15

I currently work as a Software Engineer for a private media/ad company. I'm looking to leave my job because quite frankly it's been mundane and boring for the past year or so. I know you may ask why I hadn't quit a long time ago. It's mainly because of financial reasons and I hadn't found a better job that I know I would be satisfied at.

So the question is:

Has anyone ever had a similar experience where you had quit your job without having a new one? I know it's risky financially, but I have saved up quite a bit to be OK for a while. I've been interviewing for a while and have gotten tons of rejections. I just feel that if I can dedicate my time fully to studying and brushing up on my CS skills I can land a job that I actually want. The last thing I want to do is shift over to another company and do mundane and tedious work again.

So, if you have done such a thing, how did you survive for the proceeding months where you had no income coming in? What is your advice when taking such a route? It's pretty taboo too...not many employers like to see gaps in careers. But as crazy as it sounds, I think I can levarage all the free time I'll have to invest in studying things I am interested in.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jim G., shivsky, jcmeloni, ChrisF, gnat Dec 30 '13 at 10:17

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 6
    In addition to what others have said in answers, have you considered asking for a temporary leave of absence rather than quitting outright? That way, if things don't work out, you have the safety net of going back to your old job in a very different way compared to if you simply hand in a resignation letter. – a CVn Jul 16 '12 at 11:36
  • 6
    I think you should strongly consider that no one who answered this told you that quitting your job to look for work full-time was a good idea. – HLGEM Jul 16 '12 at 14:55
  • 3
    Leaving your current job before you have a new job lined up is really silly. You need to figure something else. Your orignal post indicate that you have had interviews but were not given job offers this indicates THERE IS a problem. – Ramhound Jul 17 '12 at 11:08
  • 1
    "have come to understand that, at least with big-name Silicon Valley companies, it is a candidate's intellectual / technical capability under pressure that matters most when making hiring decisions." is a fundamentally flawed assumption and isn't a good one to base your decision making on. Soft skills like personality, and fitting into the corporate culture are much more important. Yeah, the technical questions are going to be hard, usually much harder than you will actually need day to day, but the un-spoken questions are even harder. 99% of the time decisions are based on these things. – Jarrod Roberson Jul 17 '12 at 13:17
  • 2
    "Yes, I have taken the time to learn as much as I can on the job ... snip ..., but at the end of the day your employer is paying you to get whatever work that needs to be done, not to do research and learn things that aren't directly related to the benefit of the company." You have to work on your education on your time. This is what a passion for software development means, doing the research and education without pay or other external stimulus. You misunderstand what you should be working on if you quit at this point. Two years can't tell you what you don't know you don't know. – Jarrod Roberson Jul 17 '12 at 13:28
37

Flawed Assumptions

  1. Searching for a job is a full time job. You won't have time to do all this soul searching and academic research and learning you think you will.
  2. Self study doesn't get you as far as on the job mentoring and interaction with real world problems and solutions. Regardless of how boring or mundane they are.
  3. All the free time, it won't be free, it will be spent dealing with life and trying to find another job to make a living.
  4. All corporate programming is going to be boring and mundane, it has been for the last 22+ years I have been doing it, I don't see it changing anytime soon. It will actually get less challenging as more FOSS supplies more and more code you don't have to write yourself.

Suggestions

  1. I would spend more time improving my skills and engagement with my current job by finding a mentor ( at work or a user group meeting ), engaging my manager and asking for more challenging work.
  2. First prove to yourself you are really going to do self study by doing it after hours.
  3. Learn to market and sell yourself better. Getting tons of rejections is a bad sign of something systematic about your presentation of yourself.
  4. Acknowledge that you are first and foremost a sales person and you are your product. Everything else is secondary when looking for work, your job is to sell yourself.

Passion

If you haven't been doing constant improvement in the past years, it is most unlikely that you are really that passionate about writing software and no amount of free time is going to get you any more engaged than you are now.

Those people that are truly passionate about their career choice would have been learning on the side already, engaging as many peers as possible to be mentors and learning new things regardless of if they were being paid to do so. Paying to take classes would be happening as well.

Marketing and Sales

If you really want to find another job, you have to be a master at marketing and sales, that is your new career, and your product is yourself.

