So You Want a New Job?

Recently I found myself making the decision to take the next step in my career. For me this involved looking for a new job. It is important not to confuse the words job and career here; my career involves the internet and computers and my job is my current role, wherever it is and whatever I’m doing it’s going to be under the internet/computer (career) umbrella.

When I first realised that I wanted to take the next step I started thinking about all the things that I needed to consider before I could even tell anyone (apart from my wife of course!) Below I’ve tried to summarise my thought process; or, what I now think my thought process should have been to help me along the way.

Why Do You Want a New Job?

There are loads of different reasons why someone might want a new job. For the sake of keeping it short I’m discounting a career change, this piece is written by me (a developer) about getting a new developer or “role complimentary to development” role. I’m not going to talk about hanging up my keyboard to become a spaceman.

The best reason I can muster for a new job is for a new challenge, to keep things fresh. Other reasons might include getting fired, relocating, your co-workers hate you, you hate your co-workers, a difference of opinion with management etc. Whatever the reason, if it’s not for personal progression then clear your mind and start again. Your new and main reason for your new job should be personal progression.

Changing job for a positive reason will make the whole process a more enjoyable one (and it should/can be enjoyable), it’ll help open your mind and keep you focused on the important thing: what position is right for you.

What Do You Want to Do?

This should be a pretty simple step, you’re either a developer or a manager right? Well, kinda. Personally I love writing code, and always will, but I do get an extra kick from leading a team and having that extra bit of direction and input into a project.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of roles out there; developer/engineer, QA, testing, training, the list goes on. What I’m trying to get at is that you don’t have to be too strict here. If you find the right company there’s no reason that you can’t try out different roles, dabble a bit. If you show some direction, drive and are genuinely an asset to this company they should let you be the best asset you can be!

How Do You Want to Do It?

This article is mainly aimed at people in the world of full time employment but there are other routes to getting paid. It’s now that you need to make the decision, which path to take:

  • Freelance,
  • Contract,
  • Part time, or
  • Full time.

Each of these have their pros and cons and you need to make the decision that is best for you. While I was trying to make this decision I set up a new limited company and was looking for contract work. By the end of the process I’d thrown that out the window and went for a regular old full time job.

When Do You Hand Your Notice In?

This section is aimed at people who are currently in full time employment. If you are self employed you can do whatever you fancy.

In the UK we usually have to see out a notice period. I imagine a similar concept applies in other parts of the world, but now isn’t the time for me to go and figure that out. The decision of when to hand in your notice will depend on a few factors; how long is your notice period, why are you leaving and when do you want to start your new role.

If your notice period is massive (over 3 months) your going to want to crack on and get that thing handed in. 3 months or less and you can take a deep breath and have a think about this one. Hopefully your decision to leave will be taken well and you’ll be parting on good terms, this will allow you to talk this decision through with your boss perhaps? If you think the news of your leaving won’t go down well it may be better to seek the next step before mentioning it. The important thing here is that you don’t have to hand your notice in just because your boss knows your looking.

One thing to touch on from here is leaving on bad terms. Leaving on bad terms is unfortunate but it is a part of life. I tried to find a blog post I read some time ago about how this should go but failed to find it. Basically, an employer should see your leaving for a new position as a sign that they did their job well. You had room to grow and have continued to develop your own skills and have outgrown that role. That’s a good thing and there is no reason for your decision to leave to be taken badly.

How Do You Find a New Job?

So you’ve figured a few things out; why you’re leaving, what you want to do next, how you want to do it and when you want to do it. Now you have to find that role, but how? As I see it you can either do it yourself or get someone to do it for you. This ideology will treat you well in all of life’s decisions. Either do it yourself or get someone else to do it.

If you want to try and go it alone you can attempt to make some buzz about yourself and do some research around the internet. Some of the things you can do include:

  • Searching the internet,
  • Getting involved in a local user group,
  • Jumping onto a job site,
  • Start doing some open source work,
  • Speak to your peers, and
  • Anything else that will get you noticed.

