How do you survive over a year of rejected applications?

csteinmuller profile image Christopher Steinmuller ・1 min read

I'm going to start by saying I'm sorry for this but I don't know what else to do. For 15 months I have been trying to get a coding job. I have a Bachelors in Computer Science, I graduated in 2012. It's a long story, but for years I was told by people I trusted that there was no future in coding and my information flow was heavily restricted. After working as a computer tech for some time, I got back into the coding habit and started looking for work, applying to coding jobs, starting a github, learning python. And for 15 months, despite passing coding tests and white board interviews, I have always been either rejected in favor of "a candidate with more experience" or asked how many enterprise e-commerce applications I have written as side projects. I saw the thread a while ago on how to get experience, but I have trouble coming up with side projects because well, it's been done already. Should I keep trying?

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csteinmuller profile

Christopher Steinmuller


QA analyst. Developer one day


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Here is how I hacked a similar situation:

  • I built a simple portfolio on github. It was worse than what you have right now. Don't dwell on this because it doesn't matter too much. Like a drop in a cup of water.

  • I built a simple website that allowed people to contact me. Yours is not bad, but it needs its own domain. Also do the following changes:

Change this:


Whether you are looking to fill a permanent position or just have a side     
project you think I would be a great fit for, you can shoot me an email 
at clstein1@outlook.com. I'd definitely love to hear from you.

To this:

Consulting Services:

I am a software development consultant focusing on Python. I currently 
accepting proposals for Python projects. Email me at clstein1@outlook.com 
to get started.
  • I stopped trying to get a job and started looking for consulting gigs. How? Go to indeed.com, type Python and select your area. Then contact all of the consulting companies looking to fill positions. Why consulting? Because they hardly interview you and the pay is better. Don't take less than $60 an hour (that's really cheap for Chicago). This will get your foot in the door, experience, and industry contacts.

  • Rinse and repeat that last step.

It is a numbers game for sure. However, consulting through tech staffing companies tilts the odds towards you.

PS. Remove the Aspiring Software Developer title from github. That makes you look weak. You ARE a software developer. No one can or will argue that.


As a marketing guy getting back into coding I have to say Pablo could not hit the nail on the head better here.

Embrace the knowledge and value you have already built, people will react stronger to your confidence.


PS. Remove the Aspiring Software Developer title from github. That makes you look weak. You ARE a software developer. No one can or will argue that.

That's the best advice anyone can give. If you want to be a Software Developer act like one.


Though i am not the person that wrote the post, but i want to say a big thanks for this advice.


You mentioned that you have been getting terrible advice from people these last few years. This, my man, is good advice. Consulting! Super easy to get, and you get your foot in the door.


It's tough, but when I was interviewing I really tried to have the mindset that 100 no's and one yes is the same as 0 no's and 1 yes.

Don't stop before you get that yes, but in the meantime you can try getting freelance work for anyone. You can start with super cheap contract/freelance and work up to make more as you continue to interview.


You can start with super cheap contract/freelance and work up to make more as you continue to interview.

This approach is super underrated. It's how I got started. Start really cheap and as you get work just keep doubling your rate.

My first paid programming job was $10/hr :P


Several years into my programming career I got contacted by an old client who wanted me to do another project for themβ€”for the same $15 I had been charging them when I was a total noob.


My first programming job wasn't payed at all...


You don't need to come up w/ a side project that has never been done before! This is something that troubled me for soooo long, and then one day, I had real eureka moment. You don't need to come up w/ some genius idea that is completely original or novel. (In fact, if you're trying to come up w/ a business idea, you don't even really want to.)

Do you know how many blogging platforms there are? Or forums? Or task managers? Too many to count.

The point of having a side project is to demonstrate your skills, and not just your coding skills. Having a side project is an opportunity to talk excitedly (and passionately) about something you know very well and are familiar with. It's a way to show that you can identify a problem, come up with a solution, communicate it to others, market the project, design an interface, write a clear readme, etc.

