12

I'm totally flabbergasted by how people on this forum seem to think it's very easy to get a new programming job. See here, here, and here.

Maybe I'm just bad at my job, but I've found getting new work in this industry to be anything but trivial. This is even more true if you limit yourself to shops where the other coders are of high quality, and nigh impossible if you combine that requirement with not moving far from your current home.

Most programmers aren't earning the types of salaries that make it worthwhile to give up other things like keeping your kids in a good school district or staying near family. That only works if you're offered seven figures.

Don't get me wrong: as an unmarried guy in his twenties with no kids and basically healthy parents, my ~70k for low-stress work is basically paradise. I know, though, that it won't be very long at all before I have to feed one or more additional mouths and take care of my parents.

If you are being offered seven figures, though, let me know and I'll sign up . . . even if it's in Abu Dhabi. The girlfriend and the parents will understand. In the meantime, I'd like to hear more suggestions on how to make a bad situation better, not just to "cut and run" as certain politicos would say.

17

No-one said it is trivial. You have two choices:

  1. Working hard making a bad situation better
  2. Working hard finding a new job

Find out what's harder and choose the other. ;-)

11 accepted

If you are a badass it isn't a matter of 'finding a job', it's a matter of choosing where you want to work.

Whereas folks who maybe aren't as passionate about programming, or maybe just starting out, they to work very hard to find an entry level job and work their way up.

What you are seeing on SO is a very self-selecting audience. Most of the SO beta participates are interested in improving their craft and read Coding Horror, listen to the SO podcasts, etc. The beta SO particpants probabaly don't need to look too hard to find a job.

Once SO goes public and the masses come in, you'll probabaly see a more ballanced view of the difficulty of getting a job as a developer.

11

I've been known to say "quit and get a new job" myself a fair number of times. In my own case, it's born out of the evidence that I see every day. When I say it, I'm not talking about it being easy to find a job, not necessarily your dream job.

So, what's my evidence? I do fulltime contract work in Minneapolis. In 2007, I had quite a few short projects and made 5 transitions before August. The longest it took to find one of those gigs was 3 days. In one case, I got the first call that the client was interested at 2:00 and had a signed contract 3 hours later without having even met anyone there in person. None of the gigs was any further than a 25 minute drive.

I generally leave my resume active on Monster and Dice year-round. Until I changed my answering machine message to make it clear that I only do contract work and am booked through the end of 2008, I averaged 12 calls about new jobs/gigs per week.

I won't pretend that those calls represent the kind of dream job that lots of developers want. Many of them don't pay that well. Many are high pressure for little recognition/respect. Heck, one of my gigs in 2007 was an disaster that I walked away from after 2.5 weeks. But, they're jobs in software development, near my home (which isn't in Silicon Valley or New York, remember).

If faced with an unexpected loss of gig/job in the near future, I am dead certain that I could find a job doing software development here in the Minneapolis area, paying better than the state median household income long before a financial crunch would occur.

Incidentally, just being confident that you could get another job easily can give you the push to actually make your existing situation better. Lots of times, people hold back on taking risks at work because they're afraid of losing their job. Those risks are often what it takes to really instigate change in an environment.

If nothing else, it dramatically changes the kinds of conversations where a project manager is pushing you to work until 11:00pm on Saturday night "or else".

Just ask anyone who teaches negotiation for things like buying a car. The single biggest thing you can do to make your position stronger is being 100% willing to walk away from the sale. The same holds true in a job. When a boss is screaming that you had better get this release working by the end of the day, there's always an implied threat of firing. A response of "go ahead and fire me. If you think that firing me will get this done faster than having me stay and help you, have at it" brings a little civility to the conversation.

All of that said, the economy always plays a part and you've got to stay plugged in to what's going on. I recommend going on interviews regularly even if you're not actually looking for a job. It gives you a better feel and keeps your interviewing skills sharp. That can make a HUGE difference in getting gigs/jobs easily. I know that if I get an interview from a resume submission, I've got an 85% chance of getting an offer because that's what my track record has proven (and not based on 1-2 situations).

4

Software development is my chosen profession, not just a job I happened upon. Its what I enjoy doing and I spend time outside of the office developing my professional skills and staying current with technology and ideas. This takes up a large part of my time and my life. This is a choice I make because I enjoy the work. As a result I instinctively know that if I am not satisfied with my work then I risk becoming unhappy as a person.

This does not answer your question at all but maybe it does help explain why so many people in our community quickly respond with "Find a new job".

3

No, it is not trivial to find a new job... it's a lot of work. But if you love what you do and you work hard at it, you will most certainly be able to find something you like within a reasonable period of time. The main thing is that you stay focused on learning as much as you can about your area of expertise, so that when the time comes for an interview, you will have the technical answers to back yourself up. That's the main thing... there are other aspects (like personality and well rounded-ness), but technical knowledge is really the primary factor.

