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What is a hiring manager's opinion on a candidate who takes some time after being laid off to work on side projects/freelance?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer [SDE 1] at Amazona year ago

I am an SDE1 that was recently laid off from AWS (~2 YOE total). Lately, I have been reflecting on what I wanted to do/what really excites me. I really enjoy software development and while I do want to get another job one day, I wanted to use this opportunity to scratch my entrepreneurial itch and create apps/websites/side-projects for fun or for many small business owners I know that need someone to create software for their business. I'm not sure how long this "break" will be but I would say ~2 to 3 months time. Part of this is inspired by Alex Chiou's love for side projects.

I understand that finding a job will take some time as well, so the total gap on my resume that will be filled by this freelance work/applying might be ~6 months total. I understand that there are other posts on Taro that talk about the impact of a career break but this won't necessarily be a break per se. On my resume I will put this down as freelance work I completed for clients and will be prepared to show potential employers a portfolio of what I did.

I was wondering if this would negatively reflect on my application when applying for SDE jobs again/will make it harder for me to land a job. Alternatively, I could begin applying and interview prep now and only work on these projects on the side. Thanks.

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Discussion

(2 comments)
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    As a former hiring manager, I can say that this would definitely not reflect negatively on you, assuming you have a well-rehearsed and polished discussion about how you spent the time. Two reasons for this:

    1. Assuming your projects are published and have users, your value as a candidate may actually go up! How exactly this is viewed will depend on the company, but broadly speaking, being able to come up with an idea, build an app, and actually attract users is great. And even if not, if you define this period as freelancing, I'd still count that as experience.
    2. You have the Amazon brand on your resume already. For a hiring manager, your profile is already de-risked in some ways since you've cleared the Amazon hiring bar. So you have much more leeway in doing something that may be considered experimental.

    I'd encourage you to document some learnings when you're doing interview prep: an interesting technical challenge you encountered building your own projects, along with your (thoughtful) approach to product development.

    Excited to see what you build -- ping Alex and me in Slack if you want feedback! Here's the masterclass on building projects which actually get traction.

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    Senior Software Engineer at IBM
    a year ago

    From what I've seen, hiring managers are trying to fill closer to 100% of the reqs on a job posting right now since the market is so flush with talent. That being said, if you follow Rahul's advice and have trouble, it sounds like someone would be missing out on an amazing junior. Keep in touch though as I'm building out a network of entrepreneurs. Right now is a great time to make the jump:

Amazon.com, Inc. is an American multinational technology company which focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, and much more. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, it has been referred to as "one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world".
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