You also don't have to come up w/ a full-blown side project or contribute to open source projects. I asked six technical founders how engineers can stand out from the applicant pool, and I thought Amy Hoy's response was really awesome. Here's an excerpt:

Speaking about programming or relevant professional topics, recording screencasts, sharing code snippets, designing cheat sheets, writing blog posts, all of these things will build reputation and communication skills and demonstrate that you are a well-rounded individual and not just a keyboard jockey.


I guess it depends on your definition of what passion is, but when I see you say that you must be passionate in order to succeed or even get an opportunity in this industry, I'm confused. Is that the only way to find a job? To be excited overall about the industry? Maybe I'm not explaining myself too well. What I mean to say is that I don't believe you have to be passionate to succeed in any industry, yet uniquely, I see a lot of people discouraging one another in articles and comments about people who don't find programming to be their passion or life purpose or what have you. At least for me, I chose this because it's a way to finally move out of my parent's house and not struggle to survive on minimum wage. Yes. Money isn't everything, but when you're struggling with sacrificing rent or food, at least for me, I'd want to avoid that to begin with. And for my situation, programming is a way to finally be on my own. I've even got a 2 year degree to help my matters. I just graduated days ago.


I think we're on the same page here, actually. It matters how you define "passion" and of course, what you're passionate about. There are tons of folks who are passionate about making money and they've absolutely succeeded. I personally don't think that there is anything wrong w/ that.

I do think that if two people are going head to head, the person who is more passionate about the race/project/task at hand is going to out perform the other (all else being equal). I see this in myself all the time. There are plenty of things that I'm good at, but that I don't enjoy doing. I drag my feet, procrastinate, and don't care much about the final product. There are plenty of things that I'm not particularly good at but they give me life. Caring so much makes me do those things well.

You don't have to LOVE what a company does in order to love working there, but there are plenty of companies that have the ability to choose from a big pool of candidates and value a genuine passion for their product/service/industry.

Think about it like dating or marriage. Plenty of people want to have kids and raise a family. You don't have to be in love w/ your partner to do those things. As a result, some people prioritize that "passion" more than others.

So what you're saying is, if you were in my shoes and programming wasn't your passion, you would find a career that does give you passion? Is that an accurate conclusion?

Not quite. If you absolutely hate programming and dread doing it every day, then I think it's worth taking a step back to consider what you'd rather be doing. It's a privilege to be able to "do what you love" instead of needing to make ends meet. For most programmers, after some time, they have that luxury to be choosey, and I urge them to think long and hard about how they spend their waking hours.

If you enjoy programming, but aren't particularly passionate about it, I'd encourage you to think about what does light your fire and give you life. One of the best things about programming is that you can combine it w/ just about anything. Whether you love fashion, travel, analytics, or medicine, there are countless jobs that combine code and the thing you love. Non-profits need programmers too, and so do educational universities.

I know this is some old post, but...

I agree with both of you: you don't need to be passionate about coding to work with it - specially when your main goal at the moment is making ends meet.

But when things starts to drag you down, is time to search for somewhere where you can combine your crafts with your passion, as Lynne suggested. And even on this situation, you still don't need to be passionate about coding.

Take care!


Couple questions:

  • Ae you open to remote work or just local?
  • How often are you making it pass the initial screening call?
  • What kind of positions are you applying to? Can you link some of the job postings and your CV?

If you are like I can give you feedback on your CV and run a mock interview with you. For the past 3 years I spend a lot of time interviewing and hiring developers, a lot of them juniors.

So I can give you feedback as the other person on the other side of the table. Shoot me an email at info@allanmacgregor.com


*Both, even open to relocation if necessary
*Very often I never even get a phone screening call, but if I do ~ 2/5 of the time
I'll shoot you an email real quick, thank you.


You don't have to be sorry Christopher, finding a job can be tough!

