He aims to “try to be as unique as possible. If you’re competing with 1,000 other people, you have to try to stand out.”
These layoffs have been particularly stressful for foreign workers in the US, who are struggling to find sponsorship to remain in the country after losing their jobs. However, data shows that many were able to secure new jobs after being laid off.
The job market is fierce, and flooded with job seekers. By July 31, a staggering 780,000 registrations were made for this year’s H-1B visa applications, the pathway for foreign workers to secure tech jobs in the US. This marks a significant 60 percent increase from the previous year. However, it’s important to note that some individuals might have submitted multiple registrations to surpass the annual cap of 85,000 H-1B visas.
Younger job seekers face added challenges in landing a job. Job postings are increasingly favoring experienced candidates over entry-level ones, causing a spike in the median salary for tech job postings, rising from $61,000 a year ago to $79,000 this fall, as per Rachel Sederberg, a senior economist at labor market analytics firm Lightcast.
Another emerging trend is the utilization of AI tools like ChatGPT to assist in crafting résumés and cover letters, allowing job seekers to apply for more positions in less time. However, this also implies recruiters have to sift through a larger number of applications.
All these obstacles make job hunting akin to a full-time commitment. Kimi Kaneshina, a product manager from San Diego, devotes her entire 9-5 schedule to job applications, networking, and content creation. Despite her persistent efforts, she has been seeking employment since July and has yet to secure a new role.
Nevertheless, amidst these challenges, a positive shift is underway in the tech world. More people are openly discussing their layoff experiences on platforms like LinkedIn and TikTok, connecting with each other and professionals employed at desirable companies. With a substantial number of individuals facing layoffs, talking about it has become more acceptable, effectively reducing the stigma associated with job loss.