There are several points on which this job market has been misrepresented:
- Companies are misstating “qualified” to exclude people who are overqualified or who do not have paid experience in an equivalent skill.
- The employment statistics do not include consultants who are generating income for their own companies on corporation-to-corporation contracts, nor if they lack those contracts.
- Unemployment numbers do not include those who left their jobs voluntarily.
- Employment numbers do not include authors or songwriters who are able to live off of their royalties, nor mark them as unemployed when they are unable to.
All of these points pertain to me.
I have been rejected from every one of the hundreds of software development jobs to which I have applied since April of last year. My first software development job was at BOCES in Yorktown in October 1974. In that job, to teach myself APL, I wrote a checkers-playing program which evaluated possible moves using a depth-first, subsumption-checking, best-worst-metric search. In other words, I wrote an AI program as a 16-year-old high school senior and, yes, I learned APL by reading the manual and applying the syntactic knowledge I gained from that reading. In every job or contract since then, I have applied the same skills. Every one of my employers and clients has been pleased, if not overwhelmed with those skills. I have also maintained a professional integrity which has run afoul of office politics. I have been laid off due to change of management or budgetary decisions. I have left or been laid off from failing companies. I have voluntarily left positions for family reasons or to pursue my mission in life.
My decision to leave my last position was in part pursuing my mission in life and in part family reasons. The lack of book sales for The Way Out and Popular Capitalism has placed greater emphasis on getting a job in software development, but I have been pursuing that job search in earnest for a year now. In April 2018, I expressed to that employer my desire to relocate to New York City to focus on my writing and publishing, and other ventures, but had already been looking for software development work there more than a month prior to that. Some five years prior, I had been in the running for two separate software development positions paying about $350K, getting to the final three for each. Moreover, I had been seeing open positions paying $240K for someone with my breadth and depth of software development experience. At the very least, I expected I could fall back to a generic $120K software development job in New York City.
Little did I know then that this past year would be the most difficult job search I have ever experienced in my entire professional life as a software developer. I have had bad technical job markets in the past 44 years, starting off with that first software development job, ending with a $1 million budget shortfall which had me unsuccessfully looking for a summer job before starting college. What makes this job market so horrible is the deception, using digital communications to falsely claim job openings and to prevent in-person application for a job, whether posted or not. The lack of an in-person connection with the company makes it possible for a company to seal off its technical staff from any available and well-qualified worker, whether as a prospective employee or as an independent consultant. If tentative contact is made with the company itself, usually through a recruiter or, rarely now, a member of its human resources staff, it can be abruptly and completely scrubbed because that contact is impersonal. Nobody answers the phone or the contact is not there. The emails go unanswered or are made impossible with do-not-respond email addresses. In the parlance of the day, the job applicant is ghosted by the job poster.
It is as if the application was never made. Then the same so-called “open position” appears on the job apps, a week or so after one was rejected. The app or automated emails from some ghost named “Phil” cheerily declare that you are precisely the sort of software developer they are wanting for the same position. Warily you apply again, your application is being viewed, viewed again and then… nothing. And so it has gone for the past half-year since I downloaded the job apps.
Though we are anonymous e-applicants with no interconnection, I suspect that we are a legion of uncounted, unemployed software developers all applying for a smaller number of open positions. The reason why companies would engage in this charade is seen in one of the demographic questions they require you to answer, the one about work authorization. If companies can claim that they cannot find any qualified United States citizens to fill their positions, they can beg the federal government for more H-2B visa workers.
It is only when open software development positions are filled with H-2B employees, who are getting paid a fraction of the going rate for United States citizens due to their being indentured servants, that they are marked as new hires. This whole scheme is a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment, but none of the politicians will put an end to it. Campaign money from companies profiting from cheap, illegal, indentured servitude labor is keeping politicians in Congress. Thus, any politician, including the President, is averse to calling the H-2B program out. It will take a citizen revolt to eliminate H-2B and the entire worker visa program.