Friends, I’m really sorry to say this, but you’ve been lied to for probably close to 25 to 30 years now. There’s this notion that going to college and getting a degree will get you a job. On top of that, there’s this even WORSE lie that working hard at your job will get you promoted, or at least ensure your employment. Well, that’s all bullshit. Every year thousand of students graduate, apply to jobs, and get no responses. Every day hard working developers are laid off or find out that their company is closing. Where’s the justice? Society promised us that if we followed the rules, everything would work out fine – but it doesn’t. What the fuck?
The economy is changing. Having a degree or showing up from 9-5 doesn’t cut it anymore. We have created so many cogs that there’s now a surplus. This is great for employers. This means they can either pay extremely low wages, or hold out for the best talent in the pool (for hopefully higher wages). In order to stand out, you need to be remarkable. There needs to be something about you that warrants their attention.
There’s this article going around LinkedIn about a programmer who is upset that so many jobs value devs who work on side projects in their free time. He believes that he shouldn’t have to program in his spare time, but should be just as likely to get a job as the person who does. Here’s the problem with this thinking – there is someone else out there who is working harder than you to get the same job that you’re applying for. Not only that, but they have tangible results to show that those who only program 9-5 don’t! It’s that effort and those results which make those candidates more remarkable. There are thousands of programmers out there applying for these jobs.
Here’s a thought experiment: A company has an open position for a programmer. You and another developer apply. Your resume says that you’ve been programming at a 9-5 for the last five years, and you enjoy running and cooking. The other dev’s resume states that she, too, has been working a 9-5 for the last five years, but she also does web dev for a non-profit, and makes games with her friends in her spare time. Who is the company more likely to contact first? Trick question! Culture can play an important part, and if the company makes an app about running while cooking, the first person might have a slight edge; however, let’s assume the company is filled with world class programmers who are working on cutting edge technology. Even though you’ve both been programming for the same amount of time, she has at least 50% more experience because she’s working on her own projects and expanding her skills.
Here’s the thing, 9-5 doesn’t cut it anymore. Programming is becoming commoditized. Programming will become the intellectual equivalent to manual labor. So many problems have been solved. If you need to program something that you’ve never tackled before, I can guarantee that you can google it, find a code snippet, modify it a little bit, and have a 90% solution to your problem. Knowing this, why do I need to pay you $100,000 a year to google snippets and arrange them in the right order? If all I care about is working code, I can outsource my problems and have them solved faster and cheaper. Simply “solving the problem” and “delivering working code” becomes the minimum expectation. The world is filled with people shooting for the minimum expectation. Knowing this, you need to answer: What makes you remarkable? Why should a company invest in you?
Is the answer “working on side projects?” That’s up to you. As soon as everyone’s working on side projects, that becomes an expectation – you’ll have to figure out another way of separating yourself from the herd. Maybe it’s working in a more niche industry with less competition, thus making you inherently more remarkable – which IS remarkable, because not everyone is doing it.
tldr; Don’t give the expected amount of effort and be surprised at the lack of results. Being remarkable will pay off and put you ahead of the competition.