Oh, you wanted more?
Know several people.
There are other ways to get work, but they involve quite a bit more effort. Without fail, the easiest and most consistent path to being employed or getting contract work has been to cultivate relationships. It removes risk for potential employers when you have an advocate who already likes and respects you. A “ninja”-level github profile doesn’t mean you’re not a psychopath, but a friend on the inside allays that fear. It’s easier to bring a smart person up to speed technically than it is to change a jerk into a good colleague.
- Talk to people. Everywhere. Coffeeshops, standing in line, waiting for a bus. At worst, you’ve had practice being personable. Many times, you’ll make a real connection with someone. Maybe that someone is influential in connecting you to work later on.
- I met Damon randomly at a coffeeshop, and had no idea who he was. We struck up conversation with no real purpose. I didn’t want anything from him, I was self-employed and happily so. A year and many friendly discussions later I was looking for a change of pace, and it just so happens that Damon is the best connector of people I could have chanced upon. Shortly thereafter I was gainfully employed at Company X. More importantly, Damon introduced me to one of my favorite books of all time.
- I work at Company X for a while, where we hire Michael. Michael’s super easy to get along with, and a great colleague. A couple of years go by and I’m looking to focus on my own company and maybe have a little contract work on the side. Michael’s no longer with Company X, but with Company Y who needs a contractor…
- Notice I’m not “networking”. There’s nothing worse than interacting with people who are only interested in relationships for self-advancement. No one wants to be used.
- Collaborate with your peers on side projects. Know someone working on a personal site? Offer to help. Someone has a fun idea for a pet project? Jump in! There’s nothing like working with someone to get a sense of them as a developer.
Having an advocate is ideal, but not always possible. One way to assuage employer fears is to make them feel as though they know you. How? Writing. You can hit two birds with one stone by writing about technical topics in your own unique voice. Be vulnerable and let your personality be evident in your writing. Many companies no longer ask for writing samples, but I find it’s impactful to provide one anyway. If it’s a public blog post, all the better. How do you react to critical comments? How effectively do you communicate complex subjects? These are important questions potential employers can now answer for themselves without you nervously sweating in front of their whiteboard. Even when you have an advocate, your writing provides an additional data point to their peers and other decision-makers.
I'm Garrett Lancaster. I co-founded and developed a moderately successful SaaS app you've never heard of. I mainly work on projects using Ruby on Rails, Ember, React, and "VanillaJS". If you liked this article and want to hear about the next one, click below. I don't spam and I respect your privacy.