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Senior Developer Mindset

The Developer Job Market Is Insane 🤯 5 Tips On How To Survive

Have you ever wondered...

If software developers are so in demand, why is it so hard to get a software developer job these days?

Why the long interview process? Why the hundreds of rejections?

Why all the ghosting and the low salaries offered?

Today, I will show you exactly what’s behind this mess. How we got here. And why.

I will also show you why things are not as bad as most developers think. And the 5 steps you need to take to use this situation to your advantage. 

So you can fast-track your career when most developers are going backwards.

If you are an ambitious developer wanting to get to the next level and increase your salary, this is for you. Because one thing is true, software development as we know it has changed forever in 2023.

The "good old days" are gone. Knowing how to put together a React App won’t get you the job anymore. And we are not going back to that anytime soon. 

Let’s go.

It all started back in 2022 when big tech companies, from Google to Meta and Microsoft started announcing layoffs. Not all kinds of layoffs, developer layoffs.

At first, most developers were confident.

They said, “Software development is always growing and in demand, we will recover”. 

Now, more than 12 months later, many coders have lost their optimism (disclaimer: I still am very optimistic about the future of developers, more on that later). 

Many developers are losing their patience waiting for the Job Market to recover. What if it never does?

Some developers are doubting their career choices. Thinking of a plan B or already switching to doing something else.

Others have been pushed back into the low-paying jobs they had before writing code. 

Initial optimism has very fast turned into pessimism with many developers looking for a plan B.

In the best cases is data entry or customer service jobs. In the worst cases, it is back to the coffee shop or the warehouse.

I think that is a very sad thing. Throwing away your dreams and years of hard work just because you couldn’t figure out an effective strategy to get unstuck. 

I believe that if you got into software development it is because of something. You are probably hard working, ambitious and creative. You should at least have a chance to prove your worth.

In this article I will show you what to do instead. Specifically, how to use proven software engineering principles to outlast the storm and take your developer career to the next level despite how the market is doing.

Who am I to give you advice on this? 

My name is Dragos, and in the last 3 years I helped over 230+ Software Developers upgrade their skills, fast-track to Senior level, and get the kind of recognition and pay they deserve.

Dragos Nedelcu, CEO and Co-Founder at theSeniorDev.com.

I am not a guru or a tech influencer. And I don't aim to be one. 

But, I've been in the trenches during my time writing code as a self-taught developer and now helping other developers level up which makes me quite qualified to give you advice on this.

First, let’s start by figuring out what is going on right now in the software development industry…

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

Current Situation

Like any good doctor, to treat the symptom, we must understand the problem behind it.

The developer job market, just like any market, is governed by simple offer/demand mechanisms. The more demand for developers, the more negotiation power developers have.

The less demand for developers the less negotiation power we have. 

If you feel constantly compared with other devs, you can’t demand a high salary and you struggle to find a job, it means you have little power in the market. 

Supply and demand rule the developer job market.

Traditionally, developers had most of the power in the market with companies going over the top to get the best engineering talent. 

That’s why developer salaries kept on growing and why everyone wanted to learn how to code.

But, in the last 12 months, the power has switched from developers to companies (except for the developers at the top, more on that later).

Why? 

Many reasons. Let’s go through them one by one…

1. “Age of Efficiency”

War, inflation, and recession are forcing companies all over the world to get the most for their money. Software companies included.

Businesses need to find more efficient ways of doing things -- if you are building software, this means getting rid of some developers and automating as many tasks as you can.

Zuckerberg is one of the many tech CEO's pushing for more efficiency and less headcount.

A great year for Meta maybe. A not-so-great year for software developers. 

Bad economic conditions pushed tech CEOs to make their companies more efficient.

As Mark Zuckerberg mentioned in his article about the “Year of Efficiency” at Meta, companies want to increase developer productivity and tooling and decrease headcount. 

In one word: tech companies want to be as lean as possible.

Which means software development teams can’t be massive anymore. They need a few highly skilled developers with tons of automation around them.

Historical data of tech layoffs.

This means reducing team size (read: laying off non-performers), canceling lower priority projects and reducing hiring rates. Getting more work done with less software developers.

Not so good news for the developer job market…

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

2. Talent Tsunami

The developer job market became a very, very crowded place with hundreds of candidates aiming for the same position. 

This is because coding skills are becoming more and more common. 