As some who has been consulting independently over 20 years, I can tell you with confidence, being a skilled sales person is more important than all your technical skills combined.

If you do quit prematurely, spend your time taking sales and marketing classes on how to sale and market yourself instead of studying abstract Computer Science stuff.

Perception is Reality

I took the time to read your other question that got closed. It sounds like you are putting the wrong things on your resume, and don't really have a handle on what hiring managers what to see.

  1. They want to see quantified accomplishments. You don't make any business accomplishments while you are un-employed for an extended amount of time.
  2. They want to see that you understand their business.
  3. They want to see that you know what they need you to do and how you are the best person for the job.
  4. They don't want to see a laundry list of skills and responsbilities without any context of how they were applied.
  5. They don't want to see anything that is un-related to their business.
  6. They don't want to see anything that would give them even the slightest hint to immediately dis-qualify you.
  7. They want to see someone that has a personality that will fit in with their team, even the slightest hint of disrupting a team, regardless of technical skills will cause rejection.

Prediction ( Real Advice )

Lots of rejections now is not a good sign can mean a one or more things:

  1. You aren't qualified for what you are applying for.
  2. Your resume is sub par in its presentation.
  3. Your skills, how ever high are not in demand where you live.
  4. Your geographic location is depressed from the economy and there are many other more qualified people available.

Do this and you will be taking a step backwards and really putting yourself in a bad position for future opportunities.

  • 2
    @JarrodRoberson, "lots of rejection" is totally normal. How much do we mean by "lots" anyway? I'd estimate that 50% rejection (after in-person interview) is the best an elite candidate with superb job-hunting skills applying for a perfect-fit job can hope for. That doesn't even count that the vast majority of inquiries (applications w/o interview) never go anywhere. I'd say that if the OP wants to get out in a hurry, he should be interviewing by phone or in-person at least once a month and plan for a search that could last several months to one year. – Angelo Jul 16 '12 at 10:47
  • 2
    @JarrodRoberson, OK, of course the ratio that really counts is how many offers vs how many full interviews. I don't know what your field is but 90% call-back from initial contact seems unbelievably high. Are these cold leads or introductions from common collegues? Oh yeah... I agree that the way the OP responded to your answer is sort-of a red-flag that something else is going on. I am just interested in what constitutes a "normal" rejection ratio at this point. – Angelo Jul 16 '12 at 18:23
  • 2
    @Angelo look at my profile, I have been working with software development since the 80's. I only apply for jobs I know I am a good candidate for, and most applications are blind/cold leads to recruiters and companies alike. I realized long ago, that the technical stuff was easy, getting the job was harder work than doing the job, and more important, so I focused on having an incredible resume that I got professional help with writing it and learning how to modify it for specific jobs, and have studied NLP persuasion skills and how to market myself for years. – Jarrod Roberson Jul 16 '12 at 18:31
  • @JarrodRoberson, ...And to continue my response: While I'll agree that attitude is important, it appears you lack experience in working for bigger companies whose focus is on the technical capabilities/intelligence of their candidates. I was looking for some real advice for this concrete situation, not some laundry list of general-purpose answers for people who looking for a new job. I already understand that I am not doing well on the interviews technically. Just because you have "20 years of consulting" experience doesn't make you any more reputable. – John Do Jul 16 '12 at 19:57
  • 2
    If you don't want boring you have to take a little career risk. I've mostly worked for volatile little SME's, been made redundant twice, had two TUPE transfers & never been paid as much as friends in large companies, but I've rarely had a boring day, get to work with amazing hardware (lasers, robots, military microwavers etc.) & got to travel around the world. Now I get to help scientists do cutting edge science and its great! – Mark Booth Jul 17 '12 at 12:29
18

You have a job, you may not be thrilled with it, but you have a job. I have never been without one but on a couple of occasions it has been close. The contract was not renewed and everybody was scrambling. When the deadline is looming people take any decent job, they need to earn money.

I have interviewed potential employees who were in similar situations. They decided they needed a break, they had savings available, and no big financial responsibilities. In every case they said the hardest part was that the time priorities changed for them. Waiting a day or two to hear back from a company just depleted more cash. Even if they got an offer, it was amazing how much time it takes to go from submission of resume to interview, to second interview, to offer, to pre-employment tasks, to start date.

