Advice For Managing Your Career: 50+ Resources For Programmers & Software Engineers

Having came across several interesting stories within the past week or two which were all career related, it reminded me of all of the good resources I’ve came across over the past few years related to the craft of Software Engineering. Maybe you’re just looking to get started in Software Development and aren’t sure if it’s for you, or maybe you’re a manager wondering why your employees are leaving– all of these items and more are covered here.

1. Getting Started

Not sure if you were cut-out to be writing code for the rest of your days? Career Cat - cat reads article about how to improve his career Are you feeling different than your peers? Justin James wrote an interesting list– 10 signs that you aren’t cut-out to be a developer.
Now that you’ve decided you are genuinely interested in becoming a programmer, there are many, many ways to go about this. If you don’t have any idea what direction to head to, a good starting point is Getting Started in Programming.

2. Get Your Resume In Shape

Resumes are yet another major thing to get right. A resume is what can get your foot into the door into the company of your dreams, or put you in an infinite job search loop with very little feedback. There are many opinions and guides to creating the perfect programming resume, and here a couple which I’ve found to be the most helpful are Writing a Resume That Will Land You a Programming Job and Resume Pitfalls Every Programmer Should Avoid. Most programmers are notoriously bad at presentation and should also think about giving their resume a face lift. It also might not hurt to take a look at the 100 most searched for resume keywords and add them to your resume if they match your skills and experience.

3. Starting your Job Search

One of the best ways to get jobs is to reach-out and network with people you know to see what jobs they know about. The most natural and unobtrusive way to do this is to sign-up for LinkedIn and import your address book.

A good way to see what sort of jobs are out there and what the market is like is to use a job aggregator and search engine like indeed.com. There are also some other sites to take a look at which it doesn’t have permission to index such as craigslist. You may also find out about jobs through local mailing lists or user groups. You could also check into companies that you like and are interested in by going to their website and seeing if they have any open positions which fit your skills and experience.

There are of course many large and popular job sites which you might want to hit individually if you aren’t finding what you’re looking for via indeed.com– sites like Monster, HotJobs, and Dice are all good places to start.

4. Prepare For The Big Interview

If you’ve been in the industry for awhile you know that what you can expect during the interview process is it being completely unexpected. There are a wide variety of interview techniques used by companies, and none of them seem to be the same. I think one really good overview on what to do is Preparing for a Software Engineering Interview. While that is a good overview, you have to prepare for a very wide variety of questions. Here are a lot of resources to prepare you for an intense Software Engineering interview process including some general interview tips as well:

Although you should be prepared for a wide variety of potential interview questions, you should also be prepared to ask plenty of questions of your own. Bruce Eckel provides a good list of questions which you should ask during an interview, and you should also be prepared to take some ownership during the process as well.

You should also make sure to dress appropriately for an interview– it is not the time to break-out your DEFCON 1999 shirt, nor should you make an unnecessary trip to your local department store for a suit. Unlike most other white-collar professions, you are actually at a disadvantage if you wear a suit to an interview, but you should at least take the time to clean yourself-up and look like a well adjusted adult.

If you happen to be on a team trying to land a new developer and you experience great candidates turning you down over and over again. One thing to be conscious of is how poor interviewers drive away talent.

If you didn’t get the job, it wouldn’t hurt to read 25 Reasons You Didn’t get the Gig to brush-up on your interviewing and presentation skills before you give it a try again. Or maybe it’s just a sign that you’re ready to start your own company or do freelance work from home, there are plenty of reasons you don’t need a job.

5. Got The Job? Improve Your Situation

There are many things you should be doing to improve your career and general well being even while employed. For one, you should always continue learning– whether this be new languages, frameworks, or even learning more of the classic Computer Science topics in depth, don’t forget to prevent yourself from becoming stale. The one constant about technology is that it’s always changing, and you will need to keep-up on your own time to stay competitive.

At the same time, being the master of a particular domain is not all it’s cracked-up to be– make sure you spend plenty of time outside of programming as well for a balanced life. I try to learn as much about as many topics as I can, and from time to time find some interesting lessons in life you can later apply to what you do. Travel to new places, try things you normally wouldn’t do, try new cuisines, and in general find ways to grow your mind.

Programmers aren’t known to be the most extroverted, gregarious people in the world (myself included), but you should make an active effort to meet new people in your field. Whether that be at user group meetings, conferences, chat rooms, mailing lists, message boards, etc, you’ll find that having connections in the industry is a very good thing to have. I’ve mentioned it before, but LinkedIn (no affiliation other than a user of their service) is a really great place to keep in touch with your network.

A topic that many programmers overlook is budgeting and investing– we’ve all been guilty of it at one time or another! It’s easy to be wasteful when making a decent salary as many software developers do. Here are a few resources which will help you get a handle on your money and start making it work for you by doing more with less, and investing more:

6. All Things Must Come To An End

Once you’ve been in a job for awhile, it’s pretty much inevitable that you will leave for greener pastures for a variety of reasons, or be forced to move for various reasons. You might even find yourself alone after many of your co-workers leave via a mass exodus in which management has no control over. If you feel that you’re in a salvageable position, some links which might help you analyze what the problems are in hopes of fixing them include:

Perhaps you’re tired of your job for various reasons and are weighing whether or not you should stay? A couple of articles which might help you make the decision on what to do include What To Do When the Thrill is Gone and Do I Stay or Do I Go.

Although this is quite an exhaustive list which took me quite a long time to write about and assemble, I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of tips or resources to pass-on. If you have any to add, be sure to leave them in the comments!

Thanks to Flickr user McBeth for the perfect photo.

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