In the last decade Bootcamps, and CS Degrees have been pumping out software developers into an already crowded market. Bootcamps, in particular, sold dreams of six-figure salaries after six weeks of coding. 

In the last 10 years, Coding Bootcamps have been selling the dream of six-figure software jobs.

This has created a “Tsunami of Talent”. Developer jobs were sold as the golden ticket to the middle class. Thousands of people hung up their hopes on learning how to code.

Yet, as many Junior Devs saw, that was mostly a marketing promise. 

In reality, competition for Developer jobs is cut throat, and the skills you learned in a 3 months Bootcamp are not longer enough to stand out. 

A Tsunami of Talent overcrowded the developer job market.

With so many developers looking for gold, the job market became oversaturated quickly.

This was the case already in 2020, but then it got even worse…

3. Remote Work

The Covid-19 pandemic pushed the whole world towards remote work. Given that coding can be done from basically anywhere, developer jobs were one of the fastest to adapt. 

Working from home sounded like a dream setup for many developers. 

No commute, more time for yourself and coding from the comfort of your home for the same salary is a deal most would take any given time.

But remote work has proven to be a double edged sword.

Because in the end, it benefited companies the most by increasing their hiring pool.

Remote work means software companies could now hire developers from all over the world. 

Local job openings are seeing dozens of remote applicants, willing to do the same job, for a lot less money. As the New York Times put it: 

Remote workers in general figure to face more competition and have a higher dependence on luck.” - The New York Times

If you ever wondered why job applications have hundreds and even thousands of applicants right now, here is your answer: remote candidates. 

Most job openings are now getting applications from all over the world.

With the rise of remote work, local jobs now have international competition. Source: LinkedIn.com

Why hire a developer based in Silicon Valley when I can get someone in the Midwest for the same skill and at least twice less money?

Same in Europe.

A Berlin based company can hire a developer based in a small village in central Germany. Have them come to the office twice a month. And pay them a few dozen thousands of euros less.

Sure, some companies adopted a back to office policy.

But in the long run we will see more and more companies adopting a fully remote mindset. From the economics point of view remote work makes a lot of sense.

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

4. AI & Developer Job Automation

AI has been around for many years, but never so present in our lives. In October 2023, OpenAI released ChatGPT. 

The peak of AI innovation in the last years and the best AI Model to date. It can chat with you about your day and it can write your essay.

Worse, it can code.

With AI being able to write fully functional code, many developers are asking themselves: “Now what?”

And given a good enough prompt it can write code better, faster and cheaper than most human developers.

Sure, ChatGPT can’t think by itself. 

It is a big statistical machine. It makes tons of mistakes and it gets stuck in loops. But, it is good enough to get things going. And it is only getting better.

GitHub was quick to adapt by integrating it into GitHub Copilot which has been made available directly in your VS Code. 

In the long term nobody knows what the effects of AI will be over the job market. 

Will it lead to the end of coding as we know it like some people claim?  Or will it be just a tool for human developers to do their job?

What we do know is that in the short term AI has put more pressure on the job market, by automating tasks or replacing some jobs completely.

Goldman Sachs estimated that around 29% of computer-related tasks can be automated by AI.

The result? 

It is becoming harder and harder to find a decent developer job.

Back to the offer and supply curve, the number of developers increased but the number of jobs stayed the same. 

With hundreds of developers in the market looking for positions, the software development industry is suffering from “the Tinder effect”. A phenomena similar to online dating.

Just like the top profiles in dating apps, software companies are now faced with hundreds of different choices. Hundreds of candidates and CVs.

It is not easy to sort out the noise. 

You have to discard candidates much faster. Even if you reject a developer that was a good fit, there will always be someone else waiting at the door.

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

Okay so things are not great for developers right now.

Hold your tears, because I will show you why things are not as bad as most developers think…

The Good News

This "perfect storm" has taken most developers by surprise. Many feel underpaid but at the same time don’t have the courage to go to the market.

This created a "skill gap" you can take advantage of to go much faster. 

“You cannot overtake 15 cars in sunny weather…but you can when it's raining.”- Ayrton Senna

A stormy job market can actually be the perfect moment for you to take your developer career to a whole new level. 

First, don’t give into fear like everyone else. Fear paralyzes you and it messes up your thinking. Instead of freaking out, look beyond the noise. 

One year after the beginning of the layoffs, companies are realizing that eliminating costs actually stops them from growing. And in capitalism a company that is not growing is a company that is dying.

