On Today's Market, Best Job Finds You

Looking for work in web development or software?

Job postings aren't enough. Companies that place job postings or list openings on the careers page of their website are taking a gamble. They cast a wide net and investigate hundreds of candidates, looking for people who fit their criteria and pass through some social and technical filters.

This approach can work - for companies with reputations that draw top candidates, who have excellent technical teams that can identify great talent effectively. It often works for companies who can afford to hire a dozen candidates and fire any who don't turn out as expected.

It works especially well if the company hopes to find cheap, inexperienced labor that will do a "good enough" job within a tight budget.

Unfortunately for you, if you're looking at job postings you're probably unemployed - fresh out of college, self-taught and trying to break into the industry, or between jobs.

You might be brilliant, or passionate, or determined - but you aren't engaged by someone who thinks you're valuable, so your value is suspect and hiring you is risky.

Instead of taking that risk, a huge portion of available work (The Wall Street Journal says 80%) - whether permanent positions or freelance contracts - goes un-posted.

This work will go to a developer known to someone who's asked, "Who do you know that's good at X and looking for work?" by someone who trusts them.

Privately owned businesses, startups, non-profits; it doesn't matter what the organization is - if they don't have a large number of resources to waste and they don't know how to identify talent, they aren't going to waste their time combing through unqualified resum├ęs to find you.

Some spend money on recruitors who target people already established in their careers. They spam a thousand developers on LinkedIn who already have jobs, hoping to attract someone with offers of more money or cooler technology to work with.

Far more often, companies turn to the people they trust - current employees or contractors, consultants they've worked with in the past, friends and fellow business owners who had some work done recently that impressed them. They ask, "Who should I talk to?" and they trust the answer.

People with startups who don't know developers, have no existing team, don't have money for recruitors, and don't know other business owners - they'll go to local programmer meetups or attend conferences to meet people. They'll meet someone they think is friendly, smart and credible - and they'll ask, "Who should I talk to?" and trust the answer.

If you don't have a reputation, you need to make one. Get out to meetups. Take some courses to improve your skills and meet people at the same time. Contribute to an open source project to build a reputation in that community, to have samples of code to show people, and for bragging rights. You probably build things for fun - get out and show them to people.

More than just building a reputation for being smart or skilled, build one for being trustworthy, honest and friendly. Be vocal about the technology you love, and that you're looking for a job or freelance work.

Recommendations and referrals from your peers and previous clients are not just a common way of doing business, they're often the source of the best opportunities you'll ever have.

Get out into your community. Be known.


Jeff Szusz

I'm a professional web developer, a novice videography nerd, and I love a good book or games with friends. I'm @jeffszusz on twitter!