The ultimate career reality check for developers
A job isn’t just a job, it’s a relationship, you give your expertise, and you get a salary + bonuses that is based partly on the industry standard and on how much ROI your boss can get from selling your work to his customers.
A business’s only goal is to maximize revenue and minimize expenditure.
You’re an expenditure, in fact, most people in the company are. If your boss had a way to get rid of all of you, he would. The only reason you’re there is because they need you. And the only reason you’re paid is because there’s legislation in place.
They need your skills, without them they cannot make solutions to sell, but they also aim to pay as little as possible for them, that’s a minimized expenditure right there. You need to leverage the fact they need you to your advantage.
Your goals and how much you want them will predict how good you are at negotiating. If you have no ambition, small goals and low self-esteem, you’ll be taken advantage of very often. This will eventually build enough resentment to make life very frustrating.
Before the job search
Find out what you want
You need to know where you want to go, or it’s impossible to optimize your actions. Do you want to code forever? Do you want to stay in a hamster wheel of changing programming languages and frameworks? Do you want to move onto management? Do you want to eventually own a business?
If you’re really not sure where you want your career to go, focus on learning as much as possible(not just code stuff) and having a good time. The rest will come.
As you gain more experience you will be able to create more value by being closer to the business side of things, but this is a career change, it’s no longer coding.
Don’t browse jobs in the same website you use to look for used furniture
It attracts the shittiest of shit employers and is full of the shittiest of shit jobs.
The good jobs
Truly good jobs are rarely publicly listed, they go to a friend of a friend, or to the guy that didn’t tell the boss’s wife about his affair during the Christmas party. If you can play your cards right, you can move up in any company quite rapidly, if that’s what you want.
From the company’s side, the interview is made to see if you’re a good fit for the company, but it’s also a place for you to ask questions that will tell you how the company works, and if you like it. Any red flag that pops up here will likely be present and magnified forever, so look carefully.
The company wants you to provide as much as possible for the least possible salary, you want the opposite. You will cost the company close to 100,000€ in the first year, so this isn’t money to play around with. This is a scenario of complex sales, and you likely have 0 experience in the field. The interviewers are experts.
Your interviewer is never friendly
They are merely acting friendly because it will make it more likely for you to accept the offer. Think of a car salesman being super friendly and describing the car in an awesome light, it’s the same thing.(I’ve even seen interviewers attempt to *guilt* people into accepting an offer).
1) You’re going to make mistakes
A mistake done out of boldness can be fixed with more boldness. Everyone admires the bold, no one admires the timid. Don’t be timid and don’t hesitate, you’re gonna fail, but keep your head cool, don’t undermine your actions with insecurity, and fix your mistakes.
2) Your manager isn’t your friend
Your manager is literally a spy who has the business’s interest in mind, be mindful of what you say to them.
3) Nobody cares about you
Unless your personal goals favor the business, nobody cares about them. If you plan to one day start your own business, don’t tell your co-workers or manager. As far as the company knows, you intend to name your first born after the CEO.
You’ll have pleasant co-workers and shitty ones, enjoy the former and don’t let the latter ruin your days.
4) Be wary of ping pong tables and yoga rooms
Your job is about money, nothing else(would you go to work if you weren’t paid to go?). If someone is offering you a salary + yoga rooms and ping pong tables, chances are, you’re worth more than your salary. If you don’t care much for the toys, find a more serious company that pays you in cash + shares + good time off like an adult and not with toys like a child(unless you like it).
5) Get a life outside work
Currency is on its way to decentralization, why would you centralize your life around work and co-workers? It’s a potentially harmful game to play and you’re likely the one to be harmed. Remember 2) and 3), nobody is your friend there, if you end up making what looks like friendships, they will get in the way of your development. You’ll think twice about leaving because you have “friends”, and this ends up building enough resentment to dilute the friendships anyway, so simply don’t start.
6) Your co-workers are your main competition
Don’t let them take credit for anything that you played a big role in. They’re not your friends. When push comes to shove, no one cares about anything other than themselves, be ahead of the competition by having your best interests in mind since day one.
