Recently I had the good fortune to be employed by a company that has services that I believe are worthwhile. At this point, I haven't started and don't know the employee guidelines and whether it would be a good idea to mention them here or not - this is still my space on the web, and my opinions and those of my employer may vary. So I'm not mentioning who I will be working for, at least for now. It's not a big secret. Someone who really wants to know will find out - but I retain this space as my own and want to honor any policies that the company has.
That said, it has taken some time for me to get used to the idea of not having to look for contracts or work. The morning after I accepted the job, I stared at my email and all the stuff from CareerBuilder, Ladders, LinkedIn, etc. For months at a time, that seemed to be my life. Even when a short contract popped up on the radar, you have to look for the next thing.
How I Landed The Job
There was no magic to this - it was pretty brute force. It was reading a lot of useless emails from CareerBuilder, The Ladders, LinkedIn, and other sites that have no idea what I was looking for because of what I call the HR filters. These sites are biased toward what the HR departments of employers want, and that distinction is important: What the HR departments post about is almost never what they need. Factor in an economy where some say it's rebounding but where job statistics are as easily gamed as any other statistics, I imagine that there are at least a few thousand people trying to get work in the software industry here in the United States. Factor in the global aspects and the cost of living here in the U.S. being higher than in other parts of the world (but not all), there's some stiff competition out there for telecommuting work.
So what I did was just... brute force. Finding things that keep you going until opportunity strikes - something that is a good life lesson, I suppose, and something that those of us in the middle-aged category might call, "building character".
For the actual job itself, I applied to a company that had an open position. The position itself was not necessarily a good match for my skills and experience, but I wanted to work for this company and so I applied with a short cover email that basically said, "I'm not necessarily a good match for what you say you're looking for, but I want to work for your company."
As it happened, I ended up a good fit. Some might call it luck. I call it, "about time". In a world where we revel in success of others, it's easy to forget how much work went into it.
Trying To Get In? Some Advice
I've been around a few decades, and I think that I've earned the right to dispense some free and not necessarily great advice. It's not original, but it can serve as a reinforcement.
First, since I taught at The University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies, I have actively discouraged people from entering the industry because it's not the same as when their parents were growing up. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, being a software developer or in IT in general was booming. It's not as much anymore, and there are a variety of reasons for that. I wrote code before the Internet. I remember playing games that were designed, written and produced by one person. The Industry has changed from that of the period of your parents, and if they're pushing you into it, you better love it or find something else to do.
If you're still reading, I won't discourage you further.
A lot of employers or potential clients will seem to be jerks - even as individuals you deal with aren't jerks, you're at the tail of the whip. Suck it up, cupcake. Life is an obstacle course, and so is your career. Whining will get you nowhere - no one hires based on pity. When my father took ill and I moved to Trinidad and Tobago, there weren't jobs for me. For a few years, I supported myself and my father by writing and teaching. It was good for my personal growth, but it did irk me. I stayed on top of technology and wrote code on my own.
I have a friend who actually lost a position he applied for because he wanted to get his substitute teacher certification and the hiring company didn't see the value of him starting later to do so. That was 2 months ago. 2 months later, he has his certification and they're still looking... and I recommended the headhunting agency throw him in the mix as I told them that I wanted my hat out of that ring. I hope he gets it because he's perfect for them.
Your coworkers can be platinum. Treat everyone as well as you can. Don't be a jerk. The people who you seem to barely interact with at work may notice you from afar and be your greatest asset.
A few things I've learned from experience:
- When the hiring manager/client goes on vacation before getting back to you, it tells you that their hiring is not a priority. Their vacation is the priority. You're not. Suck it up, cupcake. Keep looking. I've been on the end of that line as have many other people, and what I have learned is that if they have enough time to go on vacation before they hire you, you need to keep moving.
- Headhunters can be your friends, and they deserve their own blog entry (it's coming). I have developed solid relationships with headhunters and while few of them have produced, it's not their fault. Stay the course. You never know.
- No matter how much you want to work for a company or need the work to pay the errant internet bill, never pretend to be what you're not. Reputation is king.
- When things go sour, don't go sour with them. Over the course of 25 years or so, I've had 3 contracts go sour. It happens, particularly when a company takes a high risk bet and tries to micromanage beyond the contract. If you can't be amicable, or if you're back is against the wall and there's nothing you can do or say to make things better, say nothing. The odds are good that they've done it before with people and will do it again. They'll earn their reputation. You'll earn yours.
- Be a human being. You'd be surprised how not talking about your work or lack of it sometimes pays off. Go to the coffee shop, the beach, interact with people. Be real. One of the least known things in the industry is that the people who are the most important are the ones that have lives. If you don't have a life, get one.
- A lot of people say that you should be interesting. Bullshit. You need to be interested. You need to listen more than you talk, and when you talk you need to make sense. Practice.
- Do what you have to. Sometimes this means working outside of the industry or working in it in different ways. It may mean learning a new technology, it may be refreshing yourself on an old one, it may mean flipping burgers. Approach it all and give your best to everything you do.