Getting the Perfect Job

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

may vary.

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

any gap.

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

about it.

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

surprise them.

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

continued success.

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.

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Written by Andrew Shell, a Senior Web Engineer/People Lead from Madison, WI.