Before putting in your two weeks notice you need to turn the corner regarding applying for jobs. You need to know why you weren't hired. And you need to fix those problems. It might be a better resume, or better phone interview skills. One approach is to have a recruiter try and get you a job, they are motivated to fill positions. Take their advice about the basic things: resume format and keywords, interviewing, responding to job descriptions...

Think of your paycheck as delaying the day when you are broke. Quitting your job starts the clock ticking, working another month can move the deadline a few months. Checkout ideas on the money stack exchange site to start saving and budgeting so that you can survive as long as possible. Make the changes a few months before you quit.

If you are determined to quit before having the next job lined, be honest with how much time you be able to dedicate to improving yourself. Also keep in mind that if improving yourself takes time and money before you can prove to potential employers that you have those skills, plan on how you will prove it to them. You can't say I read a book, or solved 20 problems on project Euler. Your best bet will be to see if you can gain the skill while helping your current employer.

Sometimes you can take on additional responsibilities with your current company, in other cases the path within the company is blocked. One approach is to look for entry level position for that skill set. If you had enough money saved to go without work for 12 months, you could survive for years at 75% of your old salary while picking up the new skills.

  • thank you for the solid advice. I am going to revise my question so it is more clear. Thank you. – John Do Jul 17 '12 at 1:36
  • +1 - "you could survive for years at 75% of your old salary while picking up the new skills" – Joel B Jul 17 '12 at 2:36
10

I will point out that if you are not getting offers while you are employed, you will have an even lower chance of getting offers if you are unemployed as many companies do not consider the unemployed at all. Quitting your to look for work is probably the single biggest mistake you could make. Consider taking that money you have available and hiring a life coach. Someone who will help you design a better resume and teach you how to better market yourself. Or use some time volunteering for the local users group to make contacts.

  • @HGLEM, thank you for the input. I am not sure if I should edit my post now or respond here to clarify up a few things. It's my fault for not being very specific and clear about my situation. My resume is actually pretty solid. The way I see it is: a resume is an entry point into interviewing in the first place. If you have a subpar one, you won't land an interview at all. That being said, I have been reached out to by a ton of big name companies in the Bay Area. The issue isn't with my resume. Can you explain why it's difficult if you aren't employed? Are you in the software industry? – John Do Jul 16 '12 at 16:54
  • Yes I am in the software industry. Many companies, due to having too many resumes, do not consider the unemployed at all. It is a way for HR to cut down the applications to a reasonable number. It is terrible policy and I think it is wrong, but it is the way life is right now. It is not in your best interests to put yourself in that pool of people. And the longer you are unemployed the worse it is. If you stay unemployed over six months, even companies without a policy of eliminating the unemployed may presumme that you aren't worth bothering with. – HLGEM Jul 16 '12 at 17:11
  • When I read this question you posted about how to embellish your resume and you use the word blemish instead as well as other sloppy grammar and spelling mistakes, I don't get any impression that your resume or writing skills are adequate in todays market. The focus on things like "Java data structures and algorithms" shows a fundamental lack of what should be on a resume. – Jarrod Roberson Jul 16 '12 at 18:09
  • 3
    @JohnDo: "I am not sure if I should edit my post now or respond here to clarify up a few things." You should edit your question. Most people aren't going to to bother reading all the comments. – Keith Thompson Jul 16 '12 at 19:56
  • 4
    @JohnDo - You could have a great resume and the exact skills we are looking for but if your responses here are an indication of how you treat your coworkers and prospective employers, then I think that you are refusing to consider what the real problem is. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 16 '12 at 20:43
6

In my career, there were always times the job was challenging and times it was rather quiet. I used the quite periods either for further training and / or to gather strength for the coming challenges.

What prevents you to use the time now? After your talking, you should not be too stressed in the evening and so you can use the time for your studies. Have you ever done anything to speak with your superiors in the current company? In my experience, you can mention that your like to take on new tasks.

I, just for myself, would not cancel the job without a new one. You've got the luxury of a paid job that does not stress you too much. If you really want to change, then use the time now.

