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I am a software engineer who works for a company that makes event management software. For obvious reasons, we may be in financial trouble (a lot of board meetings happening lately with a lot of lawyers and such) and I am considering the future.

Obviously I am applying for other development jobs, but the market is obviously slow.

The gig apps are all exploding in usage and I’m inclined to get my application in before all the other unemployed get off the CERB/Unemployment and figure out the same idea. I don’t want to be on a waitlist.

Would this appearing in future background checks be a problem for me as a software engineer?

I live in Canada.

  • I didn't get you quite right. Are you saying that you want to start applying now, while employed, instead of later when things may be more complicated, and wonder if doing so would harm you in any way? – DarkCygnus Apr 18 at 22:11
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    Why would working reflect badly on you? "I'm sorry, we're not hiring anyone who took the initiative to find alternative work during the COVID-19 crisis. That kind of motivation and forward thinking isn't what we're looking for in an employee." – joeqwerty Apr 18 at 22:13
  • @DarkCygnus DoorDash, Amazon Flex, Instacart, etc all currently have open applications, al least where I live. They often close applications when they have too many contractors. I was thinking of putting in my applications and getting the approvals and just sitting on them as a backup plan. I am concerned whether them showing up on a background check would be an issue or anything related to that. – GigWorker Apr 19 at 0:48
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    @joeqwerty I’ve met software contractors who can’t seem to get back into full time work after being contractors. Being a gig contractor is worse from an experience standpoint than being a software contractor. Perhaps I am improperly wiring the two ideas, but that’s the thought process. – GigWorker Apr 19 at 0:50
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Short answer: no, you'll be fine.

There's this old adage that certain companies won't consider "contractors" for full time employment. That's only partially true at a very particular level.

I've had plenty of great candidates with traditional resumes with a heading statement of "seeking full time employment". Perhaps they have has a job listing from a well known consulting firm or as "Independent Consultant" with a few details. I don't dismiss these candidates. It's clear they are seeking full time employment. The consulting work is not a red flag. It's even a talking point in an interview to hear about their experiences in this area.

However, I have seen lots of resumes come in from recruiters where a candidate is marketing himself strictly as an independent contract professional. The header statement on their resume says "seeking contract employment" followed by multiple pages of short term gigs (3-12 months each).

In the rare times I've phone screened these professionals, they get really confused when I start talking about their career interests and our product strategy for the long term. They just want to come in, code, fix bugs, and get out. Then take a long vacation and move onto the next gig.

As such, they aren't the right fit to hire full time for my jobs. There's nothing wrong with these folks. It's just that I know from experience how to identify them from their resume structure and move on.

In other words, unless your resume becomes dominated by listings of gig work experiences instead of consolidating to a few brief lines (like you would any job experience), I doubt you'll get mistaken as a contractor.

Update When you originally spoke of gig work, I thought you meant "gig" in terms of software programming work. Now that I see your comment, I think you might have meant "gig" as in "Uber driver". That's perfectly fine too. Just leave this type of work off your resume. It's irrelevant for finding your next job and would only water down your resume. If it comes up in an interview, the answer is simple, "I was doing gig work to pay rent during my layoff caused by the pandemic." No one will question that.

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  • "There's this old adage that certain companies won't consider "contractors" for full time employment. That's only partially true at a very particular level." you wrote this before OP commented, but that was his concern. – Matthew Gaiser Apr 19 at 15:13
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    @MatthewGaiser - when I hear software engineers speak of "gig", I assume they mean, "contract software engineer". They've been referring to contract assignments as "gigs" long before the "gig apps" came along. So that's what I assume the OP was asking about. His comment implies he really meant, "Uber driver". I've updated my answer to reflect that. Either way, I stand by my answer: He's got nothing to worry about. – selbie Apr 19 at 20:40
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I cannot speak for Canada, but generally speaking, I see nothing bad in getting laid off in a bad recession and finding a McJob to pay the bills. A "career" is something you need to be able to afford and sometimes that just isn't possible. Feeding your family is never the wrong decision.

The only thing I would like to see is that you still try to get a job in software development while you work to bring in money. If someone still had their McJob 5 years after the recession when I was hiring again for 3 years already, that would indeed be a red flag for me.

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In the software industry, time spent doing gig work shouldn't count against you. It's common enough for developers to spend some time working as an independent contractor. In fact, it shows initiative and the ability to understand a customer's needs. It could give you the opportunity to acquire some new skills, and the broader your skill set is, the better your chances of staying employed during recessions.

Furthermore, people do understand that widespread events such as recessions (whether triggered by pandemics or otherwise) can lead to even highly skilled and employable people being out of work for a time. If you do find yourself between gigs/jobs for a while, I recommend you use the time to learn a new skill.

A gap in your CV/resume is just one data point. If there's a reasonable explanation for it, it needn't count against you. My source for this information is that I've been in software development for 35+ years, have lived through several recessions, and have done my fair share of hiring, and working with human resources during recruitment.

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