Initially this felt like the natural route for me. I already did some of the things in the list above and the extras weren’t too much trouble. I enjoy talking to other developers and was confident contacting companies directly. Unfortunately this was harder than I imagined and you may find option B, the alternative solution on this point to be easier.

Get someone else to do it. Contact a Recruiter. There was a time in my life when I thought these words would never be coming out of my fingers but with a little knowledge this really is the way to go. The important thing here is to contact them, don’t let them contact you. Do your research and decide on someone you would like to work with. Talk to them, explain what you want and see if they really can help you.

If you’re in the UK you may find a company like Spectrum IT are the way to go. They get involved in the community and listen to your needs. You won’t get emails about a Junior role just because you have CSS on your CV when you’re looking to lead a QA team.

US dwellers may find an experienced recruiter such as Scott Gordon to be the guy for them. He is very highly renowned in the PHP community and understands what it is that a developer wants from a new role. You can be confident that Scott will find you the position that you want and not just hand you whatever is at the top of his list!

N.B: not all recruiters will work for you, they’re not all as good as the two mentioned above, beware!

If you do find yourself working with an unknown recruiter just remember they are now working for you. If they do their job well, they’ll get paid. They want you to get a new job, most want you to get the right one, but don’t count on that. Don’t feel pushed or pressured into any decisions. If you don’t like something or want more time to think before making a decision then take your time and do what you want. If you have questions about the company ask the recruiter, if they don’t know the answer they can find things out. Hopefully they have a good relationship with the company in question and will make all these steps as easy as possible for you and them.

My CV Is OK: Right?

So you’ve found a few jobs you like the look of, the next thing to do is apply. Now is the time that you draw a blank, forget everything you know and everything you’ve ever learnt in your career. Now’s the time you have to step outside your comfort zone and write your CV.

There are millions of articles out there that will help you write your CV and I’m not going to Google them for you. The only important bit of information I have for you is don’t lie. This may seem obvious but if someone is looking at your CV and thinks they want to meet you, that extra line about setting up master <-> slave MySQL replication servers probably won’t sway them. But if you do add that line and on questioning you go blank because actually you just knew you had to make your read queries via the slave or you got a slapped wrist from a db admin they will probably have concerns about you already, not a great start.

So;

  1. Don’t lie,
  2. Don’t lie,
  3. Tell the truth, and
  4. Don’t lie.

How Much Do You (Want to) Earn?

How to Answer the Question “What Was Your Last Salary?” by Liz Ryan really does sum this up, there should be no more to say on the subject…

If however it’s more important for you to get a job than make an unemployed stand just be honest. You know what you’re worth and so will your potential new employer. If you disagree on that magic number then be strong enough to walk away.

Interviews ARE Fun, Right?

Lots of people don’t like interviews. People think they are scary. The only reason an interview could be scary is if you don’t know your stuff (or you lied on your CV).

Your interview is your chance to start finding out some more information about the company. I say more because at this point I hope you would have a fairly good understanding of the company based on information you can find around the web. If the interview is going well and you feel it’s acceptable you can ask all sorts of questions:

  • What is the company doing with it’s dev team at the moment?
  • What are they planning for the future?
  • What version control do they use?
  • What branching model?
  • How do they deploy?
  • What is the office like?

The list goes on, think about the things you like/dislike in your current position and ask questions about that. Try and make it a conversation, you don’t have to just take in turns and you don’t have to agree, but be honest. This is another one of those time that you don’t want to lie, and you especially don’t want to get caught out. Interviews can be occasions to get nervous, don’t make it worse by putting yourself in hot water!

Try and be creative, if you can’t answer a question say “I don’t know the answer”, but explain how you’d go about finding the answer or what you’ve done that could solve something in a different way. The chances are you’re going to be talking to at least one other tech guy, get him on your side!

Summing Up

Changing jobs can be scary and many people will stay in their comfort zone and stifle their progression to be safe. Being safe will result in a few things; limit your progress, reach you learning limit/boundary and become stale amongst other things. There are good sides to being safe but if you really like what you do you should be pushing to always do better. A change can be good, mix it up!