The software development industry is one of the fastest-growing industries globally.
With this growth, it's no surprise that there are now more software developers in the market than ever before.
But some folks are starting to question whether the industry is now somehow oversaturated? Particularly for junior developers hoping to catch their first break.
Among the supposed arguments for the software development industry feeling oversaturated is the increasing number of coding bootcamps and free online courses available.
These programs are designed to teach people the skills they need to become software developers quickly. As a result, many people are now graduating from these programs with similar skill sets, making it harder for junior developers to stand out.
Others are suggesting a boom in companies outsourcing their development work to countries with lower labor costs, making it harder for junior developers to find jobs in places like the US.
Finally, the rise of automation and artificial intelligence in software development could mean that there will be fewer jobs available for junior developers in the future.
But is there any truth in those statements?🤔 Or are they merely opinion? Let's take a closer look.
While those concerns are not totally unfounded, here are several reasons why I don't consider this to be the case:
The demand for skilled developers is still high, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of software developers is projected to grow 22% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. So, while there may be more junior developers in the market, there are also more job opportunities available.
And what about AI stealing everyone's jobs? Every single profession has the same or similar concerns. Automation isn't new. AI isn't new. Immigration isn't new. Offshoring isn't new. Industries will continue to adapt and new jobs will arise to replace the displaced jobs.
Job hunting can be a very personal experience, so it's important to not to get too wrapped up in the opinions of those around you. I've often found that people tend to exaggerate a situation and are quick to blame the 'system' for their lack of success. Individual anecdotes do not represent a realistic reflection of the market as a whole and are not backed up by data. From my own previous experience as a tech manager, recruitment is darn hard and in one instance, when we were desperate to find an entry level programmer in 2020, it took us 6 months to actually hire them! My contacts in the recruitment sector often express the same sentiment to me today - good developers, even junior-adjusted, are hard to find.
What can you do as a Junior Engineer?
Build Up Your Soft Skills to Stand Out
While there may be more junior developers in the market, there are still tonnes of opportunity. To really stand out, it's important for junior developers to focus on developing their skills, build a portfolio, and gain experience through internships, open-source projects, and personal projects. You should do this during your job search.
It's not just about building up your technical skills, it's also important to work on your soft skills, especially your ability to communicate and reason.
There are plenty of companies that are open-minded and flexible towards newbie engineers that show passion, a willingness to learn and high emotional intelligence. This includes big companies that gobble up engineers like Amazon.
It's easy to neglect networking, cos it just sounds hard. But do try. Attending meetups and conferences is an excellent way to meet other developers and learn about new technologies. Make sure to carry a business card with your personal deets and add folks you meet on LinkedIn. Building relationships with other developers could lead to job opportunities now, as well as in the future.
Many companies look for candidates with a specific skill set, such as knowledge of a particular programming language or framework. This means that junior developers who specialize in a particular area may have an advantage over their peers.
As you continue to work on your skills, try to identify your interests in the field. Is it app development? Or perhaps 3D rendering, data visualization or machine learning. If you're primarily a React developer, really delve into it, eg. master all the hooks. You also can't go wrong complimenting all of your skills with DevOps and Cloud engineering.
Here's the deal. What do you offer that makes you shine? Find your niche and you'll naturally become a better fit for the roles that need someone just like you.
If there's anything I've learned over the year, it's that your breakthrough job application could just be around the corner. Those who are able to persist through all the setbacks and failures are the ones who ultimately achieve their goals.
This idea is very much supported by the author, Napoleon Hill, in one of my favorite books, "Think and Grow Rich" (1937).
In the chapter: "The Power of Thought", he recounts an interesting story about an individual, described as the uncle of famous insurance salesman.
The uncle had decided to try his luck in the gold rush of the late 1800s.
He scouted a potential resource and went to work with pick and shovel. Remarkably, it wasn't long before he struck gold!
His lot in life suddenly looked very promising. Before long, he'd would be able to pay off all the debts he had accrued for machinery! To say he was thrilled, would be an understatement!
The initial excavation was so bountiful, they both thought that this must be richest mine in Colorado.
But suddenly, a few days into the excavation, the gold dried up, and the ore vein seemed to vanish. They frantically dug ever deeper but alas, their efforts yielded nothing. The once promising mine had turned out a dud.
The unlucky miner soon reached a tipping point and abandoned the pursuit, selling all the equipment to a scrap dealer for a meager sum.
The scrap dealer, or 'junk man', as they were called back then, was rather astute. He learned of the location of the mine and brought a mining engineer in to inspect it.
Remarkably, the engineer determined that a vein of gold was just three feet away from where the miner had stopped digger. The cause: He was unfamiliar with the directional patterns of fault lines!
The junk man went on to make millions. Why? Because he knew to seek expert council before giving up.
Napoleon Hill used the story to illustrate the importance of persistence in the face of obstacles and setbacks.
So, no matter how difficult the road may seem, don't give up on your dreams too soon. You might just be three feet away from gold - or, an incredible dev opportunity.
Manage Your Expectations
Finally, you need to be honest with yourself. Set yourself realistic expectation and apply for roles that align with your current skillset and experience level.
Sometimes, you gotta step back and question your own motives. Ask yourself the big why - why are you pursuing this particular career path?
I find that some aspiring engineers, although more than you'd think, fall prey to the allure of the big bucks. Some folks get duped into thinking you can earn six figures straight out of college or a bootcamp without much effort. An overly competitive job market then gets the blame.
Let's face it, unless you're lucky enough to land an entry-level role at a large silicon valley company, you may need to compromise.
I've noticed that many of these misconceptions about the tech industry arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among those who began learning to code during this time. The pandemic led to a surge of interest in tech as people were forced to stay at home, resulting in an increased demand for digital tools and services.
All the top tech companies boomed during this time and went on a recruitment spree.
My local store following the lockdown announcement in France. A collective fervor emptied the shelves, but tech boomed!
But the pandemic was a unique event, and as the world has slowly returned to some sense of normalcy, it's unlikely that the job market will continue to be as heavily influenced by the pandemic. In 2022 and 2023, large tech companies such as Meta and Google initiated large scale lay offs.
I feel the talk of oversaturation needs to be understood against its historic context. The demand for digital tools and services will only continue to grow, but it's unlikely this demand will be as extreme as it was during the pandemic - at least, for now.
Despite this, there are still many exciting opportunities in the field.
The pandemic has shown us the importance of technology and digital tools. And no matter what, there will always be a demand for skilled coders.
If you're interested in pursuing a career in tech, try to take on board some of the advice above.
While there may be more junior engineers in the market than ever before, the software development industry is not oversaturated for hardworking and gifted engineers.
With hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn, you can, and will, succeed in this exciting and dynamic industry.