Companies need to get back to delivering value. Urgently. 

More value because we are in a recession and consumers only want the best deals. And faster because competition is global. 

In software development, value means features. It means quality code.

And what about AI? 

AI actually stimulated the market. Software companies have no choice but to integrate AI models into their existing software. Or risk running out of business.

What do you need for that?

Developers, developers, developers…

Ok, here is why this might be the best moment for you as an ambitious developer to overtake the competition: 

1. Quality Over Quantity 

Yes, the total number of developers in the market has increased. But the quality of their technical skills did not.

Recessions can happen overnight but technical mastery takes time.

Even in these market conditions, most companies are still complaining about the struggle to find qualified developers that match their job requirements. 

Are companies asking for too much?

Maybe.

But, that’s exactly the gap you can take advantage of to stay ahead of your competition. 

If you focus on quality and technical depth, you will leave behind all the developers still stuck in the quantity mindset, like this fella: 

With so much noise in the market, it is not about the number of applications you send. Aiming for quantity will only generate more spam. 

What matters is the quality of your CV and application. 

This doesn’t mean you should become a perfectionist. Numbers still matter. Simply put more work on your CV and LinkedIn profile before you start the job hunt.

And focus on technical mastery instead of numbers!

2. AI As A Complement

As I mentioned, AI models can’t really think, at least not for the moment. They proved to be more of a complement to a developer’s job rather than a replacement. 

What AI has actually led to is more software development through AI integration. Increasing the demand for software being developed.

This might seem counterintuitive, but AI and Automation are proving to have a similar effect on the software industry as building highways in the 70ies had over car traffic.

More highways mean more space for cars so more people use a car. Resulting in more car traffic, not less! 

More highways, more cars. More AI, more code.

AI coding tools will multiply the amount of code being generated.

In the end this means more code to be checked, proofed and maintained by humans. Overall, more developers are needed.

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

3. Cash Is Still King $$$

Funny enough, developer salaries are still growing. But they are not growing equally.

Most developers are in fact not able to keep up with inflation. Many get no salary raise at all, and despite being in the market for a long time are unable to land a position. 

Others get tiny raises, like 3%. With inflation at around 10% last year, that is not a pay raise. Is a pay cut!

But, a small group of lucky coders are breaking records in compensation. 

In fact, we are seeing that at theSeniorDev.com. Many developers at the Senior level are getting record salaries, over 6 figures even in the EU market.  

Such high offers were very unusual a few years ago. 

But, if you think about it, higher salaries make sense. 

A company under pressure to deliver a piece of software that will make them a few millions in revenue, won’t mind spending a few thousand bucks extra for a developer who can deliver it.

Think about it like this, skilled labor is not a commodity. 

Companies are not buying an identical pair of shoes and looking for a deal. Some shoes will make them go much faster. It makes sense to pay more for them.

Whether it is Silicon Valley or European tech hubs, the trend is clear: skilled developers are in high demand, and companies are willing to pay great amounts of money for them.  

As you can see things are not as bad as most developers think. 

Not for all developers at least… 

Because if you talked to your more Senior friends, you’ve probably seen that there is one group of developers that is not doing bad at all….

The Senior-Only Developer Job Market

Despite everything going on, Senior Developers are in very high demand. You can see it in job boards that specify: Senior only.

Or by looking at who is getting hired and signing job contracts right now.

A report by Hired.com showed that more than 73% of software developers signing job contracts right now have between 7 to 5 years of experience (or more). 

Senior Developers are the least affected by the recent lay-offs across the tech industry. Source: Hired.com

It feels like being a Senior Developer pays off no matter how the economy goes. Or how much code A.I. can generate.

If the job market would be the Animal Farm. All developers are equal, but Senior Developers are more equal than others.

If the market is so bad, why are Senior Devs still in demand?

Because from the company perspective, Senior Developers can deliver value from day one. 

Companies know that they need fast quality delivery more than ever to stay competitive in this economy. Inflation, remember. 

All these factors mean full software development teams will collapse down to a few developers leveraging two elements: 

  1. Senior Developers 
  2. AI Tools & Automation 

Despite everything happening, it is not all bad news. Stick with me for a few seconds and I will show you why. 

The truth is that you can use the current situation to your advantage. 

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

The Truth

In order to succeed in this dynamic job market, you will need a solid strategy and a more efficient process than the other thousands of developers you are competing against.

