Saturday, February 20, 2010

Job Hunting For Old Farts - Keep Your Edge

Us old farts, myself included, have a harder time competing for jobs younger people can do. The older you are, the more your health insurance will cost the employer, you'll probably be more expensive, and you'll be less likely you will be to put up with a younger manager's bullshit.

Every year in recruiting there are more and more ways to measure productivity. How long does it take to hire people? What is the average cost per hire? What source provides us with the most candidates? Anyone with a decent software package that tracks hiring metrics can run these numbers and see how I stack up against the competition. If I cost more money than a company feels like it wants to spend, I need to have a damn good way to explain why I'm worth what they pay me. I need to have an edge to be successful and stand apart.

I think I have an edge, but it'd be easy to lose. To get my edge I had to experiment and see what worked and what didn't. I had to make a lot of mistakes and not let success go to my head. Overcoming my fears about writing blog posts was a big one; at first it wasn't easy to put myself out there. I try to learn something new with every client I help and every position I fill. Everyday day I read a ton and keep up on research. In short, I tinker with things relevant to my profession and try to improve.

I think the biggest way to lose your edge is to go into management. There are a TON of managers out there who used to work hard, get promoted to a supervisory role, and then let their skills fade. This happens to computer programmers all the time. They spend years going perfecting a skill, get promoted and stop programming, and then lose part of what made them really special as individual contributors. I suspect the managers got tired of learning all the time, or just never really liked programming to begin with. Whatever the reason, if you have taken the time and energy to build of a skill that's hard to learn, that makes you special. If you walk away from whatever it is that makes you special, you better be a damn bad ass at whatever it is you go into. Hands off software managers are a dime a dozen, but hands on managers that program BETTER than the people they lead are truly rare (and also frikkin' desirable).

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