Sophia Cheong (25), worked as a host in a Korean barbecue restaurant while she was completing her Fullerton College business administration degree. After graduating in 2018, she was promoted as assistant general manager and eventually director of operations.
Then, a colleague taught her how code was written. 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 wanted to change careers for a while. So when restaurants began to layoff employees during the pandemics, she offered to be one of them.
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 her graduation, she started looking for a job.
Sophia was online Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. for every entry level software engineering job or internship. She sent applications to 18 countries around the globe. She also built an online portfolio and reached out to tech recruiters daily.
“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.
Hack Reactor had a great reputation and thought she would be hired within 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. She moved in with her parents to help her get through the difficult job search and unemployment. Although this helped with some financial pressure, it did not alleviate the mental hardships.
Sophia had been rejected 357 time by large and small companies, and was interviewed by 40 employers six months into her job search. Interviewers frequently asked Sophia why she changed careers and how her experience in the service sector would benefit her 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 suggested she contact them again in a year after she has gained more experience.
Sophia was supposed back at the restaurant and she received two job opportunities. The second was for a junior software engineer position at Homee that would pay 120% higher than her previous 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 a degree in business administration, happily accepted the job. She also posted about her difficult job search experience on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, thousands of applicants had the exact same experience. They all flocked to the comments to share their stories and get advice.
“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.”
Sophia, congratulations for landing your dream job! 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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