adventures in making stuff with Daniel Higginbotham

Announcing Job Search Sanity

09 December 2015

One of the least fun experiences in my life was getting fired twice in three months back in 2008 when the economy decided to go all YOLO and drive off a cliff with its middle finger waving out the window. The first time, I was a wreck. I was in a relationship with someone who had a chronic medical condition and the attendant medical bills. As the sole money earner, I was pretty bummed! Every day I felt dread and panic as I pored over job listings. I made many stress-induced mistakes like emailing the same contact twice or forgetting phone interviews.

But somehow I found a job at a startup pretty quickly, only to be regrettably let go a couple months later because they were running out of money. This time, I did things differently. I took a Getting Things Done inspired approach to the job search. Approaching the search in an organized, methodical way made me feel in control. It also gave me confidence that I was making real progress on finding a job because I could actually see all the steps I was taking. At the end of the day I knew I had done what I could to move forward.

Today I'm releasing a free web application, Job Search Sanity, to help others do the same. It helps you keep track of each job opportunity and the next actions you need to do to move forward. It also keeps cover letters and interview remindres in place. And one of its best features is that it lets you save your job searches on the site so you can keep them all in one place instead of visiting dozens of sites every day.

If you're looking for a job and feel overwhelmed, then please give it a try! If you know someone who's looking for a job, please send them a link!

Personal Notes

The main thing that motivated me to create this site was seeing my brother struggle with finding employment after graduating with a Pharm.D. (doctor of pharmacy) degree last year. After spending a decade putting himself through school, he had the modest expectation of finding decent-paying, stable work. Instead, he found that the pharmacy market had radically changed while he was getting his degree, and jobs were scarce.

I can only imagine how crushing it would feel to commit so much of your life (and accumulating large student loan debts) to learning profession, only to find that the rules had changed and there was actually little demand for your skills. To find that the future you've been working toward for so long has vanished, replaced with utter uncertainty.

It was a rough time for him, but thankfully he did eventually find a job as a pharmacist. While he was looking, he came to live with me, and I was so glad that I was able to help in some way (and that I got to spend so much time with him), but part of me wished I could have done more.

Cut to the present day, where my wife has been looking for a better job for a while, and I can see the stress affecting her in similar ways (though to a much lesser degree, thankfully).

All of which is to say - I know that looking for a job can be incredibly stressful, and I hope that by providing this free app I can help people in similar situations. I kind of need to make something that I actually accept payments for soon, but for this site I didn't want their to be any barriers to signing up and using it. Perhaps I'll figure out way to monetize it, but for now I'm proud of the site and I'll count it a success if it helps even a dozen people as they find a job.

Development Notes

Job Search Sanity was built using:

  • The Boot build tool. Boot made it easy to integrate a Clojure backend, ClojureScript frontend, and Sass compilation
  • Liberator, to structure the handling of back-end API calls
  • Datomic for the database
  • re-frame as the lightweight front-end structure imposed on reagent

I absolutely loved working on the site because the tools made it so much fun. One of my personal goals was to stretch myself design- and UX-wise, and the above programming tools made that possible by making it so simple and easy to implement the basic functionality.

ClojureScript has come incredibly far in the past couple years. A year or two ago I looked at it but stuck with Coffeescript because cljs looked like a pain in the ass to use, but that isn't the case any longer. The only downside here is that, once again, Clojure has spoiled me, and I never want to go back to my previous tools.