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For the last 7 years, I have been the IT Director at a marketing company. Pretty much since I started, I have been looking for another job, but I’m having trouble even getting interviews.

About me:

  • I’m a male in my early 30s.
  • I’m responsible for all aspects of IT for my current company, including development.
    • I’m very skilled in Python, Django, PostgreSQL, Linux, HTML/CSS, and Bootstrap.
    • I’m pretty skilled in AWS and JavaScript.
    • I’ve done a couple projects with React - not a beginner; not super proficient.
  • I have a B.S. in Mathematics.
  • I completed the coursework for a M.S. in Mathematics (including a master’s project), but to make a very long story short, they require a 3.0 GPA to graduate, and I had a 2.9, so I didn’t graduate. (Fun times.) I denote this as “coursework” or “credit hours” on resumes and the like. This was immediately before I started my current position.
  • I started teaching myself about computers when I was an early teen and I am self-taught. I recently got the AWS Developer certification, and for what it’s worth I’m a 3CX Intermediate Engineer (a phone system). I also got an associate-level CISSP but let that lapse (a security certification).
  • I have one fairly-decent project on GitHub. It’s enough to prove that I have an in-depth knowledge of Django and can write clean, clear Python.
  • I have 1,000-1,500 reputation on StackOverflow (on another account).

About my current company:

  • Roughly 25 employees. Been in business roughly 40 years.
  • The company specializes in direct-mail marketing and email marketing (more commonly known as junk mail and spam).
  • The main company website is awful. But, our CEO designed it himself with Squarespace, and he’s in love with it.
  • Our other public websites are pretty basic, and the snazzy client-facing websites are proprietary and require logging in, so I don’t feel like I can share my best professional work.

I’m looking for $90k+ as full-stack web developer (Python/Django, PostgreSQL, etc) in the Dallas area or remote. The 50th percentile StackOverflow career calculator returns $99,000/year.

Why can’t I find another job? Below are all the possible reasons I can think of:

  1. I don’t have a degree in computer science.
  2. I didn’t finish my master’s degree.
  3. It appears that I have a senior-level position and am applying for junior- to mid-level positions. Or, I can’t qualify for a senior-level position because I’m competing against people who are full-time developers, while I can only devote part of my day to development.
  4. The city in which I live isn’t big on Django, and the competition to get a remote job is more intense.
  5. I currently work in a disreputable industry.
  6. My company’s website is awful and this reflects poorly on me.
  7. I need to develop a better portfolio.
  8. I need more certifications.
  9. I need to get professional help for my resume and cover letters. (I think it's fine, but you never know.)
  10. I’m not doing anything wrong; I just need to keep applying for more jobs.

None of these seem like they’re dealbreakers, yet I remain unable to get interviews or find a new job. Why?

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    What feedback have you had from the recruiters you've talked to? – Philip Kendall Oct 23 '18 at 4:37
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    How much did you apply? To which jobs? Are you only applying to listings that mention Django? – Brandin Oct 23 '18 at 4:46
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    I'm guessing the issue is IT Director + low salary request. Have you emphasized that you have been a developer most of the time? And if so, why are you requesting a lowball salary? – Juha Untinen Oct 23 '18 at 4:58
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    I think it's more probable that it's about where you apply, not how you apply. Are you based in a smaller city? How much industry is there in your town? Besides, why don't you describe your current position as "developer" in your resume and see whether the results are better? We can only speculate here and you won't know which answer is correct anyway. – BigMadAndy Oct 23 '18 at 6:21
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    In 7 years you've must have had interviews and such, how did they go? Any feedback? It's extremely unlikely we'll give you new information from your question that you won't have already figured out in seven years of looking for a job. – RemcoGerlich Oct 23 '18 at 8:10
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I don’t have a degree in computer science.

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I didn’t finish my master’s degree.

This is unlikely to be making much of a difference IMO - by now your degree is nearly a decade in the past, it's just not that relevant compared with work history.

It appears that I have a senior-level position and am applying for junior- to mid-level positions. Or, I can’t qualify for a senior-level position because I’m competing against people who are full-time developers, while I can only devote part of my day to development.

This is probably the biggest factor - if I got an application for a developer role from someone who's title was "IT Director" I'd wonder why. It's not impossible to move from management (back) to hands-on development roles - I did this myself at a couple of points in my career but I think both my circumstances I had something to "help" me make the move. The first time I was head-hunted directly by someone who had worked with me previously and the second the role I was moving from was a "Head of Development" and it was very hands-on. IT Directors are rarely perceived as being hands-on with the actual development and the longer you are in that role the more that impression will form.

Additionally someone who is used to filling a Director role is used to a greater level of authority and autonomy than a typical junior/mid-level developer role and many employers would feel that the risk of such a candidate being a nightmare to manage would be significantly higher.

I currently work in a disreputable industry.

It won't be helping but it's unlikely to be hindering you much either. As much as everyone hates spam it's not something that would affect hiring decisions much.

My company’s website is awful and this reflects poorly on me.

If a hiring manager got as far as checking that out then it won't be helping. As the most senior IT person in your current organisation many will assume you had at the very least significant responsibility for it. I wouldn't say it would be a deal breaker though.

I need to develop a better portfolio.

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I need more certifications.

For developers who don't have the hands-on work history to back up their claimed skills this is one way you could show that you have the necessary ability and experience. It's not as good as actual work experience but it definitely wouldn't hurt.

I need to get professional help for my resume and cover letters. (I think it's fine, but you never know.)

Without seeing these I can't say how good or not they are - I'd be wary of "professional" services though. Most of the ones I've seen are a waste of money, getting someone you know (and can trust to be honest) in the industry - ideally someone with experience in hiring for the sort of roles you are looking for to give it a look and give you some pointers is going to be far more effective.

I’m not doing anything wrong; I just need to keep applying for more jobs.

It's not that you're doing anything wrong exactly.. it's just that you're going to have an uphill battle to break out of the "Director" label.

None of these seem like they’re dealbreakers, yet I remain unable to get interviews or find a new job. Why?

I think for many the "Director" tag is the deal breaker. Once you "break your duck" I think you'll find any subsequent job hunts far more successful!

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Dallas is huge. Find a user group on meetUp.com and go. If it is a good group recruiters will show up.

Talk to the recruiters. Explain that the IT Director thing is nice, but your passion is developing.

Ask them to help market you as a developer with people skills.

Do this for several groups and with several recruiters - you'll narrow them down to one or two you like (must be from different firms).

Don't mention to them you're been looking for seven years... frankly it will smell bad to them. Instead say something like, "I'm not in a rush, I'm looking for the right fit."

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