A Letter For Fresh Grads & Final Year Students During This Difficult Time

November 26, 2022


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Actually, this is spontaneous advice that I usually gave to my former students when I was a laboratory assistant in 2018-2020. I often gave these messages to them at the end of the semester. Hope this also helps you to decide where you’ll develop your career.


I think 2022 will be better than 2020 and 2021. Then I realized it’s just the beginning of the worse case (hopefully not) when there are so many sudden layoffs around the world, especially in tech startup industries. It also affects our country, Indonesia, when several big startups lay off hundreds or even thousands of employees (including software engineers). So sorry to hear that, hope those who all impacted can get a better workplace.

Some of my former students got a job at a unicorn startup company. In the beginning, I saw them happy and enjoying their workplace. But suddenly, several days ago their Instagram Story turns out into sad or worrying things. I even figured out that some of them got stressed and have to be treated in a hospital😥 because it affected their physical health. Their dream job and company don’t make them happy anymore, it’s even terrifying for them. Thank God, they didn’t affect by the layoff, but because their teammates and leaders got laid off, it caused them to be stressed and overthinking during these days.

This case is not only causing panic for the experienced employees but also confusing the fresh grads or final-year college students who will get into the real world after their college. Some of my former students who will be graduating this year approached me several weeks ago and I wanted to help them, but during this hard time, there’s a lot of hiring freeze. Even if there’s a job vacancy (even for a tech-related job), it requires experience minimum of 1-2 years of work in the related industry. It’s difficult to find a suitable job for them.

This huge event makes me remember again the words that I usually sent to them at the end of the semester after the exam week. Hopefully, this can recall what to do next. This message is actually given when they reached the 7th semester, but I think it is still relevant during these difficult times.

Strengthen Your Fundamental Skills

Again I have to say, technology updates are very fast, especially related to the software engineering field. For example, in the frontend field, there are a lot of frameworks out there. Even there’s a myth that there’s a new JS framework every week. You might feel tired when you are still not finished yet to learn a framework, then another new framework appears and disrupts the community.

I also often received stories from those who got interviewed at some companies for internships in 2020. Most of them said that the questions are dominated by the basics of programming things like Object Oriented Programming, Web fundamentals, basic CSS layouts, and Data Structures. They also stated that they regret cheating in the exam. The score may be 100, but they have no actual skill.

I always said this thing to my former students when I was their laboratory assistant.

Instead of directly jumping into “fancy frameworks”, why don’t you start learning the basics first? It’s okay if this thing seems to cause you to be slow, but when you have developed the basics, it’s easier to get into the frameworks. Don’t be trapped by FOMO. Do your best for your exam, and don’t cheat or you’ll regret it soon. Your score may be perfect, but I can guarantee you will realize it’s useless when you apply for an internship or full-time job.

You can read my previous article to see why fundamental matters here.

Develop Your Own Online Presence

Instead of trying to apply for jobs by yourself, why don't you try to make the recruiter interested in you first so you don’t have to apply for the job by yourself?

In this case, I experienced it by myself. In 2021, before I resigned from my previous job, I developed my online presence by creating some mini-projects and publishing them on my LinkedIn. I started by creating my own personal web and also created some articles on it. It took about 4 months until I got a new job at my current workplace. I even didn’t apply to my current workplace by myself. A recruiter approached me through LinkedIn and I proceed with the recruitment process until I finally got the offer letter.

By doing this, I trained myself to create a mini-project and then expose it. This can cause me to create a proper web app that can be used not only by myself but also by other people who want to use it.

But I have to tell you that this tip may work differently for you. In my case, I can get a new job in 4 months because I expose my projects and articles to the public through LinkedIn. But I cannot guarantee you can get the same result as mine. But as long you consistently do it, you’ll gain the result soon or later.

You can read my story in my previous article here.

Don't Take It For Granted

I don’t say that being an idealist is bad. But see the current situation. In 2020 when the Covid pandemic began, it was so difficult to find a job. I also figured out that so many of my juniors struggled to find the internship job and end up extending their college time because so many companies do hiring freeze and just a few job vacancies out there.

The only advice that I can give to them is this.

As long it suits your role preference (for example frontend engineer) and it’s not a red flag company, go ahead.

If it’s the first time for you to get an internship or even a full-time job, don't take it for granted. It’s okay to join the local software house in your place. At least, it’s not a red flag company and gives you proper wage, it doesn't matter, go ahead. Develop your skills there, stay there for at least a year, and finish every project that has been assigned to you. It can be your portfolio for your next career journey.

You can read my story related to this point here. There’s some explanation of how I finally can get a new job after I struggled to finish the job at my previous company for a year.

Don’t Stop Learning and Improving

Last but not least, don’t stop learning and improving. After you got your first internship or full-time job, don’t forget to keep learning. Don’t stop there.

I have seen several of my friends achieve their dream job because of their consistency. I remember there was a friend who worked at a small software house company at Gading Serpong as a backend engineer for about 10 months, then he got a job at an insurance company. In around a year, he trained himself to do some Hackerrank code challenges every day and finally got a job at a unicorn startup company this year. I can say, he not only upgrade his skills, but also his value (and also salary💵) for the long run.


Oh before I close this story, I just want to tell a simple tip based on Gergely Orosz's tweet. Treat your career choices like you would invest your money. Don’t just focus on the high salary, but please understand the business model of the company to that you’re applying. Remember, these are the difficult times when there are a lot of uncertainties. It’s better to choose the company which has a clear model business and of course a profitable one, even the salary & benefit offer is lower than the others (at least it’s not underpaid and red flag company). This kind of company will survive or even keep growing during this time of crisis.

I hope this story can give you hope and new insights. Keep moving forward, as long you work persistently, it will be worth it. Let me know if there’s something that wants to be discussed, you can write it in the comment section below. You can also tell your own story if you want, so we can encourage other people who read this article.

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