@michaelgv here was looking for developers:

What about joining local dev communities and conferences? You probably need to expand your network. The first people you think about for a referral are people you already know or you ask someone you know if they know someone, that's one of the fundamental laws of the universe (and it's definitely fallible but that's a story for another day).

Also, build something. Who cares if it's not original. I think one of my first web apps I built was a blog, nobody needed a blog, myself included, but I learned stuff. Don't confine yourself to scripts or to the idea that if it's not original it's not worth doing because you'll never start otherwise.

And yes, keep trying!

Good luck!


I almost forgot: see if you can contribute to an open source project.

A few resources:

  • CodeTriage you can choose projects in need filtered by language. Spend sometimes checking the issues out, some projects indicate the level of difficulty, some don't unfortunately.

  • GitHub new contributors showcase: as they say in the subtitle... these projects have a history and reputation for being welcoming to new open source contributors.

  • The evergreen opensource guide


Awesome resources, thanks for sharing!!πŸ˜ƒ


Web Dev, outside of applets was never something I was very good at but I'll give it a shot.


Well, it was just an idea, programming is not just web dev. Python for example is very strong in data analysis and machine learning communities


You just have to keep trying. I'm a Python/Ruby developer with over 10 years of stuff on my CV but living in a "developing country" (a.k.a. Third World) where most people won't pay a dime for your code and almost every developer position available is asking for either .NET experience or some ancient technology like Fox Pro. I work as a sysadmin/tech support guy to pay my bills and do some freelance coding (mostly for people looking to reduce cost by outsourcing) on the side while trying to keep my abilities up to date. That's the market we're dealing with, you just have to find a way to cope and keep going.

My advice: Keep a day job and join some Open Source project, keep yourself sharp and wait for a better chance. It will surely come.


Hi Yoandy, have you considered remote jobs?


Having an stable remote job would mean having an stable internet connection, which around these parts is kind of a luxury. I do some part time jobs from time to time

My privilege didn't even make me register that issue.

I am sorry for assuming, I didn't realize you were in Cuba.


I was laid off and out of work for 18 months. In addition to side projects, you'll want to show you have an interest in keeping up with trends and expanding your skillset. Go to Meetups and see if local conferences (or conferences you have the ability to travel to) have Transition scholarships for people in your position. In my resume, there is a section for the most recent talks/meetups/conferences I attended. The inevitable questions are 'Why did you go? What did you learn? What did you like or not like?' Easy questions to answer and it shows both initiative and interest unique to you.


Good advice here. I got my current gig through these social events.


Yes, I think you should keep trying... if this is what you think you actually want =)

About the side projects... At least in my team, one of the reasons we ask for side projects, is because is a way to know that you are able to build something... and that you have at least deal with the things required to ship that something...

One advice that I can give you (maybe because is my experience) is that is easier, to get accepted in companies that have, apprenticeship programs. Those companies are a good way to start... and maybe continue there =)

Good luck!


Can you elaborate on the jobs included in this hunt? If you are getting rejected due to lack of experience, my advice would be to apply to jobs that expect no prior experience (junior or entry level positions). It'd be helpful to know more details about these jobs though. What are the titles on the job posting? What are the industries?


Entry level developer, entry level software engineer, entry level devops engineer. Primarily in the finance industry. Most everything where I live that is C++ is trading/finance and not hiring for entry level, python and java are generally finance as well. I tend to avoid entry level/junior postings that require 5+ years of experience


Its my impression that the finance industry has an especially "corporate" culture. Those companies are probably going to place less value on freelance work, open source work, or side projects, and more value on the number of years you've spent working at another corporate company. That's not to say there aren't exceptions to this rule, but I think you'd have more luck if you applied to a company in the tech industry. Those companies are more likely to value self directed work (freelance, open source, side projects, etc). You're going to get a lot of advice telling you to build this portfolio of self directed work, but make sure you're applying to positions that value that portfolio.

