Compassionate web developer looking for permanent work

Painted arrows on the street.
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As a London-based developer I haven’t had to worry almost at all about finding new work. But all the good and safe things eventually come to an end. My job situation is changing and I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Even if it’s been hard to stay with the uncertainty of not knowing what comes next, I’ve also been challenged to answer some important questions, like who I’d like to work with and how I’d like my daily working life to look like.

In my minor panic to sort my future out I also started looking for permanent, mainly part-time jobs. You’d say I’m lucky because there are lots of jobs available in my sector, even in a city like Berlin where unemployment is high. But what kinds of jobs?

There seems to be a certain pattern in the descriptions of job ads I find: there’s usually a technical description of the job, a list of required skills, an explanation of how they’d like the candidates to be like and a list of what the company offers. In most cases the job offer title includes a “m/f/d” to indicate diversity. At the end of some job ads there’s also something like:

We’re committed to equal opportunities and do not discriminate on the basis of, for example, ethnic origin, citizenship, religion or belief, political or other opinion, gender, age, disability or sexual identity or orientation.

This is great. I admittedly chose to work as a freelancer because I couldn’t cope working in male-dominated spaces. It’s been at times lonely but at least I didn’t have to be surrounded by people who didn’t share my values, nor I had to pretend I like beer. Maybe things are changing.

The main job description text though tell a different story. Here’s how one of them looks like:

You are determined to develop complex websites and apps in a user friendly way? You’re always in tune with the latest trends, you can’t fall asleep at night when there’s an unsolved performance problem concerning your project and you’re eagerly awaiting every new release? You’re always rooting for your favourite stack and would like to improve with every new project? Then you have come to the right place! 

The truth is that this ad describes a part of me pretty well. This part is determined to reach goals, can’t sleep at night if there are unresolved errors, always tries to improve and stresses over using the best and more up-to-date technology. But is that a good thing? This is what partly got me in high levels of anxiety and depression in the first place. For the past few years I’ve been actively trying to quieten that part, to prioritise self-care and time for rest, play and creativity. And now I’m starting to doubt whether I did the right thing.

Taking a look at the rest of the job ads what I usually find is long lists of required or desirable technical or practical skills. In most of them you need to be ‘fluent’ or ‘excellent’. They talk about required years of experience and technical abilities. I rarely find anything about other character qualities, such as empathy, openness and honesty, friendliness or conflict resolution skills. When they list what they offer, it’s usually info about where the office is, whether they offer complimentary coffee or snacks or transport tickers. It’s hard to imagine that a truly diverse working environment would advertise this way. It’s as if the descriptions were written by robots for robots.

Along all these, there also seems to be a set of requirements based on how long you’ve been in the business. It looks like the more experience you have, the more responsible you have to be. You should be able to manage teams, write perfect code, initiate projects and ideas and above all keep up with the most recent technologies, which is a job in itself. There’s no place for someone who makes mistakes, who has no interest in going up the career ladder, someone who is okay with little responsibility and a relaxed working every day life. The junior positions that have less responsibilities are mainly addressed to graduates.

I feel lost and scared. The past few years, with a lot of effort I reclaimed my life back in the healthiest possible way for me and the people around me. I’ve still been able to build well-functioning websites and improve my skills but in a slower and steadier pace. This very personal development work seems to stand in the way of me getting a job now. And the more I read these job descriptions, the more I feel I’m not enough.

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