You’ve probably heard a lot about discrimination based on race, gender, or religion, right? They are the popular ones. The ‘cool’ kinds of discrimination that all the kids are talking about. But there’s one kind of discrimination I’d like to discuss that’s rarely (if ever) brought up: Unemployment Discrimination. Particularly in the field of technology and software engineering. If you’ve ever had a gap in your resume because you haven’t worked for a while and then found that some potential employers don’t want to give you a shot because of that gap, this article is for you and how to work around it.
So, if you’re having a hard time finding a job because there’s a significant gap in your resume, this is what you do. When there’s a lack of opportunity, you create your own job. That is, create your own company. Every company that’s out there had a beginning. There’s no reason why you can’t start your own. Whether it makes money is besides the point; a lot of companies don’t make money in the beginning. The objective is to have something that you can focus on and apply technology skills to in order to help you learn and implement what you’re learning.
So you can think of some kind of company or website that offers a particular service, and then think of all the different types of technologies that you want to learn and then apply when you build out that website. For example, if you wanted to learn how to use .NET or Ruby on Rails or Amazon Web Services, you could incorporate what you learn about those technologies into your efforts to build out the website or application.
As for what kind of company you could create, that’s really up to you. One example could be a new idea for a dating website, maybe one where instead of you doing the searching, you pay someone else to do the searching for you. Another example might be a website where you can post business ideas and other people could try to take those ideas and bring them to fruition in exchange for compensating you. Or maybe you want to design a really intricate website that could be used for voting, maybe even in national elections. Anything you come up with could work. And any of those ideas could be developed using Java or React or PHP or similar technologies. (By the way, if you do happen to use any of these ideas for your website and you become super successful and rich and famous off of them, please do throw a few million my way. Just kidding. Or am I?)
Now, realistically, you could just be working on learning various technologies through tutorials. And when you’re applying for a job, you could be on par with anyone else, or depending on the tutorials that you’re using, maybe even more current than the individuals who have been working at that job for a while on just one particular technology. But the truth is, when looking for work, many employers in the real world don’t really care much about tutorials. They don’t look at it as a real job. And there are a lot of employers out there who won’t even ask what you’ve been learning or give you a chance to show your skills if you tell them you’ve been working on tutorials because they just write it off as ‘not a real job’. Which, frankly, is a bozo move. What employers should do is give you a technical exam and see where you’re at, whether you’ve been working on tutorials or creating your own app or whatever you’ve been doing. They should give you a chance to show them what you know regardless. But a lot of them don’t. Like I said: bozos. So that’s why you’re better off using what you’ve learned to create your own application for your entrepreneurial project.
So now you’re probably thinking: “Okay, Reynald, so you want me to create my own company, uh huh, I got that, but where do I start?” Great question! First of all, you need to have an idea. Paperwork aside, all a company really entails is you deciding what you want to do and how you want to do it, and then you’re already most of the way there. Of course, to make it legitimate, you do need to file some paperwork. You have the option of being an LLC, a partnership, or a sole proprietor; if you’re curious about what each of those means, the Small Business Administration has some good definitions: bit.ly/2W5tv7r.
Briefly, the major difference between a sole proprietorship and the other forms of companies is that when you have a sole proprietorship, come tax time they use your social security number to identify you as a company as opposed to giving your company a unique tax ID number. In fact this is one of the reasons people have companies and corporations in the first place, so that they individually can’t be sued and held liable for things that happen, and instead people have to deal with the corporate entity. Whereas, when you’re a sole proprietor, you can be held individually responsible. However, for our purposes, I would say a sole proprietorship is probably enough. We’re just talking about starting something up for the sake of having the title of a company, and if you’re not selling any goods yet then you don’t have to worry about anyone suing you.
Okay, so let’s say you’ve decided to become a sole proprietor. Your next step is to get a business license. Now, it might vary from state to state, but I live in California and what I did is I went to City Hall (or you can go on their website of course) and just filled out the paperwork. There are some businesses out there that will offer to fill out the paperwork for you, but you truly don’t need them. They’ll charge you a few hundred dollars for something that takes a few minutes. It’s really not worth it. So, take my advice, fill it out yourself and pretty soon you’ll have a business license. You may also be required to fill out a Fictitious Business Name Statement for the name of your company. But the most important thing is the business license.
You’re also going to want to open a bank account for your business separate from your personal account, which will make things a lot easier when it comes time to do your taxes. If you’ve opened up a bank account before then you know that it’s really no big deal. They might have you fill out a couple extra pieces of paperwork since it’s for a business but it should be pretty simple. You also want to make sure to keep track of your expenses because one of the perks of having a business is that you can write off certain expenses as being necessary for your business. However, you do want to be careful to use that benefit in the right way and not abuse it, because it can absolutely backfire on you.
After that, you’ve officially created your own business! Now you can build a website and decide what technologies you want to learn and apply in building it out. And you can put it on your resume so instead of having a blank space where you weren’t working, now you’ve been working on your own business. And hey, who knows? Maybe what you’re working on will end up flourishing and you’ll figure out how to actually make a profit from it and that becomes your focus. But even if it doesn’t, it’s still a great way to apply technologies on your own in a way that employers will respect when they see your resume.
Also, you don’t actually have to do everything all on your own. If you run into a stumbling block in creating your business or if the workload becomes too much, you can always go on Indeed.com and snap up an intern fresh out of a coding bootcamp to help you. Or if it’s a really serious hurdle and you’re willing to pay a little to get it resolved, that’s what consultants are for. You can go to a website like Upwork and find somebody with particular skill sets in Angular or C# or Java or Sequel or whatever you need and get them to troubleshoot that bug for you so you can continue on your way, coding until completion.
So now you’ve come up with your idea for your sophisticated website, you’ve made it an official business, you’ve done the parts that are relevant for you to learn, and if you’ve gotten stuck, you’ve gotten some help. The only real next step is to deploy that website, publish on GitHub, and show it to employers as part of your portfolio. Now, some employers don’t always look at demos or portfolios. They just want to go through a bunch of candidates and ramble off some tech questions and call it a day. But if you take the initiative to say, hey, I would really like to show you a project I’ve been working on where I created this application, is that all right? Then most likely they’ll say yes. And if they don’t, well, to be honest, that’s a bit of a red flag. Remember that you’re interviewing them just like they’re interviewing you. If they don’t care to see even a little bit of your work, something that you’re excited about, that you think might be relevant for them to know, what does that say about them as a boss? What other times are they not going to listen to you?
Anyway, that’s my advice for avoiding unemployment discrimination. In short: if you don’t have a job and are worried it will create a gap in your resume, make your own job to fill that gap by creating your own company. And then tell your friends how awesome and helpful this article was and how they should totally read it.
Video version of this article can be found here: https://youtu.be/MhYdeNM850c.