In my last article I
talked about how I landed the perfect job. In this
article I’m going to go into some of the strategies I used to get to where I am
today. Keep in mind that this is more of an art then a science and your milage
Some of these strategies will help you get your first job, but in general they
are geared towards moving your career forward from job to job until you land
your perfect job.
1. Know when to fold
When you have a job, it’s important to pay attention to how your job rates based
on what’s important to you. When you’re just starting out, you may not have all
of your needs met, but with each transition you should find yourself moving
closer to your goal.
My rule of thumb is that you should stay at a job for at least 1 year. This is
partly due to being considerate to your employer and partly to make things
easier on you with your resume moving forward. You don’t want to show that you
have 3 new jobs a year.
One caveat to this rule is if you start a job and it’s immediately obvious that
it was a bad choice. For instance you’re not doing what you were hired to do,
or if you find out that the employer is doing unethical things that you don’t
want to be associated with. In these cases get out ASAP and don’t look back.
If you catch these quick you can omit them on your resume and not have much if
The other thing is you need to know specifically why you’re leaving this job and
what you’re gaining at the new job. For instances at one point in my career I
left my job because there was very little chance of growth and I wasn’t getting
along with my boss. At the new job I would be working on a very interesting
project, get to learn about SEO and possibly get a trip to New Zealand out of
2. Always be learning
If you’re not progressing in your career then you’re falling behind. This is
especially true for my career as a software developer, but in general you want
to be sure that you’re constantly learning new things. If you can learn new
things at work that’s great, but you better be doing a lot of learning on your
When you’re learning new things, it’s important that you’re not just learning
things that you will be specifically doing. For instance for me I need to learn
more then just new coding techniques. You want to find out what’s important to
your boss and the leadership in the company and learn about those things too.
At this point in my career I spend more time learning about sales & marketing
then I do new programming techniques. You’ll need to learn speaking skills and
how to network. These are common across all industries.
Even though I was a developer, my employer had no reservations about sending me
to meet with a high profile client because they knew that I knew the product and
project inside out and was very capable at explaining it in plain terminology to
a non-technical customer.
One other aspect to this strategy is that the best way to learn something is to
teach it. Despite being fairly introverted and shy in high school early in my
career I started the local PHP Meetup Group. Basically a club for people
working in the programming language I was. Every month I would come up with a
topic to teach the group about. Not only did I get better at the topics I
taught, but I met other people in my local industry and immediately gained
authority. People would assume that because I led the group I was one of the
best developers in town. Eventually that became the case. If someone was
looking for a PHP developer in town they would typically go through me and if
something interesting came through I could jump on it before anyone else knew
3. Make sure you’re visible and valuable
If the people making hiring and firing decisions at your company don’t know who
you are then you’re walking on thin ice. Go out of your way to help the key
players in the company. This is different for each company, but in general
you’ll want to do things that make your supervisor/boss happy and look good,
this includes making their job easier or solving problems that are important to
them. It is especially good if you do this under the radar and constantly
It’s also important that they see that you care about the company and are
interested in learning more about how it functions and what’s important to its
I always kept my ear open for off the cuff comments like “Wouldn’t it be cool
if…” or “Why doesn’t this…” or “How can we…” and try to come up with
innovative solutions that wouldn’t take me more then a few days to a week to
implement. Then I could go to that person and say “Hey, remember the other day
you were wondering about this? Well take a look here.” and show them what you’ve
done. For me this might be writing a WordPress plugin or a cool visualization.
For you it might be doing some research and putting together a report.
4. Be brazen
Nobody wants to hire a pussy. One of my favorite lines is “It’s better to ask
for forgiveness then for permission” Obviously try not to screw things up, but
take calculated risks because they typically work out for the best. Don’t spend
a month on the job working on something nobody asked about, but if you work a
couple late nights to get something to show off it’s probably worth it.
I typically don’t attempt to get promoted or get a raise. This is because I’m
usually at smaller companies and I’d move on to a new company to get my
promotion. However if you’re at a company where there is vertical growth then
by all means do what you can to gain the positive attention of the folks around
you. One trick could be to help your boss get promoted and then see about
getting his old job. That way you’re making friends in higher places and you’re
getting what you want. Another great strategy is to create a new position. I’m
not going to get into this much, but it’s a great way to move up the ladder.
Right now since I’m the CTO at a company with three people, the best way to “get
promoted” is to make the company as successful as I can so it grows and I can
hire people that report to me. I’m getting paid well, so if I want a raise I’m
going to have to make a very solid case for why I’m worth more. The easiest way
is to add to the bottom line.
I hope you liked my article and can take action on some of these in your own
career. The most important take away is to keep on going. Don’t get lazy and
settle down somewhere. If you’re not evolving in the company you’re at then you either need to come up with a way to do so, or you need to find another company.