Mark Sanghoon Kim Empathy is Key

Job Searching and Grit

Job searching is tough. Anyone who has dealt with the ups and downs of job searching can relate. I am in the midst of my second web developer job search this year and I wanted to share about what I’ve learned during this process. This post will be in the context of searching for a software engineering/developer job while not having a job (if you’re working, these practices may not apply). I’ll also dive into a short portion on the topic of grit and how that’s been helping me through this time.

What I've Learned

Always be thinking about return on investment (ROI)

When applying to jobs, I understand that customizing your resumes and cover letters for a specific company might give you a slight edge over the competition, but it also might not. For example, let’s say you spend two hours researching the company and writing out a thoughtful cover letter, and you send it in. If you get no response or a rejection, you didn’t get a good return on the time you invested.

On the other hand, if you spend around 15-20 minutes per job application (I include using a prepared cover letter and customizing 1-2 sentences of it for the company), and send out 5 or 6 applications in the same time. If you even get 1 response for a phone screen, you got a much better return on your investment. Remember, ROI.

Take the emotions out of the search

Everyone has a dream company and a list of companies they would love to work for. While it’s nice to think about the possibilities of working for them while you progress in the application (apply online, phone screen, technical screen, etc), it can be more devastating when that application doesn’t work out for you. Avoid investing too much thought and energy into one specific application, especially if the time you invest doesn’t really help your other prospects.

For example, it’s GOOD to study hard for a company’s tech screen because it will help prepare you for other tech screens. On the other hand, it can be BAD to spend 20-30 hours on a company’s coding assignment because (a) you don’t know if those 20-30 hours will result in another interview, and (b) those 20-30 hours you spend may not help you for your other prospects. Again, think about ROI.

There will be many ups and downs during the job search and you will best be served to control your emotions as much as you can. Count your blessings and do a small celebration for each small victory. Don’t take rejections personally and bounce back from every set back.

Practical ways to optimize your job search

  • Update your resume - Get it reviewed, update, get it reviewed again.
  • Prepare a cover letter - At first, make it generic. Write a paragraph about yourself (what you’ve been working on, what you’re passionate about). Then write another short paragraph continuing the thought but also include one or two customized sentences that cover your particular interest in the company. You can also consider writing a sentence about recent exciting news about the specific company. I’m advocating this strategy in consideration for your ROI. Again, researching and writing a thoughtful, deep cover letter may help, but at what cost? I’d say even spending 20-30 minutes on a cover letter is too much time. You can probably do it in 5-10 minutes.
  • Apply to at least 5 jobs a day - Making it a routine helps with taking the emotions out of the search. Once you start interviewing, you will quickly improve with each step of each interview. Applying to 5 places a day will keep your job pipeline full and your skills growing/improving. Also remember, ROI.
  • Improve your skills daily - This means: study and do algorithms/data structures problems. Leetcode is an excellent resource. Practice on a whiteboard. Review/learn about JavaScript concepts, web development, etc. If you’re applying to frontend positions, make sure you know the answers to every commonly asked FE question, and vice versa for backend positions. Google is your friend.
  • Reach out to your contacts - Send your friend or colleague a quick “Hey, how are you doing? I’m currently job searching and noticed a job listing at your company that interested me. Would you be able to put me in contact with a recruiter or the hiring manager for the position?” Of course, sending these types of emails depends on your relationship with the person, so be tactful and considerate.
  • Consider cold-emailing recruiters/hiring managers - Find their email on LinkedIn and email them. This is helpful because it doesn’t take much time to do it, but the benefits can be immense. People are busy, and if you don’t get a response, don’t worry. You can follow up a week or two later. If nothing comes of following up, you move on.
  • Don’t give up - Even if it seems like nothing is working out, don’t give up. Job searching is a tiring, grueling marathon. Persevere.


According to Angela Duckworth, grit is defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” [source]. I’ve been listening to her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance in audio format, and it has been very interesting. The premises of the her research and study are: (a) grit matters more than talent and (b) that it’s possible to enhance your grit. While I won’t delve into much detail about her book, I want to stress that having grit is very important for job searching.

I try to view failures as opportunities to learn and grow, and I’ve found that this mentality especially helps during the job search. There will likely be many rejections before getting that offer. Whether you receive that rejection right after you apply online, or right after you’ve completed that last round interview, there is something to be gained from each rejection. It’s critical to not let any setbacks bring you down. This job search process is an excellent time to improve your interview skills, learn about web development and other software topics, and enhance your grit through all of the difficulties.

Good luck on your job search. Remember, ROI and grit!