Hi all. I got laid off in April from Amazon. I have been looking for a job since then but I am a junior engineer and I haven't been able to get an offer. Someone at Taro suggested that I fill the gap by claiming that I was working on my own startup. This could get me to the mid-level bar.
I thought about doing some personal projects and claiming that I was trying to monetize them but failed. I am concerned that recruiters and hiring managers are going to see right through that though. Side projects are ideally done on the side of my full-time job.
What are some ways that I can fill the employment gap and get to the mid-level before I secure a full time job?
The difference between a side project and a startup is:
It sounds like neither of these is true, so I wouldn't list it as "work experience". The risk is that you get asked in the interview about what exactly your startup did; if the interviewer feels like you were misrepresenting your experience, your chances at the job are shot.
However, if you do have a good story around the path to viability ($$), and you are working with a friend, calling this a startup is totally fair!
And if not, saying that you spent time working on an interesting side project is still valuable in your job search.
The main difference is in your narrative: you want to present the story that you were actively making decisions in your life. Something like this
I loved my time at Amazon, but I also had the itch to build something on my own, outside of the Big Tech bubble. The past X months showed me that I'm a self-sufficient engineer and I can quickly learn new technology to solve a problem
That's the feeling you want to communicate, NOT this:
I was laid off from Amazon for a while and didn't have a clear idea what to do, so I followed a few tutorials to create a few apps.
You're a passive participant in the last quote, and there's no direction around how you spent your employment gap. There needs to be a clear narrative for you to come in as a mid-level engineer.
Employment gaps are like the proverbial elephant in the room during job interviews, aren't they?
But let's reframe this:
Firstly, ask this tough question: Are you feeling inadequate due to your layoff and inability to find the next role since April?
What if I told you many skillful engineers are in the same spot as you?
Give yourself a break and tame your imposter syndrome.
It's killing your confidence to secure the next role.
Secondly, this is a golden opportunity for you.
Remember the .com bubble burst? The 2008 financial meltdown? They churned out scores of professionals with gaps, yet many bounced back stronger. Why? Because a gap is not a full stop, it’s a comma in your career narrative.
Brian Acton was in the same spot as you before he founded WhatsApp.
Now, about the advice to pretend you were working on a startup - it's a tempting narrative, isn't it? The allure of the entrepreneurial spirit. But let's not forget: honesty has a charisma that no fabrication can match.
So, how do you make this gap your ally?
Instead of a cover-up, own your story.
You were at Amazon, a giant in its field, and now you're on a journey of professional exploration.
That's not just a gap; that's a quest.
You mentioned personal projects. Excellent start.
But don't just do them - dive into them.
These projects are your mini-startups.
Failed to monetize? That's not failure, that's an invaluable experience.
Still listed as employed at Amazon? Update it, but smartly.
Mention your role, and under current activities, list your projects, your learning journey, your upskilling.
Transparency garners trust.
Connect with your peers, join forums, and attend webinars.
Be seen, be heard.
Your next opportunity might just be in the audience.
Focus on what skills you're gaining.
Mid-level isn't just a title; it's a skill set.
Hone it, showcase it.
Don't just fill your employment gap; illuminate it.
Make it a testament to your resilience, your learning, and your undeterred commitment to growth.
Because the right opportunity doesn't care about your gap; it cares about what you did with it.
Prepare for your behavioral interviews using my STAR+ method.