Monday, April 22, 2013

Software developers are a model for career resilience

Since the official end of the Great Recession, the private sector has pretty much rebounded. The Dow Jones has recently hit all-time highs and some companies are now posting record profits. Despite this, unemployment has remained stubbornly high. In the US there are three unemployed people for every job opening. We've also seen old business models are being disrupted and companies that can't adapt are closing their doors.

With this in mind, people are now having to become more creative and adaptable with their careers. You can no longer rely on a company to help you design a career path. It's up to you now.

In a recent conversation it struck me that software developers are naturally career resilient and, in my opinion, serve as a good model for others.

So why are we more resilient? Because we have to be.

Our field is always in a state of flux. Programming languages, frameworks and technologies go in and out of fashion. It's very easy to get caught out by focusing on one language and suddenly finding that the industry has moved on; leaving you behind. This is hard to come back from. If you don't continually keep on top of new technologies and learn new skills, you'll stagnate and be stuck.

Another reason you can get stuck is due to skill related pay. When you have a skill that's in demand you get paid a premium for that. When the market moves and you don't, you can struggle finding a new job that pays as much as the previous because that skill is no longer in demand. This might not be completely obvious until you try to make a move.

Another wrinkle is that technology choice can be geographical. For example, working in London in the late nineties - early 2000s most web application shops used Perl. When I moved to Houston there were very few companies that were looking for Perl developers. I ended up finding a job at one of the few Perl shops in Houston, but the local industry moved to .NET so I did the same.

Software development contractors are even more resilient than their fulltime counterparts.They are able to shift from position to position; only looking for the next position a week or so before the current one ends.

How resilient is your career?

For more information about increasing your career resilience, I recommend reading the following article by Michele Martin:

Career Resilience: The Four Patterns that Should Guide All Your Career Moves

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