Recently, I found myself in a position I hadn’t experienced in about 15 years – I became a full-time job seeker. I’ll spare you the details of how I got there but I was forced to confront outdated beliefs about how to land a job (or contract) in the software business of 2012. Modern day job searching is very different than when I first started. Although I did find work soon enough, the experience taught me a thing or five. So here now are the four myths and the one truism about finding a job in software development.
Myth #1: A posted job is a real job
You visit your favorite job site and you spot a job you like. You assume that since the job is there, and that some company paid real money to post, it’s a real job from a real company that will pay you real money. Wrong. Sometimes, “current” job posts are ancient artifacts from openings filled long ago. Also, some recruitment agencies will post jobs simply to attract talent in case there is an eventual opening. I’ve also witnessed cases where unscrupulous site administrators would re-post old jobs just to generate traffic on their lowly site. Bottom line: applying to a job posted online is likely to be the least effective way to finding employment. A better approach is to post your resume online. Hungry recruiters will come to you much faster than you can get to them.
Myth #2: Best to look for a job when you already have a job
This is has been repeated for as long as I can remember. The rationale is that you’ll come off looking less desperate if you already have a job. The problem with this thinking is that job searching takes time because employers can move very slowly through the recruitment process. You will need to commit many hours for multiple interviews spanning weeks or months. This makes it difficult to do when you need to sneak out of the office for a “dentist appointment”. (How many root canals do you need?) Devoting your full time to job searching has its advantages because you can actually pursue multiple opportunities at the same time and are free to interview as long as needed. Want the upper hand? There is no better way to get it than by having multiple offers on table. Full-time job searching allows this.
Myth #3: You will be compensated fairly
Compensation varies wildly between companies. Some employers will try to haggle your price down and will disparage your credentials to justify point of view. In fact, some will even discuss salary expectations at the very beginning of the process. This is kind of like walking into a car dealership and immediately asking for the price of a car before knowing the value of the car. In short, know your worth, use glassdoor.com and hold your ground. It can get nasty out there so don’t take it personally.
Myth #4: The best candidate always gets the job
Aside from the inherent problems of using peers to assess technical talent, akin to having the fox guard the hen house, sometimes nobody gets the job. Some employers like to treat interviews like window shopping; they like to look at the merchandise, kick the tires, ask a lot of questions and never buy anything. While this can waste a tremendous amount of your time, some employers may not be rushed to find a candidate and may have a crippling fear of hiring the wrong person. In the end, they just end up hiring no one. As a job seeker, you need to measure the employer’s urgency and move on if there is none. In job searching, timing is everything.
Truism: Use your network
Eighty years ago, Dale Carnegie wrote his seminal book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and much is still applicable today for networking. In today’s social media world, tools like Linkedin make it easier than ever to stay in touch with colleagues and to find out if there are opportunities in their current workplace. Nothing will get you in faster than having an inside person vouching for you. Of course, you need to play by the rules of social media: don’t connect only when you need something and be willing to give something in return. And, oh yeah: you need to be nice to your colleagues. This is where sins of your past life (or past workplace) catch up to you. Were you a diva that nobody liked and you now need a favor? Good luck with that. It’s called “Karma”.
What are your shattered myths about job searching?