  • Thanks for the input. I have spoken to my supervisor on several occasions that I wanted to work on larger projects but it's just the nature of the company. It hasn't been doing well and has extreme lack of transparency. I am pretty set on leaving the job because I haven't been presented with any opportunities and challenges to further me in my career. I have done self-studying on the side here and there but I think that if I can devote my own time to it, It would be a good investment. – John Do Jul 16 '12 at 5:27
  • 1
    @JohnDo - If you are not having luck getting job offers, I strongly suggest you stay at your job, until you get at least one offer. It sounds like there might be an underline reason your not getting offers, I can tell you, your attitude is really poor. You need to understand the reason you are failing at those interviews. – Ramhound Jul 16 '12 at 14:19
  • @Ramhound, thanks for your honest advice - but the reality is in software, and especially for big name companies (at least in the Bay Area), "attitude" isn't a major factor. Quite the the opposite, what it really comes down to is your technical capability that dictates most of the hiring decisions. It's not to say attitude is totally overlooked. I want to also clarify that I have been getting offers along with several rejections - Probably 1 acceptance for every 4 rejections. I apologize that my attitude has reflected poorly on this thread; I am very pleasant in real life, promise. – John Do Jul 16 '12 at 17:00
  • 1
    @JohnDo well you admit yourself technical ability is not adequate, as a technical hiring manager I can tell you a humble attitude and passion makes up for years of "technical capability". Two years of experience isn't much in the grand scheme of the software development industry. Technical ability is the lowest thing that a hiring manager and your potential peers consider when deciding who they are going to spend most of their waking life working with! Think about it! – Jarrod Roberson Jul 16 '12 at 18:17
6

I wanted to contribute an answer, since my current situation has some parallels. I left my job as a software developer in a large corporate, back in February, without another one lined up.

Since then, I've spent 4 months travelling in South-East Asia. Now, I'm up-skilling in web and mobile development so I can either freelance or get part-time work in a smaller company. I also have a startup project I'm working on.

Things I did before I quit: saved a lot of money, built a lot of contacts, knew almost for certain that I had fall-back options if things went wrong (including possibly returning to my previous employment). I know how difficult it is to learn new skills, look for jobs, work full-time and still have any kind of family and social life. Have you tried asking for a reduction in hours? e.g. going part-time.

I don't know how the American job market differs from the UK one, but I've never worried about explaining the gap in my CV. I've managed to do some freelance work already, and I'm keeping busy with other relevant projects. If I had quit and done nothing for 6 months, then I'd be more self-concious.

I've not found it too hard to generate interest in my services, through recruiters and networking. If I wanted a full-time, typical software developer job, I'm pretty sure I'd have plenty of options. Since I'm looking at something less straightforward, it'll probably take me at least a few months before I have a routine and a steady income.

My advice would be:

  1. Try and reduce your working hours, rather than quit. Failing that find something else part-time you can do to sustain yourself, unless you have significant savings you're happy to drain.
  2. Join local meetups and groups e.g. hackathons, coding dojos to improve your skills and build-up some contacts. Meetup.com is what I use for that.
  3. Make sure a job in Silicon Valley is really what you want - consider what you're good at, what you enjoy, and what the reality of such a job is. I answered some of the questions on this UK government web-page to help me understand the same things: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Jobseekers/JobsAndCareers/DG_073361
  4. Get an expert's perspective on why your previous applications may have failed. If you know an experienced industry professional, perhaps someone that works for a Silicon Valley company...show them your feedback, resume and everything else relevant. The more perspectives the better, so consider asking a few people.
  5. Build up your social profile e.g. on github, stackoverflow, blogging, twitter. Use this to showcase your work and expertise. A lot of companies like to see examples of high-quality code, and demonstration of passion and influence in the community.
  6. Be assertive - you sound low on confidence at the moment, which I can understand if you're in a tough situation. Still it's important to have confidence in your abilities and a determination to succeed. Without wishing to sound too corny, maybe spend some time focussing on the positives of your current situation, your strengths, and your achievements.

Hope that helps in some way. Good luck!