I hope this helps, I really wanted to provide better advice than just "keeping doing work, keep applying." It is really hard to get that first software dev job, so just know that you aren't alone in this struggle.


I got started freelancing on Fiverr.

I wasn't getting any real job offers, because I had no real job experience or a degree, but I knew my skills were up to par.

I posted a gig on Fiverr with ambitious pricing and portrayed myself as professional and experienced, which attracts more serious clients who don't want to go for the dirt cheap single page web site gigs. My gig was geared to people who wanted web apps with Vue Js and/or Node js backend.

I got less offers than I might've with a cheaper gig, but the first few clients were exactly the market I wanted. I offered new, niche-ish tech that can support advanced functionality, and clients approached me wanting mid-long term web apps. The 20% fee really hurts on Fiverr, but once I was able to get in contact with the client outside of Fiverr after the first gig, I was getting payed as a contractor biweekly!

I now work as a contractor for 7 months, my client being the company of the third guy who messaged me on Fiverr. I now have more experience, and I've been getting job offers I'm in a position to deny.


Not sure if you're bound to one location, but you can try applying to other cities if that's an option for you. I mention this since I know quite a few entry-level devs in NYC still trying to get their first development job, while others have had more success in other cities.

I also think it's a decent strategy to gain experience elsewhere, and then move to a city that you like.


Its a matter of luck also. I suggest you invest in real word projects doing pro-bono work. That's how I got my first job.

I would suggest you look here as there are lots of opportunities:


I would also suggest putting any coding challenges you can on GitHub to enhance your application.

You can try also freecodecamp.org/ certifications as they give you lots of support and portfolio.

Good luck


On the subject of side-projects, I've struggled with that as well, until I realized that many projects my friends do are X-with-a-twist. Sometimes the twist is re-implementing in a different lang to understand the thing better, sometimes it's minor stuff.

Otherwise I have little advice outside of keep trucking and try to find sympathetic recruiters who might be willing to give you genuine feedback.

I will say that it takes a ton of character and bravery to post this, respect to you man. Countless people are in your situation but would be unwilling to post about it, I think it shows that you are light on ego and willing to try new approaches. Good luck!


Lots of good advice on this thread already.

I got my first development job on Upwork. I replied to a bunch of proposals with an hourly rate between $10-$20/hr and to my surprise the $20/hr job came through. I took down her WordPress site within 5 minutes of starting the job...but had a lot of motivation to get it back up and running. It was a great way to get experience.

Another thing to keep in mind as you apply for jobs is to think about the value you would bring to a company. Hiring managers dont always care about a portfolio, especially if you can communicate the value you bring to the company. I used to get really down because a lot of projects I worked on wouldn't go live or would see major delays, so it made my portfolio look weak. But then I started thinking about the accomplishments I was proud of, and that helped me reframe my value to a potential employer. For me, I would talk about initiatives I led in the company, things I had control over and some say in. Think about things you have done in any job that show you have good communication skills, can work well with others, take responsibility for your actions, or drive business success and you will start acing those interviews.

  1. Find a mentor and someone who can help you. connect with me if you want and I can help
  2. Never give up. Remember this and you will be fine. Just never never give up. The only difference between those who succeed and those who don't is they never give up, even though they fail 20 million times.
  3. Learn from your mistakes? What's the problem? Is it technical skills? It is culture fit? Find it and fix it and try again.
  4. Learn new skills and make this fun.

I went through the same thing for 15 months as well. What I did in that time was make a portfolio, study and build like hell, applied for all the jobs I thought would (honestly) suit my developing set of skills and I got in front of every person who showed even the slightest interest in listening. I also worked on a few upwork projects to get myself a bit of experience.

It's discouraging as hell, but you'll make it if you just keep pushing and be honest with yourself about the jobs you're applying for. Don't go for only the bigger jobs, Jr positions are worth thier weight in gold. They'll get you in the door, you'll learn fast in the trenches and build up that experience.



