Recent grads send in hundreds of apps in unfamiliar, shrinking market

Briana Morris knew the job hunt would be difficult this year. The Tampa, Fla., college graduate and computer science major began sending out job applications as massive layoffs began to hit the tech industry from top to bottom.

Her total number of requests: 500. She tracked them in a spreadsheet.

“The competition is very fierce,” said Morris, 23. “I really want to get into cybersecurity, and they don’t have a lot of entry-level positions.”

It’s a new reality for college students and recent grads who hoped to enter the tech industry and have watched tech giants and startups hire new hires over the past few years. But they are now applying for tech jobs at perhaps the worst time in years, as nearly every part of the sector from streaming services to robotics has laid off people or frozen hiring.

Technology, information and media hiring is at its lowest level since July 2020, according to a LinkedIn report on Thursday, which cited a “painful recalibration of a sector that saw a massive hiring surge during the pandemic.”

This recalibration shattered some people’s dreams of where technology was headed, as cryptocurrencies crashed, self-driving cars fizzled, and meta-versions of virtual reality struggled to develop.

About 91,000 people have lost their jobs in the tech industry this year, according to NBC News statistics on layoffs at companies that have laid off 100 or more people.

In interviews, some potential tech workers said they are moving plans at least slightly, by entering neighboring fields or looking for areas with minimal risk, given the industry’s turmoil. And they’re preparing for a potentially grueling job search.

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It’s not the job market some expected when they started studying computer science.

“It’s really rough right now,” said Owen, 22, who asked that his last name not be used so as not to jeopardize his job prospects.

He graduated in computer science in December 2021, a time he now sees as the “beginning of the end” of the latest tech boom. He said he also submitted about 500 applications before starting a job this month as a software engineer at a small company in the Atlanta area.

“It made sense in hindsight,” he said of the wave of layoffs. “But as a promising new graduate, you don’t realize it until it’s already happening.

But he and others also said they weren’t particularly pessimistic just yet. While big bets on ideas like cryptocurrencies have disappointed tech investors, other innovations in robotics or artificial intelligence have caught the attention of newly minted computer scientists.

“There’s always some new fad, and that fad always dies at the same time,” Owen said.

Morris, who graduated from Western Governors University this month, said she made it to the third round of interviews with the cryptocurrency exchange but declined an invitation to continue the interview process because she was scared off by the turmoil in the sector, including the collapse of the FTX exchange. The company she interviewed with later announced layoffs.

Cryptocurrency jobs have been particularly hard hit. The number of cryptocurrency job openings posted in November was 36% lower than in October and 54% lower than the number in November 2021, according to LinkedIn.

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“I was super happy I didn’t follow through,” she said. Instead, a major financial institution offered her a job in cybersecurity—her first offer—and she jumped at it. Cybersecurity, she said, “is pretty stable.” Cybersecurity firms have also been laying off workers, but the sector is still growing rapidly, CNBC reported in June.

Tech jobs have been very attractive in recent years not only because of the high salaries and stories of some employees being rich, but also because of the industry’s relatively relaxed culture and often generous perks like on-site yoga classes and laundry facilities. and free food.

“The culture is much more relaxed than other industries and the pay is as good or better than other industries,” said Rafay Kalim, 22, a senior at the University of Toronto.

Kalim said he is thinking about moving to New York or Seattle after graduation and has considered working at large U.S. tech companies that often help non-U.S. citizens get visas, but said that is now less likely.

“My best chances of getting a job in the U.S. have diminished a little bit,” he said of the recent layoffs. “If I want to go to the US in the future, it will depend on the recovery of these companies.”

With the immediate resurgence of technology uncertain, he said he is considering a position in finance as a trader, even though the culture in finance is a stark contrast.

The chances of young software engineers are not helped by the fact that there are far more of them than there used to be.

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Colleges and universities have grown in interest in computer science during the recent technology boom. The number of American students majoring in the subject jumped from 37,015 in the 2011-2012 academic year to 135,992 a decade later, according to surveys by the Association for Computing Research, a group of professors and industrial technologists.

Engineering has become the fourth most popular field of study at U.S. colleges and universities overall, surpassing the biological and biomedical sciences and psychology over the past decade, according to the Department of Education’s totals of degrees awarded.

“The field is incredibly saturated with all the people studying CS today,” said Steven Lam, a computer engineering major at Clemson University.

Lam, who is scheduled to graduate in December 2023, said he originally thought the tech layoffs would hurt lower-level people the most. Like others entering the tech landscape, he said he’s scoured sites like Reddit, Blind and LinkedIn, and said his current impression is that the layoffs are hitting mid-career engineers the most, who are demanding higher salaries.

He said he doesn’t have a specific area of ​​technology he’d like to work in, though there are several sectors he leans into — including cryptocurrencies. And he has time to graduate.

“There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the industry with all the layoffs going on, but I don’t think a lot of people should be afraid of that,” he said.

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