5

I'm putting this a separate answer to my original one as it is based on the information in the comments and thus is going to be far more extensive than what I originally wrote.

First, it appears from your other question that you only have two years of experience. This mean you are entry level. Therefore the strategies to find a job are significantly different than those for those of us who are much more experienced and the risk of being unemployed for a long period is significantly higher as junior programmers area dime a dozen.

Someone with ten years experience can probably quit without it harming him too much as highly experienced people are in far greater demand. You still have to consider what I said about some companies excluding you simply for being unemployed, but the senior developer has more ways to get around HR than the junior one does and thus it isn't as critical.

With only two years of experience, you are going to be far more harshly judged in terms of whether you will fit into the organization because you don't have a track record of accomplishment. Nothing in the way you have presented yourself would lead me, as an experienced person who has done a lot of hiring over the years, to even consider you as a prospect. There are much better folks who don't have the attitude problem out there.

You are unrealistic about what companies want (none of them are solely interested in technical qualifications), you want to quit because you are bored, you behave in a childish and unprofessional manner (Calling names). You appear to want to work for only some big name in software. Apparently you have not yet learned that all jobs (even at big name companies) have their boring moments and you have to be able to work and work well whether you are bored or not.

You say you have asked for more interesting work and blame the company because you haven't gotten it. If you are blaming them in interviews that is one big reason why you are not getting hired. Perhaps you don't understand that you will not get assigned to the interesting work unless you are doing the boring work well. The fact that your own boss doesn't care to give you those assignments should be a HUGE red flag to you that you are not as great as you think you are and that he doesn't care if you leave.

Further, you appear to think that anyone with more experience can't possibly be more familiar with the way people do hiring than you are. Frankly some of what you said to Jarrod was completely uncalled for. You need to learn to respect people who are senior to you in experience and learn from them. Almost all hiring officials fall into this category and we can generally tell when a person has a bad attitude towards people who are senior to him.

You really should pay attention when people with much more experience than you tell you that quitting is a bad idea. The software world is a small one and quitting because you are bored will easily get around to other companies and they will be even less interested in you than they are now.

However, should you go against the advice of everyone and quit, here is basically what you need to know:

  • The first, most critical part, is budgeting your money. Assume you will have to live a year on what you currently have in the bank. Make your budget so that the money lasts that long. That means cutting all unnecessary expenses, things like expensive cell phones (go for a cheap plan and use it only for job hunting) and tv cable will need to be the first things you get rid of. Eating out is next. Then pretty much any entertainment expenses, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.

  • Next treat skills enhancement and job hunting as your job. That means dedicating specific hours to do them and nothing else. This is a 9-5 job, you need to treat it that way. It is really easy to while away the hours unproductively, so you have to start from the beginning, treating this seriously. Make a plan to spend four hours each day in skills enhancement with a plan for exactly what you want to accomplish. Then make a separate plan for which companies you are going to contact and how you are going to go about searching for a job for at least 4 hours every single work day. Get up each day at a set hour and go to work.

  • On the technical side, just studying the skills you want isn't good enough, you need to produce something to show prospective employers. Join an open source project to get the skills you need or create one on your own and produce an actual working product. Start working on answering the questions on Stack overflow. Try to answer them without reading the existing answers to get better at your chosen technology stack.
  • On the job hunting side, attend user group meetings and get to know your peers and volunteer to help with events and even to give presentations. Further, you clearly need to improve your people skills. So work on that as well as the CS skills.
  • Thanks for the honest advice. I guess I did get carried away with my responses to Jarrold, it was a bit of a reactionary thing. This is, after all, the internet. So there is a bit of autonomy when it comes to responding impulsively. However, it appears that this forum is a lot more serious than I had anticipated, so I'll be more professional in my responses. I'll say that I am quite a pleasant fellow and nice to work with. I've had extremely positive reviews from my co-wowkers and supervisors, and have earned a 20% raise on my last performance review. Let me revise my question. – John Do Jul 16 '12 at 21:19
  • +1 @HLGEM for taking time read all the comments and write *another answer, this time closer to what OP really wanted to ask (and what took responder considerable effort to get out of him) – Peter M. Apr 19 '14 at 0:14

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.