And you need to act now because… 

The developer jobs that offer good money, cool tech stacks, nice benefits and remote work are getting more and more competitive every day.

This doesn’t mean they are impossible to reach. Simply that the old way of getting a Developer job doesn’t work anymore. 

If you need the help of 5 other developers to get your code to production, your days are counted. There’s another developer that can deliver end-to-end and they will take your place.

So what do you do?

As one of my friends who is a recruiter said: 

Your best bet is to get to Senior Developer as fast as possible”.

Getting to the Senior level as fast as you can is the ONLY way to survive in the software development market right now.

Becoming a Senior Developer will allow you to stand out from the crowd of coders, deliver value end-to-end, and be seen as an investment for the company instead of just another expensive developer.

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Smart developers are looking for ways to deliver more and stand out. And they are looking for ways to do so quickly.

The first thing they need to solve is how to improve their technical skills.

The good news is you don’t need to study countless hours or code on the weekends to get there. You don’t need to start hundreds of online courses and side projects. 

And you don’t need to wait for years to do that. Because there is a better way to do so. 

You only need to focus on the things that don’t change. 

So, how do you gain complete confidence in your skills, deliver end-to-end, and unlock Senior-level confidence?

You follow a step-by-step process based on proven software development principles. Just like the ones Senior Developers use everyday. What we call a Technical Mastery Blueprint.

In the following lines I will go deeper into the specific steps, but this is not the goal of this article. 

If you are interested in learning more about this, you can click the link below and watch the free training I’ve put together for you.

Here is the link to the FREE Training.

Disclaimer: You will have to add your best email in order to access it. Don’t worry I won’t spam you. I will only share relevant information with you about how to fast-track to Senior Developer and get your developer career to a whole new level. And you can unsubscribe at any time.

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

1. First, You Adopt A Senior Developer Mindset 🧠

Your very first step to becoming a Senior Developer is to change the way you think about your software development career and life as a whole. 

This means holding yourself to higher standards. Taking complete responsibility where you are right now in your developer career. And taking ownership of your career path. 

You will also have to get rid of limiting beliefs or any internalized negativity about yourself. You will have to develop new habits and build the skill of discipline.

That means setting clear focused goals, defining an emotionally compelling vision for yourself and keeping yourself accountable as you execute on those goals.

🚀 [Action Item]: Define exactly what you want to achieve in the next 12 months. Why do you want to achieve it? What would be the steps to get there? Are you missing any knowledge and skills? Will you have to do something different than now to get there? Write it down. 

This will be the fuel that will keep your fire alive as you go through the journey towards Senior Dev. Most developers never get there because they quit too early. They forget the process is the goal. 

2. Second, You Master "The Fundamentals" 📚

Most Developers, and particularly JavaScript developers have been conditioned to believe that Seniority in software development is like a shopping bag. 

The more shiny libraries and frameworks you add, the more Senior one must be. 

In reality, the complete opposite is true. Senior Developers write less code on average than Junior ones. And they use less shiny libraries and frameworks to solve problems.

Obsessing over frameworks and libraries will make you fall victim to the hype train. When one library falls out of grace, another one will pop up demanding your time and attention. This is a game you cannot win.

How can you escape the Hype Machine?

By focusing on “the things that don’t change”. What we call the Fundamentals. 

The patterns and principles at the core of most frameworks and libraries. A solid understanding of the Fundamentals will make sure you stay up to date no matter how things change. 

It will also shield you against AI and Automation. In a world where code is generated in a few seconds, clear thinking is becoming more and more valuable. Double win. 

Fundamentals depend on your tech stack.

If you are a JavaScript Developer, there are mainly 2 sets of Fundamentals you will have to master. Computer Science Fundamentals and JavaScript Fundamentals. 

This is not the scope of this article, but I’ve put together a roadmap for you to understand exactly what those are, see below. 

🚨 P.S. For a detailed list of what “Computer Science Fundamentals” are, check out the Computer Science Fundamentals Mastery Roadmap. 🚨

🚨P.S. For a detailed list of what “JavaScript Fundamentals” are, check out our 2023 JavaScript Fundamentals Mastery Roadmap. 🚨

By the way the developers in our Free Community have access to exclusive content and tailored exercises to the Fundamentals. Sign up below! 

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

3. Third, You Learn How To Deliver End-To-End 🎯

The last thing any tech CEO wants right now is to hire more developers. But they do want to solve problems. Many problems. 

