Briana Morris knew the job search would be tough this year. A college graduate and computer science major in Tampa, Florida, she began sending in applications around the time mass layoffs began to hit the tech industry from the ground up.
Her total number of applications: 500. She tracked them on a spreadsheet.
“The competition is very fierce,” said Morris, 23. “I really want to break into cybersecurity, and they don’t have a lot of entry-level positions.”
It’s a new reality for students and recent graduates hoping to enter the tech industry, watching tech giants and startups hire over the past few years. Now, however, they’re applying for tech jobs at the worst time in years, as nearly every sector of the industry, from streaming services to robotics, has laid off people or frozen hiring.
Technology, information and media hiring is at its lowest level since July 2020, according to a Thursday report from LinkedIn, which cited “a painful recalibration of a sector that has seen massive hiring gains throughout the pandemic.”
This recalibration has shattered some people’s dreams of where technology is headed, as cryptocurrencies crashed, self-driving cars spat, and the virtual reality metaverse struggled to take off.
About 91,000 people lost their jobs in the tech industry this year, according to an NBC News tally of layoffs at companies that laid off 100 or more people.
In interviews, some would-be tech workers said that given the turmoil in the industry, they were at least slightly altering their plans by moving into adjacent fields or looking for areas of minimal risk. And they prepare for a potentially exhaustive job search.
This is not the job market that some expected when they started their studies in computer science.
“The current situation is really difficult,” said Owen, 22, who asked that his last name not be used so as not to disrupt his job prospects.
He graduated with a degree in computer science in December 2021, a time he now sees as “the beginning of the end” of the latest tech boom. He said he also submitted about 500 applications before starting a job this month as a software engineer at a small company in the Atlanta area.
“It made sense if you think about it in hindsight,” he said of the wave of layoffs. “But as a hopeful new grad, you only realize that when it’s already happening.”
But he and others also said they weren’t particularly pessimistic yet. Even though big bets on ideas like crypto have disappointed tech investors, other innovations in robotics or artificial intelligence have piqued the interest of new computer scientists.
“There’s always a new fad, and that fad always dies at the same time,” Owen said.
Morris, a graduate this month from Western Governors University, said she participated in the third round of interviews with a cryptocurrency exchange, but declined an invitation to continue the interview process, scared off by turmoil in the industry, including the collapse of the FTX exchange. The company she spoke to later announced layoffs.
Cryptocurrency jobs have been particularly hard hit. The number of crypto jobs posted in November was 36% lower than in October and 54% lower than the number in November 2021, according to LinkedIn.
“I was super happy that I didn’t follow through,” she said. Instead, a major financial institution offered her a job in cybersecurity — her first offer — and she jumped on it. Cybersecurity, she said, “is pretty stable.” Cybersecurity companies have also laid off, but the sector continues to grow rapidly, CNBC reported in June.
Tech jobs have had a lot of appeal in recent years, not only because of high salaries and some employee stories that have made it rich, but also because of the industry’s relatively laid-back culture and often generous perks. , such as on-site yoga classes, laundry service. and free meals.
“The culture is much more relaxed than in other industries, and the pay is as good or better than in other industries,” said Rafay Kalim, 22, a senior at the University of Toronto.
Kalim said he plans to move to New York or Seattle after graduation and plans to work at major US tech companies, which often help non-US citizens obtain visas, but he said it might be less likely now.
“My greatest chances of getting a job in the United States kind of fell apart,” he said, due to the recent layoffs. “In my future, if I want to go to the United States, it depends on whether these companies turn around.”
With an immediate tech recovery uncertain, he said he is considering a position in finance as a trader, even though the culture of finance is a stark contrast.
The fact that there are many more than before does not help the chances of young software engineers.
In colleges and universities, interest in computing skyrocketed during the last technology boom. The number of American students majoring in the subject rose from 37,015 in the 2011-2012 academic year to 135,992 a decade later, according to surveys by the Computing Research Association, a group of professors and technologists Of the industry.
Engineering as a whole has become the fourth most popular field of study at U.S. colleges and universities, surpassing biological and biomedical sciences and psychology over the past decade, according to a tally of degrees awarded by the Department of Education.
“The field is incredibly saturated with all the people studying computer science these days,” said Steven Lam, a computer engineering student at Clemson University.
Lam, who is due to graduate in December 2023, said he originally thought the tech layoffs would hurt young people the most. Like others entering the tech workforce, he said he had scoured sites such as Reddit, Blind and LinkedIn for information, and he said his current impression was that the layoffs were affecting the hardest hit mid-career engineers who demand higher salaries.
He said he didn’t have a specific technology area he wanted to work in, although there were a few sectors he leaned against, including cryptocurrency. And he has time before he graduates.
“There’s a lot of pessimism in the industry with all the layoffs going on, but I don’t think a lot of people have to worry about that,” he said.