Job Tips for Software Engineers

A Dice Talent Community

It’s official: you love being a software engineer, and you’d like that to continue. There’s just one small problem: you need a (new) job. The good news is that the market for software engineers in the U.S. is white hot, mostly. There are just a few things you have to look at:
- what kind of engineer are you?
- where are you?
- what kind of place do you want to work for?
- what do you need to do?

What Kind of Engineer Are You?

Do you have a flair for design, appreciate the powers of whitespace, and have an opinion on Less versus Sass? Congratulations, you’re a front-end software engineer. You’ll be very popular, particularly in web startups. If you design but don’t code, you’ll still be popular, but you’ll probably work someplace a bit larger.

Are you enamored of the idea that the code you wrote this morning could be in actual production use by tonight? Do you ride the (Ruby on) Rails and write awesome JavaScript? Hooray, you’re a web developer. You’re all the rage.

Do you still believe in the power of installation? Do you think there’s room for software that maybe your mom doesn’t understand but that drives a $245 billion industry [1]. Cool, you’re an enterprise software engineer. Sure, insurance applications and supply chain management aren’t sexy, but they’re a huge business and there are some fascinating problems to solve there.

Do you take pride in managing your own memory? Can you argue for hours about how to save one byte of memory and think that millions or billions of operations is pretty much just normal? Bravo. You’re a systems engineer, and you’re probably one of the people who will build the next great operating system or piece of core computing infrastructure. You, my friend, probably have some pretty strange hobbies, but the rest of the world depends on you more than they know.

There really aren’t right or wrong kinds of software engineers. This is where your personal preferences and talents should really come through. Choose a kind of software engineering that really calls to you, and remember, there are interesting problems everywhere you look.

Where Are You?

The sad truth is that where you are geographically still matters. Remember how I said hiring for software engineers was white hot… mostly? This is the mostly. If you’re in a tech hub—Boston, Silicon Valley, New York, Seattle, and a few others—it’s absolutely the case. If you’re not in a tech hub, the story is a little different. There are still jobs, but they’re fewer and you’ll have to look harder for them.

Telecommuting is a nice concept, and there are some people doing very well with remote work. However, to do this you must have the right employer and you have to be the right kind of person. It’s possible, but getting and changing jobs this way is extra work.

What Kind of Place Do You Want to Work?

Some of us are startup addicts (ahem, this is me). Others want to work on huge systems with large teams. There’s no right or wrong here. IBM is the right employer for some people, and two-people-in-a-garage is for others. How you hunt for a job will vary hugely based on what kind of place you want to work.

Going through a recruiter or a large job site will get you mostly focused on mid-sized to large companies. Using niche job sites will get you focused on specific industries. Other niche job sites will show you small companies—from equity-only startups to local shops with 20 to 50 people.

What Do You Need to Do?

So now what? What do you need to actually DO? It’s time to do some actual work on the job hunt.

First and foremost, make sure you’re networking. It’s a cliché for a reason: the best way to get a job is through your network. Where and how you network will depend on where you want to work. The dirty little secret of most tech communities is that there’s not one tech community. Rather, there are several communities, each targeting different niches. For example, if you’re targeting large organizations, go to user groups and meet-ups for industries and technologies you’re interested in. If you’re targeting startups, get involved in Hackathons, Startup Weekend, and code camps. In any case, your goal is to interact with potential hiring managers and people who know potential hiring managers, and specifically to interact with them in a way that lets you show off your technical skills.

Show off a bit. It’s a lot easier to get hired if you can show off the work you did. Don’t show proprietary code from your current job, but find other ways to show off your awesome skills. Contributing to open source projects is a huge benefit—and you can show off both your code and your ability to work with teams. Creating personal projects, particularly relevant ones to the jobs you want, is also helpful.

Lastly, be open to opportunities and ideas. Contracting, apprenticeships, trial periods, and consulting projects can all be good paths to an eventual job. At least be open to these kinds of opportunities, even if your eventual goal is to be an employee.

Conclusion

It’s a good time to be a software engineer. Keep your skills current, show off those skills, and go hang out (with purpose!) with other engineers and hiring managers. There are a lot of jobs out there and the possibilities just keep growing. One of them is right for you.

[1] Gartner, 2011.

