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How do you decide what jobs to apply for?

Dustin King
Python. Webdev. Music. Also, other stuff.
・2 min read

So I'm gearing up for a job hunt.

The tech job market looks different from the last time I changed jobs. This is partially my fault, as I worked at my last employer for over seven years-- a couple generations in our industry. "Back-end", "front-end", and "full-stack" developers were not a thing back then. I'm not that experienced with modern front-end tech, but it seems like full-stack is where I should focus. Why limit limit oneself to only working on half the stack? But maybe this is an old-fashioned way to see it. (At 36, am I an old?) And maybe that would be over-reaching without much post-jQuery front-end experience. What are these jobs at companies that have openings for both "full-stack developer" and "software engineer"? Is a "software engineer" just a developer that doesn't get to work on web stuff? How are front-end, back-end, and full-stack devs not software engineers?

At 10+ years into my career, should I pretty much only apply for things that have Senior in the title, or is there some X-factor I should have before considering myself "Senior"? Does it look bad if I have 10+ years experience but am applying for roles asking for 3-5? It's rare that job postings ask for more than that, but why would you put an upper limit in your job posting? I've so far never had a job title with Senior in it. I did have a lead role fall into my lap for a couple years, but I wasn't particularly good at being a lead dev, and don't think that's necessarily something I'm looking for. At least not without more experienced leads to learn from.

It's not that I really care about the word Senior for its own sake, but I do care that it would probably help get more money at future jobs if I could say I was. Let it never be said that I was not all about the Benjamins.

Where, geographically, should I apply for jobs? I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place, in that I kind of live in the middle of nowhere, but don't feel up to moving right now, but also am not too excited about remote work. At least it sounds like a remote person on a non-remote team may tend to be left out of the loop. Maybe I could swing remote work, but I'd need to find a coworking space to get me out of the house. Ironically this might mean I'd have a bit of a commute. The one city that it looks like every developer in the world lives also has a reputation for being super expensive.

So that's a brain dump of the contents of my head right now. How do you, the reader, choose what jobs to apply for? Do you look for companies that have an opening for a job you know you want, or do you choose the company first? How much do you care about job titles or things like "senior"? How do you approach your job hunt in general?

Discussion (8)

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avasconcelos114 profile image
Andre Vasconcelos • Edited

I'd just like to offer my input regarding your front-end vs. back-end vs. full-stack dilemma.

There was an article written a few weeks ago that clarifies it better than I could.

But at this day and age, being someone who can be proficient at both client-side and server-side logic is an almost impossible task, as the front-end stack is getting continuously more complex (no longer is it just slapping some JQuery on your html pages), it's become quite the beast in its own right.

I would start by looking over what are the technologies required on job postings, and get yourself acquainted with those (whether you'd rather start with front-end or back-end is up to you, and if you'd like to try on front-end development I'd be happy to give a few pointers on what are good places to start at).

As for the "Senior" position thing, I myself have that in my title but having some developers under me that are far more knowledgeable than me in various areas makes me feel inadequate, but it's also pushed me to be more active in my learning of new things. So if you have the experience to manage other folks in a project and the willingness to learn new things, I think it can't hurt to try for senior developer positions

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cathodion profile image
Dustin King Author

whether you'd rather start with front-end or back-end is up to you, and if you'd like to try on front-end development I'd be happy to give a few pointers on what are good places to start at

Thanks! I've been looking into react, redux, and semantic-ui lately, but I'd welcome any advice you have. UI is my weak point. I can take an HTML/CSS theme and tweak and rearrange it, but as far as making something that looks good from scratch, I'm a fish out of water.

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avasconcelos114 profile image
Andre Vasconcelos

Ah I see then, we'll I imagine you'll be interested in taking a look at this roadmap. It lists down the many paths and essential knowledge to have along the way.

When it comes to front-end I would pay special attention to the following items:

  • HTML/CSS: The bread and butter of front-end, it's good to know how a page gets rendered and how can you use CSS (flexbox or grid layouts) to get the page to behave the way you'd want it to.
  • Package Managers: Be it NPM or Yarn, when you're working with Javascript frameworks, chances are you'll be importing libraries to help accomplish a variety of things. It's good to know how to apply these dependencies into your project and make sure their respective versions aren't in conflict with one-another
  • Git: I'm not sure if you've gotten to work with it, but git is really essential to gain control over your code's versions, be it separating features and testing them in individual branches, or being able to roll back to an earlier version if you've done anything problematic
  • Build Tools: These are being able to create a build for your production environment, the most widely used tool I know for this is Webpack, but you have other options too (as seen in the link above)

On a side note, React/Redux is great! I've been working with it for a little over a year and there's always been plenty to learn. If you're curious about how a bigger project running on React looks like, I'd recommend taking a look at the Mattermost project. It's pretty complex but well established when it comes to all the points I mentioned above and more! (like unit testing with Jest/Enzyme)

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cathodion profile image
Dustin King Author

I use Git for most stuff. It's pretty nice. Bisect has come in handy a couple times.

I've been using NPM a bit, as it seems to be the preferred package manager for installing any given JavaScript library. I haven't really looked into how it works in depth, but I will have to at some point. I will check out the other things you mentioned as well.

As far as HTML and CSS go, I know pretty much how they work and have used them in the past, though I need to update my knowledge a bit. But as far as starting from a blank page and making something that actually looks good, do you just have to know all the different properties by heart? Do you usually start from a design made in photoshop or something similar?

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avasconcelos114 profile image
Andre Vasconcelos

Hmm, Well I wouldn't say you need to know things by heart, but getting acquainted with your options and their capabilities, then looking them up when you need them specifically is plenty (e.g. Knowing you can use CSS animations to rotate an element on hover, and then referencing w3schools.com for the specifics).

And for how to start working on a page. In a professional setting we have our UI/UX folks who'll decide how things should look like and hand us a photoshop file + additional resources we need (like logos, icons, etc). But when I'm working on a personal project, I start by sketching out a wireframe (I personally recommend Realtimeboard for that), and once my entire layout is looking goods I'll look around other websites for inspiration on specific styles (or if i'm feeling lazy I'll use a pre-made library like Bootstrap or MaterialUI).

I feel like this could change depending on each person though, so take all my advice with a grain of salt

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cathodion profile image
Dustin King Author

Thanks for your help, Andre.

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zuchers profile image
zuchers

lovely article, really informative!