Ok, so for me there likely several "issues", that explain why you don't get a job. Some only you can know maybe your are shy or do not respond correctly to interviews, you speak up front that you want to work for the syndicate or whatever. Maybe you are rusted and don't look that bright as dev. We have no idea.

On what is visible, what can I say ? Well you don't have significant developper experience to show (github isn't the same as 2 years working as dev in python for a company, sorry), your diploma is old (they would have expected 6 year of dev experience by now) and bachelor isn't the same as master degree. Theses things mean that most potential employers for interesting jobs will not want you and the one that would then will not provide the same money at all... Or if they have choice will take somebody else. That had recent experience, better diploma and so on.

The consulting part some proposed may be interesting if you make it fly, in particular as you likely need money.

I'd say in the short term you shall not be too picky and try to get anything. But for the future, I'd stress you want a master in computer sciences. This open completely new opportunities and also give a whole different level on the money and your evolution. Most developers have a master, some have several or a thesis. You don't want to be part of the few that don't have one. Interestingly, once you graduate, you'll be able to sell you are beginner and just learned the latest greatest in some area. Ensure your master focus on being productive in the company. Project management, methodology, lot of courses on practical stuff like JAVA + APIs, Big data and so on.

You could try to both things at the same time, maybe try to graduate and have a linked part time job at the same time part actually of your graduation. At least in my country it is quite common. you would get a somewhat low pay but will make a significant experience and at the same time get your diploma. you'll be the guy everybody will want to get in their company after that and if your are half decent, chances are your employer would propose you to stay in the company.

Also, please if you don't find, don't be too picky. To get a job, you should accept to relocate, do things that maybe are not ideal for you... Especially the first job. Once you have a recent 1-2 year full time experience in the field, it will be much easier to get another job and so to do it more near to your ideal location.

All the best to you,



I can totally understand your situation as I've been through the same.
But you shouldn't lose hope. Starting a pet project is not as hard as you might think and it doesn't really have to be the "next facebook". Just start anything you think might help you learn on the way and go ahead. Once done, blog about it, about your journey while developing this app, what you learned, what inspired you and you will get your first audience. Post it on Medium, here on dev.to and if you have your own blog, post it there as well and who knows, you might get a job offer as well πŸ˜‰

And about coming up with side projects, it doesn't matter if something is already done as long as your are building for learning. You see something, you like it? Create a clone of it. Look for stuff that's missing in it (nothing is perfect ever), add that too. And there is your new little pet project πŸŽ‰. Publish it on git and repeat...


You have to adapt. Having a hard time picking a side project is a lousy excuse, man. I don't mean to be harsh, but there are soooo many open source projects where you can help and get the experience you need. Need an example? Look at hhtp://github.com/cashfarm I would love to get help there. But you should pick a project that's about something you like and help out.

After a while, you'll have experience, contacts to refer you to jobs and even write you recommendation letters.

Also crossover.com is in a hiring spree. I was hired through their process a month ago and I'm really liking it.

Feel free to contact me if you want to talk more about your options. I'll help you in any way I can


Ouch, python, the wrong scripting language to begin with in the industry. I wrote intentionally "scripting language", because even if Python is a good OOP abstract programming language, it is only remembered as a simple scripting language by most employer. It is widely used in the graphic and movie industry, for automation of CGI processes, like for example Maya or Blender. And there are some academic faculties who hires python developers.

My advice: learn Java.

Don't say that you hate Java, its THE industry standard and this help you to get a job.

Regarding the word "standard", its just a word. It always depends where you search for a job.


And I thought i was having a hard time as I don't have a CS degree or good logic for that matter! Like you I can't seem to find a job where coding is a significant portion of my work.

Applying for jobs is rough. I am totally not surprised no one responds and this seems to be the norm to me. I think of job-hunting like online dating. People write a description, might meet face to face after some copious screening, and then ghost.