IT Management Community | Fundamentals and Job Hunting

THIS DICE TALENT COMMUNITY SPONSORED BY:

The Latest From Dice

C++, J2EE, Java Skills Needed in Houston

Posted In Looking in Tech
Downtown Houston
The availability of candidates with the skills for the growing number of open technology jobs in Houston is becoming a worry for local employers, according to the Houston Business Journal. Citing a study from consulting firm CEB, the newspaper says the gap between open jobs and the tech professionals who can fill them has been widening. The greatest demand is for people skilled in C++, J2EE, Java, .NET and cloud computing. Click here to find a tech job in Houston.… continue…

Preparation Is Key to Successful Second Interviews

Posted In Looking in Tech
Woman Baking a Cake
Tip of the Day If you’re invited in for a second interview, always ask for an agenda or schedule ahead of time, including the names and titles of the people you’ll be meeting with. This will give you the chance to research them a bit, so you can understand their roles and anticipate their questions. Also, while you’re preparing, review your notes from earlier interviews, paying special attention to areas that seemed to concern the hiring manager and any team… continue…

Samsung Plans Hiring for San Jose R&D Center

Samsung's San Jose R&D Center
Samsung’s planning to do a lot of hiring in Silicon Valley as it prepares to open its new $300 million R&D Center in San Jose, by the summer of 2015. Indeed, the local talent pool is one of the reasons the company decided to locate the center there. “Samsung strategically determined the best pool of talent in the U.S. would be in the Bay Area,” Bob Brennan, senior vice president of its Memory System Application Lab, told Business Insider. “We… continue…

Where Mobile Developers Should Be Looking for Jobs

Corporate Office Buildings
It seems everyone wants a mobile app these days—even in traditionally low-tech industries like commercial fishing, construction and trucking. That means “a mobile developer with good skills can go anywhere he or she wants to—to any company in any geography,” says Chris Wood, managing partner at Kansas City staffing firm Paige Technologies. While a lot’s been written about the strength of mobile games and the growing market for wearable technologies, there’s strong demand for mobile business apps as well. “There’s… continue…

5 Programming Languages You’ll Need Next Year (and Beyond)

shutterstock_179081537
We’ve reached a bit of a turning point in the world of programming. Ten years ago, programmers were moving into dynamic languages. To many of us, those languages seemed like a bit of a fad, even if they made programming easier. But those languages endured, and today we’re developing software with a combination of old and new tools. That creates the potential for confusion: What languages are best to learn if you want to stay employed? Before diving into which… continue…

How to Land a Technology Job at Esurance

Posted In Looking in Tech
Landing@ Esurance
Esurance is an online auto, homeowner, renter and motorcycle insurer that offers direct-to-consumer insurance in 42 states, as well as service through partner providers in the remaining eight. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company has 3,200 employees in 17 offices across the country. More than 300 work exclusively in technology. Gregg Sears, senior manager of talent acquisition at Esurance, says the company is currently looking for a variety of technology professionals including senior software developers, software developers, data analysts, storage… continue…

Always Include Cover Letters When Responding Online

Posted In Looking in Tech
Apply Online
Tip of the Day If you’re using a job board like, say, Dice, always include a cover note or introductory paragraph when using your saved information. If the “apply now” button takes you to the company’s website or an application form without a designated space to introduce yourself, merge a short cover letter into the top of your resume before pasting it into the resume builder. If a strict format’s being imposed, customize your profile and summary toward the company… continue…

Why Tech Professionals Need to Be Good Story Tellers

Posted In Looking in Tech
Campfire
As a tech professional, how important is it for you to tell a good story? Lonne Jaffe, CEO of Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based enterprise software provider Syncsort, says the ability can make a big difference in the course of your career. In fact, he told Business Insider he believes it’s especially important in technology, where things can be “very complex, and sometimes people find technical details to be somewhat boring.” We’ve said before that the ability to communicate is a critical… continue…

9 Things Mobile Developers Should Be Following

LG Gwatch
New developments fly at mobile developers to the point where it can be a full-time job to keep up. “Every year after (Apple’s) Worldwide Developer Conference, you have to spend a week watching the videos. If you don’t do that, everything you know is out of date,” says Eric Schweitzer, a Dice contributor and principal software engineer at Digitas Health in Philadelphia. Things aren’t much different for those who work with Android. Click here to find a mobile development job.… continue…

One Way to Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions

Posted In Looking in Tech
Interview Prep
Tip of the Day Most of what happens in an interview is unpredictable, but you can be sure you’ll be asked some behavioral questions. These are the queries like, “What would you do if a team member kept avoiding you when you had issues to discuss?” or, “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your manager.” How do you prepare for that kind of question? One way is to create what I call a “preparation grid.” In it,… continue…