The fact is that 80% of candidates that are interviewed just don't know their stuff. They fail on the basic technical questions. At least that's been my experience. So when someone walks in the door (or gets on the phone) who really knows their stuff, they are immediately a serious contender. At that point, you have to take all the other aspects into account (salary requirements being one of them of course), but at least there is a pretty good chance you'll be given serious consideration at that point.

As you gain more experience, you'll start to command (and require) more and more money from each new job, and that can start to make things more difficult. Things start to plateu a bit in terms of what companies are willing to even consider such a high salary. But that's where you just have to bump it up a notch and learn even more and become even more passionate. Good employers will see how much value you can add, and they will be willing to pay those higher salaries. At least that's been my experience so far.

Good luck.

3

This is a really good question. We can't all work for Google! I think there are at least four main axes to how easy it is to find a good position:

  1. Your abilities, personality and career level
  2. The marketplace I - general demand for developers; is the general economy booming or diving?
  3. The marketplace II - programming requires you to specialise in one or two languages/stacks. Are your chosen technologies in wide demand, just emerging or in decline?
  4. Geography. You could be awesome, but if you live in Scarborough, North Yorkshire let's face it, you are going to have a pretty tough time finding a nice place to work with good stuff to work on.

I think at the moment the number of shops outside Silicon Valley where programmers are treated well, where they pass the Joel Test, where they are into leading edge development practices, or even provide basics like flexible working hours are probably pretty small.

What's far more likely to work for most people than "get another job" advice is being the beacon to better practices, just as Joel says in his books and essays. If your team doesn't use bug tracking or version control, be the first to introduce it and just use it yourself, don't try to cudgel the rest of the team into it. They'll follow suit if it's a good idea. Every workplace has things that could be better. Instead of pissing and moaning, help to make it better; I think that way lies a lot of job satisfaction if you manage to be the catalyst for some positive change.

Contracting is great for some people, but it isn't suitable for everyone, so it makes sense to try to make the best of where you are and try to make where you are better - even if you're in a horrible job and plan to leave in three months I think it's still worthwhile.

2

Getting a new job isn't trivial, but it shouldn't be "nigh impossible" unless the job market is really bad where you live. I expect that I could find a new job in a couple of months if necessary (though I hope I don't have to confirm this anytime soon).

The most important thing to keep in mind is that looking a new job doesn't mean that you have to quit your current job. If it takes six months to find your ideal job, does it matter, so long as you are bringing home a paycheck in the interim? When someone says you should quit and find a new job, what they actually mean is that you should find a new job and then quit.

Also, you make ~$70K, but it would take $1MM per year to get you to move? You must be really attached to where you live. I'd move for way less than that.

2

I think your problem is not necessarily finding "a programming job," but rather finding a programming job that you want. That's not necessarily the same thing. I can't swing a dead cat in the city where I live without finding a $50,000 programming job writing some internal application for an oil company. That, however, is probably not your idea of a "good" job (in fact I'm trying to get out of something very similar myself).

It's really not that hard, as Derek Park said, to find a programming job unless the job market is really bad in your area; but just because jobs may be plentiful doesn't mean they're necessarily desirable (in fact that may very well be why there are so many of them).

That said, I would much rather take one of those jobs than work in a shop, or (god forbid) a restaurant. Were I to lose my current job for some reason, it probably wouldn't take me too long to find another just like it. That may not be what I'm ultimately aiming for. But I'm not worried that I'm going to starve either.

2

In our industry the best way to get a raise is go somewhere else.

2

I started writing a rather long post about this, but then decided against it. I'll instead sum it up in a few sentences.


Could it be that the current population of stackoverflow.com is generally more disposed to people that basically do have an easier time getting a new job than most?

Note that I'm not saying this to be nasty, and I apologize to anything that thinks so, but think about it.

Why are you here, now?

Is it because stackoverflow.com suddenly popped up in your favorite search engine and your favorite blog, or is it because you've taken a, more than general, interesting in keeping yourself up to date on things related to programming and thus begged (or similar) to get access to it?


Note: This answer is now hopeless out of date, as SO does now in fact crop up in peoples favorite search engines. This answer was posted way back when SO was in beta, and (relatively) few knew about it.

1

I for one would like to know which programmers out there are making seven figures a year! One million plus a year would be very nice for work that I enjoy.

1

For a perspective.

Finding work as an entry level candidate doesn't look like it's too difficult right now. I don't graduate until December, my last semester hasn't even started, and I've been contacted by several companies within the last couple of weeks (5, 2 in-state). That's just them coming after me. Not me going after them. I haven't had one work out yet, but I'm hoping it's a positive sign.

As people point out, if you currently hold a position, it would be downright silly to quit and then search for a job.

0

Your jobs are all going over sea :(. Sorry you dont see it.