Recession-proof your software engineering career

Software engineering is generally an employee’s market.

In 2019, demand for frontend and backend engineers grew 17%, according to Hired’s 2020 State of Software Engineers Report. In 2018 there were 23 million software developers and by the end of 2019 that number had grown to 26.4 million. 67% of IT managers said they planned to expand their teams in 2020.

But as COVID-19 spurs layoffs, furloughs and hiring freezes, hopes of a V-shaped recovery are vanishing. Where companies once fought each other for talent, software engineers are likely to find themselves out of work — many for the first time. To help you prepare for what’s next, I’ve talked with software developers who’ve been through previous recessions to get their advice on what moves to make now to put yourself in the best position possible in a recession. Let’s start with your network.

Cultivate your professional network

Workers with large, powerful professional networks get hired faster, earn more money and enjoy more professional success than their less-connected peers, according to Harvard Business Review. One survey showed referrals brought in 78% of recruiters’ best candidates. Another survey showed 70% of new hires had a personal connection at their company and 80% of professionals considered networking important to career success.

In a recession, you’ll be competing with far more software developers for each role. So it will be vitally important to set your resume apart with a personal recommendation. Companies often don’t even publicly post their best jobs. “The only reliable way to find a job is through your network,” said Grant Gould, Senior Software Engineer, Toyota Research Institute.