The ideal job-hunting situation is simple: You have a job, your bills are being paid, you’re comfortable, but you’re looking for a step up or a new challenge. You quietly apply for jobs while continuing to excel in your current role, find one that represents a comfortable advancement in your career, give your two-weeks notice, and move on.
Reality is often quite different. In my own career, I’ve done the above several times. But I’ve also been abruptly laid off from a job I was very happy in, and found myself scrambling. And most recently, I was quite happily self-employed when a posting for what amounted to my dream job (writing for Stack Overflow) appeared in my Twitter feed and I suddenly found myself applying for a job when I wasn’t looking for one at all.
Recently our sister blog, The Developer Hiring Blog, advised recruiters to keep the developer recruiting pipeline open at all times, even when they had no roles to fill. This got me thinking: the same is true from the other direction. You should always be maintaining your “brand,” readying yourself to jump on that next opportunity when it appears (or when it becomes necessary to search for one).
Maybe your company will be acquired and the new head honchos will clean house. Maybe your department’s funding will be cut and you’ll find yourself laid off. Maybe your boss’s nephew needs a job and you find yourself squeezed out. The point is, you never know. Even the most stable jobs are susceptible to sudden change, and the longer you’ve been in one role, the more likely you’re completely unprepared to job hunt. I spent 11 years at one company, and when I decided to look for greener pastures, the job-seeking process was entirely foreign.
I wished I’d been better over the years at keeping my resume updated and following hiring trends in my industry. The nice thing for developers is Stack Overflow’s new Developer Story is tailored for that. It’s a living document that you can easily keep up to date and current, even if you’re not thinking about job-hunting. If you think of it as an ongoing portfolio and central command center for your brand as a developer, you’ll find it easy to add accomplishments as they happen, and not let things get forgotten and slip through the cracks. That way if you do find yourself in an unexpected situation, you’re ready to start your hunt immediately, rather than first spending a month trying to rewrite your resume and remember just what it is you’ve been doing all these years.
“After a layoff or some other traumatic experience isn't the best time to be writing something to show the best you,” says Stack Overflow developer Kasra Rahjerdi. “It's very hard to actually focus on what you did on a project or on a team when you feel super defeated. A lot of optimism goes into writing a good resume that makes you come across as a great qualified candidate; writing that while in a slump is going to suck.”
Another possibility is that you’re currently very happy where you are. You’re doing work you enjoy, you’re making money you can live comfortably on, and you like the team you work with. Nothing in the ether is hinting that you may be blindsided any time soon. But think hard. Is there anything, anything at all, that could tempt you to leave?
This was the case with me. I was not looking for a new job, but when I saw the posting to write for Stack Overflow I suddenly realized the dream job I didn’t even know I wanted was not only out there, it was available.
Keeping your Developer Story updated, your skills sharp, and your ears open will mean when that opportunity presents itself, you’re ready to pounce.
Stack Overflow Engineering Manager David Haney points out “It's much easier to look for a job if the barrier to entry is low. By doing a modest amount of upkeep on my brand and career (in the form of a blog, social media, CV/Developer Story, etc.), I can be sure that if the time to get my next job comes around, I am immediately ready to apply.”
Whatever your current employment situation, the reality is the economy is changing, and the old ideal of 30 years at one company and then a tidy retirement is just no longer the norm. Millennials especially are shown to job-hop often and without the stigma earlier generations associated with the practice. A 2016 survey by Jobvite showed that while only 18% of the total workforce changes jobs every one to three years, that percentage rockets up to 42% among millennials (18-29) as a whole, and 55% among millennial women.
The so-called “gig economy,” a general trend away from stable long-term jobs and towards shorter, more flexible engagements, has become something of a buzzword. Haney maintains that it’s always important to maintain the public artifacts around your career and profession. “These artifacts,” he says, “serve as great references for conferences speaker panels (I was invited to speak at a conference in India this year!), volunteer organizations (I'm currently mentoring a group of students at UNF), etc.”
Developers (and writers, for that matter) possess skills that are easily translated into “one-off” projects. I find myself looking for side projects from time to time (Christmas shopping, anyone?) and having an active blog, social media accounts, and LinkedIn profile allow me to reach out to my network at the drop of the hat and search for contract work. This would be nearly impossible if I was still sitting on an old, out-of-date resume and an “I already have a job” mindset. Even if I’m not searching, the online presence I maintain opens doors for people to find and approach me, allowing me to expand my network and work on projects I never would have found otherwise.
As the economy evolves and this generation continues to build their careers, they’re going to find that retaining a “job-hunt” attitude is vital to staying ready and able to jump from one opportunity to the next.