But I did get one soft dev offer before. I've never built projects that no one has done before, but it had never hurt for there to be a bunch of things to show off on github. I'm usually not able to pass the tests but I did them to get a sense of what the questions would be. I figure if I keep running into the fire, I'll get used to the hoops. Currently I am not capable of writing whole apps independently, without asking someone else when I am blocked. People are usually charmed by how excited I am and the small scale I want my projects to work at. Worse comes to worse, I can do emails and Photoshop ...but what a bore. This is my second career and unfortunately despite not being as sharp as peers I realize there isn't anything else I enjoy doing, so I aim to be perfectly mediocre.

If I can throw anything useful out here... I guess I got my foot in working at a digital ad agency. Many of them want people who know many digital tools and languages to churn out landing pages/maintain wordpresses/automate processes. They might not support best practices and may not pay as well as tech companies, and they also might not be as rigorous because tight deadlines lead to corner-cutting... but there's definitely a lot of different things to do in that environment. :)


One piece of advice that really helped me land my first (and second) coding jobs fresh out of college - hone your soft skills. I made mistakes on the whiteboarding interviews, but I was told both times that it was how I handled these mistakes and communicated with the hiring person that made them choose me for the position anyways.

You can teach pretty much anyone to code, but it's super difficult to teach someone good communication and quality "team" traits.

A few suggestions that look good to interviewers: Don't be afraid to ask questions if you don't fully understand the task or question. Don't be afraid to jot down a few notes if they give you specifics that you'll have to remember partway into your whiteboard problem (just don't write too much, a few words at most). Speak your mind as much as possible - don't babble, but also don't hold back your process as you work through the problem. The process and how you think is almost always more important than whether you came up with the perfect algorithm or the right solution.

Good luck to you!


"how many enterprise e-commerce applications I have written as side projects" that's not the typical side project...

That said, some areas or countries are heavily biased towards some technologies, you may want to check if that's working against you. According to latest stack overflow reports python is on the rise in 1st world countries in general, but it may be more useful to know how many job openings you have in your area compared to, say, your second option.


Um... You sound WAY more qualified than I was when I landed a job. Build some super, super simple stuff. Like an add, minus thingy you click on that sends number to firebase for persistent storage, then add in the ability to query stuff in the database and display it. (just a rando idea.) I had a "portfolio" that wasn't even hosted that I showed for my interview. It was a basic react app (bloated web page more like it) that I shared with them via my computer's local host address over the company's wifi. All that to say, just keep trying to get a job coding somewhere, it WILL happen, even if it takes longer than expected.


Hmm so 2017 - current: you got some projects you can fill in there?

Mostly very simple python scripts people asked for, that's about it, nobody accepts by bids on upwork

I'd probably still include those scripts anyways so it fills out your experience. Might not be much but better than too little.

Upwork is tough. You gotta start real low, most of the time, and work your way up. There are some posts on dev.to that talk about how to manage work on upwork. Might be worth searching them out and reading them unless you have already.


just keep going. it's almost a year for me too and I do have relevant experience. at least I think I have it. kinda. working as a programmer is supposed to count as experience, right?


Thank you all so much for the advice and support, I have a lot more stuff to do and try now :)


Hi Everyone,

Can relate to every word of your narration, Christopher! And with all of the people who may have been in this scenario.

My situation from the past 6 months is somewhat similar,
as 60% of the time - my application is rejected without even the 1st round of interview.
In 35%, I usually make it past atleast 4-5 rounds - which are positive (in some cases - the offer) only to be put down by reasons beyond my comprehension.
The remaining 5% simply don't respond which is something I find very weird.

Could anyone here please recommend me as to what I should be doing better?

PS: I've been a Linux Systems Administrator with ~4 years of experience looking to transition into either DevOps / Operations / Site Reliability Engineering.
You can find my complete portfolio here [cakeresume.com/vinay-hegde-portfolio] and reach out to me via [vinay.hegde30@gmail.com]

Thanks in advance!


try game testing, as an entry