7) Don’t be too humble
If the only person that knows what you did is you, then that work doesn’t exist, learn to humble-brag, or at least properly frame your stories.
Framing affects how others perceive the stories you tell, if you say something like “it was easy, all I had to do was X and Y”. Your non-technical listener will think: “if it’s so easy I bet any stupid programmer from freelancer.com could have done it for half the price”. Don’t downplay any achievement. In fact, when you do this, you start to internalize lower self-worth, perpetuating the trend.
8) Nothing you’ve done matters.
Your degree and portfolio are worthless, nobody cares. Everything is about value. And the perception of value varies greatly. Someone who’s good at increasing the perception of how much he’s worth can beat anybody, no matter how good their portfolio is.
A well told story about a shit accomplishment will get you further than a huge accomplishment told by a bad story.
9) The people who pay you don’t give a shit about code.
Your employers don’t buy code, they buy solutions that they then sell to their customers, hopefully with a positive ROI. If a solution pops up that makes you obsolete, you’re gone. If you find a way to reduce costs or increase revenue, then you have their attention.
10) Tech doesn’t matter
I bet you live in a house or apartment, do you know the exact reference number of the bricks in your walls or of the pipes in your kitchen? This is how your boss feels about your code. However, when a pipe bursts, you’re willing to pay almost anyone and anything to fix it, use this to your advantage.
11) If you’re not learning, leave.
Shit moves pretty fast, if you’re not learning, your competition(for future jobs) is going to overtake you. If you’re obsolete you’re at the mercy of whatever tyrannical leader your employers chose, and when they let you go you’re up shit creek without a paddle.
12) Learn to negotiate.
To negotiate you need to know what you want, I’ve seen people that didn’t even realize they could want things and just took whatever was given. However, to know what you want you need to know yourself, so this is a big step, but it’s in an awesome direction.
13) The people above you might not know what they’re doing
This is why negotiation is important, the requirements for any project are usually mega fucked from the source, it’s your job to make sure the code you write needs to be written. Oftentimes as a developer, you have more insights than the people at the top, learn to leverage this.
14) Save up
To be able to negotiate, you need to be ready to jump ship, aim for savings that will allow you to keep your lifestyle for 6 months to a year without needing an income. But, you’re in demand like crazy right now, so it will be harder to not work than to work.
15) Don’t accept a low starting salary
It’s much harder to jump 20% with a raise than it is to just start 20% higher. It’s a capitalist society, thus, jobs are about maximizing how much money you make in the shortest time possible, nothing else. Your boss knows about this, and you’re a piece of the machine he uses to make this happen for himself. Check glassdoor or ask someone you trust about what your salary should be based on everyone else.
16) No one is going to miss you when you leave
You’ll be forgotten after 2 days, the people you called friends will never contact you again, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t quit sooner. Turns out those relationships were worthless and you were putting off your resignation for no reason.
17) You’re not irreplaceable
Nobody is, including the CEO of your company, but you can make people think you are. However, if you’re irreplaceable, you’re also unpromotable.
18) Most money is in side-hustles and job hopping
Side gigs and freelance work will often times pay more than your salary, it’s a natural course of action to at least attempt to be independent, do it. Even if you fail, what you learn will make you a better professional.
You might get a counter-offer
When resigning, it’s common to receive an offer to make you stay a bit longer. Don’t take this, how come you’re suddenly worth more? Now your boss also knows that you want to leave and you’re a flight risk, so you could be terminated, and the offer you had elsewhere is now gone.
You might be manipulated
“After everything we’ve done for you” — a friend’s boss when he pointed out some serious issues in how the company is run and was considering leaving.
Don’t let it get to you, you’re your own person, don’t do something you don’t want to be doing and have given it proper thought.
Regardless of what happens, be the absolute best you can be every day, and aim to improve. Don’t be a pushover and try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one and hurt yourself in the process. Find your voice and style, and work for the people that like you for who you are, but also don’t be a dick to people who aren’t like you.
The big myth of separating life and work is slowly coming to an end, a shitty boss or job will leak into your life and jeopardize everything, don’t let it happen.