You’ve heard this sage advice before, that the best time to look for a new job is when you have a job. Now a new twist — the best time to land your highest-paying tech job is when others are busy overworking in hope of being spared from the next layoff. While one-job Timmy worries about inflation and recession, multiple-job Mary is busy trading up to her highest paying tech jobs.
In this post, I’ll go over the tech economic cycle and a hypothetical conversation between two co-workers. I’ll conclude with the obvious — play job poker and get your highest-paying tech jobs before more people get desperate.
Tech economic cycle: hiring freezes, strategic layoffs, recession, rehire, and hypergrowth
Many in tech are familiar with this musical dance. But how come tech always seems to get stronger after a recession? Here’s the playbook: load up on cash, stay nimble (e.g. low fixed costs, layoffs), poach talent, invest in new product development, and grow out of a recession stronger.
The financial markets are often lagging indicators and we’re likely already in a recession. With record profits and low-interest rates in 2020-2021, Big Tech and startups are flush with cash. Tech is poised to ride out this recession and grow out of it stronger than ever. And with tech stocks down 20-plus percent, the next six months is the perfect time to land higher-paying tech jobs. Time to “lock-in” your cash flow security by landing jobs with higher base pay and more RSUs due to…you’ve got it, inflation and recession. Tech is weird in that you can get paid more landing jobs in a recession due to the factors just described above.
And why not? The truth is, the tech job market has always been hyper-competitive. And thanks to the pandemic, many of these jobs are remote-first. Everyone wants these jobs. I see hundreds of applicants applying for roles every day as a hiring manager. So it behooves you to get out there and land the highest paying tech jobs during a recession. If you don’t, someone else will. That’s the beauty of a free market.
Now onto our hypothetical conversation between one-job Timmy and multiple-jobs Mary.
How am I going to pay my mortgage if I get laid off?
Timmy (1J): Hey, Mary! How are you handling all these hiring freezes and layoffs? I’m so stressed about getting laid off and not being able to make my mortgage. It’s not like I can move and sell my house quickly with kids and all. Plus, it takes a long time to find a new job, especially as an experienced software developer. I’m sick of worrying. And now the boss wants us to work overtime to get this project done. Ugh.
Mary (3Js): I can only imagine the stress and anxiety you’re going through. You’re right, a mortgage is a huge fixed cost. That’s the risk we took when we bought a house, right? Employers have to watch out for their own fixed and variable costs too. And that’s why it’s easier to lay people off than sell machinery or other illiquid assets in a fire sale. In any case, would you like to take a lead on this project so you can get the credit you deserve? Why hasn’t management promoted you already!?
Not only does Mary make 3x more than Timmy, but she’s also willing to let Timmy lead this urgent project while she takes a backseat, coding and doing her jobs. By following the 12 rules of Overemployed, Mary is able to have time to upskill, interview, and land higher-paying tech jobs. Perhaps Timmy will come out of this recession unscathed if he’s able to keep his job and inflation doesn’t eat away his Family Inc.’s purchasing power. Then again, maybe not. Why take the chance? Grab them jobs, and increase your cash flow resiliency.
Why are all my job interviews rejecting me?
Timmy (1J): Mary, I just approved your pull request. Great job, really. So don’t tell anyone, but I decided to hit the job market and interview. You should do the same. Who knows what will happen after we’ve delivered this project. They might lay us off. By the way, I’m getting so many rejections! I guess I’m just a bit rusty from not doing any job interviews in the past five years. This is what loyalty, and maybe a tad of laziness gets me. Ugh. I might need to hire a career coach to set me straight.
Mary (3Js): Oh yeah? I’d love to pick your brain on the interview questions you’ve been getting if you don’t mind.
Timmy (1J): For whatever reason, I get a lot of system design questions. Maybe because I’m more senior than most interviewees and they expect me to also be like an architect? Who knows. Anyways, I just keep bombing and failing on them. Now I get so nervous when these questions come up.
Mary (3Js): Have you heard of leetcode? My friends told me that’s how they interview prep. I better start practicing too now that you’ve let me in on the secret. I also think I’m severely underpaid. With this crazy inflation, I need a new job that pays me better!
Timmy (1J): Shhh. Did you know Bob from HR gets paid more than any of us on the team? Ridiculous. And we’re the ones actually making the software that this company sells! I tell ya, the world has been turned upside down.
Timmy is way behind the eight-ball. Mary is a master of system design. More importantly, she has mastered the subtle art of likability and winning job offers. Mary always makes time to interview regularly to hone her skills at landing the highest-paying tech jobs. Regular practice interviews have enabled her to land more interviews at target companies and understand what their hiring managers are looking for. Timmy has got a lot of catching up to do.
Why do I keep getting lowball offers?
Mary (3Js): Hey, Timmy, I know we left off our last conversation talking about pay. Since we’re both in the same boat, I was wondering if you could share some insights into my compensation here and how much I should ask if I get a job offer?
Timmy (1J): Oh I can’t do that. Management doesn’t like us to share that information. I think they believe it causes jealousy if everyone knows about everyone else’s pay. But if you get a job offer, let’s just say from what I know you should ask for at least 50% more. <wink>
Mary (3Js): Oh my. Ok, thanks for the tip. How’s the job hunt? Are you getting any offers?
Timmy (1J): Boy I tell ya, it’s tough sledding out there. I might have a lot of experience in coding, but when it comes to offers and negotiations, I’m horrible at it. I keep getting lowball offers, not sure why. And when I try to negotiate for more pay I keep on hitting a wall. I might be doing it all wrong.
Well, when you’ve only one job, it’s hard to negotiate aggressively, especially when you’re worried about that one job laying you off. Timmy is already playing the job offer and negotiation game with one hand tied behind his back. Meanwhile, Mary is practically cheating (though not really cheating) in the negotiation phase. She knows how much she’s worth from her three jobs and can afford to always negotiate aggressively when appropriate. What’s the worst that can happen? That she gets a J4 offer rescinded?
How do I negotiate job offers into the highest-paying tech jobs
Mary (3Js): Well Timmy, it’s too bad we can’t share compensation information with each other. That would help with negotiating job offers a lot, especially in this fast-moving jobs market with inflation running so high.
Timmy (1J): Any tips? I’m such a horrible negotiator.
Mary (3Js): I’ll leave you with the first principle of negotiation my mom taught me – she was a master at scoring deals. Ask nicely. Back it up with reasons. Be ready to walk. After all, you can’t score if you don’t take some shots.
I’ve learned the best recipe for success in negotiation is preparation. Come to the table with a curious mind. All good negotiators ask open-ended questions to seek out what cards the other side holds dear. Then horse trade. Most of all, it’s a human craft that you can only get better by practicing.
I’ve got a couple of potential J3s in the offer negotiation stage. And as always, I return to this internet gem on salary negotiation as a reminder of why I negotiate — to feel out what I’m worth in the market.
Truth is, there are a couple of ways to get to your highest-paying tech jobs. First, you negotiate offers aggressively and be ready to walk away if you don’t hit your numbers. Or, second, you can upskill into a niche field with in-demand, high-paying skills. Both require time and effort.
Conclusion: Inflation and recession is the perfect recipe for landing your highest-paying tech jobs
There you have it, folks. Now is the time to upgrade your tech jobs and lock them in at the new rate. Just ask Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. Their HR knows what is up. They’re doubling their merit pay raises, finally. If the music continues to play, you keep dancing (borrowing a term from finance). And if you’re smart, you make sure you’ve two or three chairs stowed away somewhere when the music stops. You don’t want to be the one scrambling for a seat (or a job) in a recession.