Sophia Cheong, 25, worked as a host at a Korean barbecue restaurant in California while completing her business administration degree at Fullerton College. After graduating in 2018, she was promoted to assistant general manager and, eventually, the director of operations.
Then, a coworker taught her how to code. As cliche as it sounds, Sophia said that she “fell in love.”
If you’ve been looking for work but haven’t had any success, this software engineer’s job search story might just be the inspiration you need to keep going.
“I felt like it was my true passion. … I was getting up every morning really excited to learn,” she said.
Sophia had been wanting to switch career paths for some time, so when restaurants started having forced layoffs during the pandemic, she volunteered to be one of those let go.
She used the money she had saved from her restaurant job to enroll in a 13-week-software-engineering boot camp called “Hack Reactor.” There, she completed more than a thousand hours of full-stack coding. One week after graduation, she began looking for a job.
Sophia was on her computer Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to apply to every entry-level software engineering job or internship she could find, sending applications to 18 different countries around the world. She also reached out to tech recruiters every day and built an online portfolio.
“Looking for a job, especially if you have no prior experience, is so difficult, especially since everyone is trying to get back on their feet and there is someone always better out there,” Sophia said.
Because Hack Reactor had such a good reputation, she thought she would get hired after a month. However, that didn’t happen.
“But then one month turned to two months and then three and four, and I started thinking, ‘Oh my God, why am I not getting a job? What’s wrong with me?’” she wondered.
Sophia constantly heard about the national labor shortage and the growing demand for tech talent, but it didn’t inspire her. To help get through the grueling job search and unemployment, she moved in with her parents. While this eased some of the financial pressure, the mental hardships were still there.
Six months into the job search, Sophia had been rejected 357 times by companies big and small and interviewed with 40 employers. Most interviewers asked why she decided to switch careers and how her service industry experience would help her thrive in tech.
“Every time I would ask them why they didn’t continue with me, they’d say, ‘The other candidate is more senior than you,’” she said. Recruiters also suggested that she reach out again in a year when she has more experience.
Sophia was supposed to go back to working at the restaurant when she received two job offers. One was for a junior software engineer role at Homee, which would pay 120% more than her prior salary.
During the interview process, Homee’s Chief Technology Officer, Mitch Pirtle, told her that they’re all about “taking chances with the newcomers.”
“We know how hard it is to get your foot in that door,” the CTO said.
Sophia who graduated with business administration degree happily accepted the position and posted about her difficult job hunting experience on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, thousands of other applicants had the same experience, flocking to the comments to ask for advice and share similar stories of endless rejections.
“I know there are shortages just about everywhere,” Sophia told Insider. “But I also feel like there are so many people looking for jobs at the same time. I just don’t know why it hasn’t balanced out yet.”
Congratulations on landing your dream job, Sophia! And for the others out there who haven’t had much luck yet, your time will come, too—just keep believing and persevering.
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