But, you can’t really solve problems, and I mean valuable problems, when you only build isolated features. Or when you need the help of another 5 developers to get your stuff to production.

The reason why Senior Developers are in such huge demand is because they can deliver end-to-end.

They can work independently with a product manager or another stakeholder and deliver value from day one. Master that and your value will increase 10x. 

Delivering end-to-end doesn’t mean you have to know everything. 

It means that you need to understand what's going on the backend side as well as the infrastructure side. No need to dive into the individual components for now. But yes into the big picture. 

[Senior Dev Tip]: The fastest way to learn how to deliver end-to-end is not an 100 hour course on a Cloud Certificate (those courses are focused on selling you on the brand  rather than teaching you stuff).

Instead, try to map out the CI/CD process in your company.

Find out any Architectural Diagrams they have and onboard yourself on it. If they have none, build some yourself. This can already give you a good start and a ton of stuff to talk about in your next technical interview. 

🚨P.S. To find out exactly what End-To-End Delivery Mental Models you need to master, check out our “End-To-End Delivery” Roadmap For JavaScript Developers. 🚨

🚨P.S. If you want to find out where you stand technically, check out this Free Technical Assessment we’ve put together for you. 🚨

4. Fourth, Become “AI-Driven” 🚀

One of the things that surprises me the most when I get on calls with developers that want to join our programs is how little they use AI on a daily basis.

Some used ChatGPT a few times for routine tasks (boilerplate, testing). Even less of them have actually used GitHub Copilot.

They tell me they don’t believe in its future. Or that their company doesn’t really use it.

If you were on an airplane and the oxygen would go off I bet you would search for an oxygen mask even if the crew didn’t give you one.

ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot are not just better autocomplete tools. Autocomplete cannot refactor, find errors in your code or extend features. 

AI models can optimize, refactor and even come up with better code than many developers. In fact, in 2023, a Junior developer assisted by AI tools can deliver as much as a Senior dev without them. 

The point is clear: if you are a JavaScript developer willing to move to Senior, you need to become “AI-driven”.

The same goes if you are already a Senior and want to stay relevant in the years to come. The tide is changing. Make sure you are in the right boat by upgrading those skills. 

Do you have to learn Python, Numpy, Deep Learning and the dozen of tools in the AI stack? Not really. That’s a totally different job. 

What it means is that you should integrate AI tools into everything you do.

From building features, to code reviews, to testing and performance optimization. If you want me to write an article about how to do that, let me know in the comments. 

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior level with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

5. Fifth, Sell Yourself Effectively 🏆

It doesn’t matter how great of a developer you are if you can’t find a company to pay for your skills. With the developer job market being so oversaturated this is even more true. 

To stand out and get access to the top software developer jobs out there, you will have to put yourself on the market in the best way possible. 

This is even more important as an employee, when the one thing you should always worry about is your employability.

If you get fired tomorrow, how easy would it be for you to find another position? 

The more employable you are, the better. 

Your employability depends on two things. Your product (in this case, your development skills and your past experience backing up those skills). 

And second, how you sell yourself and your network. How many people know about you? If you get fired right now, is there anybody that could offer you a job tomorrow? 

To improve your product, improve your dev skills. We talked about that in the previous points. But how can you improve the way you sell yourself? 

Well, if you want a Senior Developer salary, you must first look like a Senior Developer. 

This means building a relevant CV that quantifies in the best way to show what you bring to the market.

If you want me to write an article about how to build a top-notch developer CV, let me know in the comments!

Summary & Next Steps

Okay, now you know. 

Next time you ask yourself why it is so hard to get a developer job right now, think about these reasons. You’ve also seen how to fix that, by getting to Senior Developer as fast as possible. 

Developers who will put these 5 pillars in place and adapt the fastest to this new market paradigm will have security in their jobs, confidence in their skills and get the highest salaries. 

Developers who fail to adapt will slowly become obsolete and risk being pushed out of the market completely. 

Follow the steps I outline in this article, and not only you will be able to find a developer job with ease, but you will "fast-track" to Senior developer level and get your developer career to a whole new level.

They worked for me and 230+ other developers all over the world, they will work for you too!

I will see you in the next one,

Dragos

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior level with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

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About Dragos Nedelcu
After becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of direction developers have to deal with, Dragos decided to apply what he learned from his own transition to the Senior level and help other developers.
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