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#1 patrick7612  Icon User is offline

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Breaking free from career pigeon holing

Posted 15 February 2013 - 08:10 AM

Hi all,
As I seek employment after over a decade with the same company, I can't help but notice how segmented the software development job market is. As a college student in the '90s I was not taught a whole bunch of languages. We were told, quite correctly in my opinion, that knowing concepts was far more important than trying to learn numerous languages, so most of our courses were centered on C++.

Now that I'm an experienced developer looking for work, I find that even in 2013 most employers don't think that way. Even for permanent positions they want someone who already has industry experience in exactly what language, platform, etc. they need. It's hard to get a foot in the door without it. At least that's my experience at the moment. I'm sure part of that is the still somewhat weak job market. Employers can be more picky.

At my previous job I wrote a lot of Ada (shudder, no one uses that anymore) and got several years of Java experience. The latter is my main selling point. Java Developer. I'm feeling more and more like that's the only thing employers will consider hiring me to do. I'm doing class/training work now to update my skills, but it still seems to be difficult to get a legitimate chance at other job positions. Learning another programming language isn't hard for me. My college profs were correct. The concepts are far more important. Yet employers aren't on board.

I guess I'm looking for some brainstorming. How do you break free from being pigeon holed into one segment of the software development job market?

-- Patrick

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Replies To: Breaking free from career pigeon holing

#2 modi123_1  Icon User is offline

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Re: Breaking free from career pigeon holing

Posted 15 February 2013 - 08:20 AM

Honestly - you need better spin. If you have been around long enough you know how to develop software, right? The only major issue is what, syntax? So you pick up a new language book, get some mileage out of it, and start making some small apps to kick the tires on your knowledge. Use it when you can at your current job, or at home. Know the right buzzwords to win the bingo game (that is an interview), supplement that with your historical experience, and off you go in a job being paid to use what ever language you are after.
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#3 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: Breaking free from career pigeon holing

Posted 15 February 2013 - 08:34 AM

I often say that its hard to NOT find a piece of software to write.
It seems like every business you walk in to has a counter girl apologizing for the slow system or poor software. So pitch them a new program.

What about your hobbies? If you take pictures then write something photography related and put it up for sale on your personal website. If you bowl, then do something for leagues. If you drive, then do something for car care and trips.

If you're a developer with years of experience then you should be able to build up a portfolio of work. Whether it comes from making a new appointment program for the local hair salon or point of sale system contract from vWorker.

If you want to break out of being pigeon holed - then do it. Nothing is stopping you but yourself. You seem to be wanting someone else to give you an opportunity and give you a new label, when there is opportunity all around if you'd just take it.
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#4 patrick7612  Icon User is offline

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Re: Breaking free from career pigeon holing

Posted 15 February 2013 - 09:25 AM

View Postmodi123_1, on 15 February 2013 - 08:20 AM, said:

Honestly - you need better spin. If you have been around long enough you know how to develop software, right? The only major issue is what, syntax? So you pick up a new language book, get some mileage out of it, and start making some small apps to kick the tires on your knowledge. Use it when you can at your current job, or at home. Know the right buzzwords to win the bingo game (that is an interview), supplement that with your historical experience, and off you go in a job being paid to use what ever language you are after.


Yep, it's a matter of syntax. Convincing employers of that fact is the sticking point.

I think that I'm probably not very skilled at buzzword bingo. I so hate the game that is the job search, but I suppose almost everyone does. I've been naive. For example when a phone interviewer started basically giving me a computer science oral exam, I was baffled that he would do so. I've been developing software professionally for over a decade and he wants me to give a definition and example of various programming terms over the phone? Really? What does that prove? That I've been to class and had to study for an exam recently? To my dismay I realized that I couldn't answer some of these questions well even though I can and have written plenty of code that uses the concepts I was being asked to define. I would have done better as a totally inexperienced fresh out of college CS major who'd had to cram for exams recently. The next interviewer did the same thing.

So that's one piece of advice I'd give to fellow job seekers. Brush up on your terminology. You will probably be asked about it.

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 15 February 2013 - 08:34 AM, said:

I often say that its hard to NOT find a piece of software to write.
It seems like every business you walk in to has a counter girl apologizing for the slow system or poor software. So pitch them a new program.

What about your hobbies? If you take pictures then write something photography related and put it up for sale on your personal website. If you bowl, then do something for leagues. If you drive, then do something for car care and trips.

If you're a developer with years of experience then you should be able to build up a portfolio of work. Whether it comes from making a new appointment program for the local hair salon or point of sale system contract from vWorker.

If you want to break out of being pigeon holed - then do it. Nothing is stopping you but yourself. You seem to be wanting someone else to give you an opportunity and give you a new label, when there is opportunity all around if you'd just take it.


Good advice. I guess I'm not very good at the networking needed to find these opportunities. Though your hobby related suggestion doesn't require networking. It requires some creativity.
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#5 magius96  Icon User is offline

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Re: Breaking free from career pigeon holing

Posted 15 February 2013 - 12:30 PM

Oh wow, my biggest complaints about the job market were textualized in one single post!

I too and a professional developer, and have several years of experience writing software for large corporate companies and international identities. However, when I go an apply for some crummy job to make flash based training programs they grilled me about terminology that no one really uses in the field.

Employers advertise that they are looking for experience, but their interview questions scream that they want a fresh college graduate. It's sad, but oh so very true.

As it turns out, I did not get the job that I interviewed for, it was given to another guy who was fresh out of college with no formal experience. Go figure, eh?

I think that employers looking to hire programmers should do the exact same thing I'm going to do when my company opens. I'm going to have a bunch of programmers gather into a room where each of them will have a computer that has Visual Studio installed and no internet, then task them all to write some program. I'll then hire the first programmers to be able to finish the task with well designed and documented code. To heck with the terminology, I want real skill and knowledge.
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#6 farrell2k  Icon User is offline

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Re: Breaking free from career pigeon holing

Posted 15 February 2013 - 04:00 PM

Learning how to program is important, but can you really blame an employer for wanting experience with what they use? I can't, which is why I always tell people that not only learning how to program is important, but learning a common language is also important. Some employers have the foresight to undersdtand that once you learn on language, you can easily learn another, but most do not want to pay you while you learn, and who can blame them? You should have little trouble finding Java work with your experience.

How do you break free? You break free by not relying on one single source of income. It's the only way you will likely ever have the freedom to not get stuck somewhere.
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#7 wordswords  Icon User is offline

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Re: Breaking free from career pigeon holing

Posted 27 February 2013 - 10:21 PM

At my current workplace, the BBC, we are language agnostic, meaning we have to pick up any language that is suitable for the job. However when you really know a language, you should be able to pick up other languages easily, so just spend some time learning a new language in your spare time, say you know it on your resume, and then apply for a job. Easy.

This post has been edited by wordswords: 27 February 2013 - 10:21 PM

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