4 Important Motives for a Software Developer to consider when Job Hunting

It is the start of the new year and you might be thinking of making a change in your career. I moved recently and like everyone it took a lot of talk and consideration and as always there was an element of anxiety on the risk of making the right move. These are the four motives that helped me decide on whether or not to make that move.

  • Learning
  • Career path
  • Work environment
  • Money

Learning

You may have stagnated or stopped learning, this could be a good indication it is time to move on. Take a step back and reflect on the last few months, what’s been achieved and what are the next steps? Does the future excite or challenge you?

Does your role have repetitive patterns and do you like them (maybe you should ask for time to automate them :>)? Maybe you are stuck in administrative task hell. Its very common for good engineers to get stuck in a niche framework or proprietary system, this often leads to them being the go-to guy for bugs of new features and it stops them from moving onto new stuff and learning. If you cant get away from this situation you should probably leave. My personal experience of this was spending a chunk of time being a json to xml surgeon, it was disgusting and I got away from it.

Career path

Its important for you to be able to envision your path and not expect an organisation to tell you where you should go. It is however their responsibility to help you carve that path by giving you the role you feel you need to hit those points. This is something to be really conscious about when looking at leaving or a new employer.

There’s lots of people who need to be selfish, they tend to get into this comfort zone and that will only lead to stagnation. If your company isn’t forward thinking and moving onto newer tech you risk being shoehorned into company specific tech and practices. The engineering industry will move forward without you and will end up with outdated skillsets.

Work Environment

The business environment your working in obviously has a huge influence in your career, salary and work environment. Perhaps you don’t fit into this anymore or personally you don’t have the same end game. Some questions that came to me when evaluating this were -

Some questions below which are work evaluating on this point:

  • What are you building and do you want to see it influence people?
  • What is the direction of the company?
  • In terms of the big picture what are you going to achieve?
  • How is the company culture?
  • Do you fit in?
  • Is there much bureaucracy and too much management?
  • Do you agree with their business approach and philosophies?
  • How much stress are you under?
  • Will a clean break make things better?

Money

If money is something that would stop you from leaving to a better job or make you stay somewhere you should re-evaluate your principles. It’s not worth being unhappy in a job for and certainly not worth holding you back in your career goals. With the amount of tax we pay in Ireland you will not be able to afford a huge house or drive a whopper car (without going into debt). If you are moving on and believe you are making the right choice that move will pay itself back x10 in the future. After making such an empowering decision you will be driven only forward to move faster in your career. If you look at Ireland’s top 30 under 30 you can bet none of these would hang around on a job for an extra 5% salary.

Ok — I’m leaving, whats next?

After reviewing and making the though decision to leave comes even more hard work — you need to find a job and break the bad news to your boss. Circling back to my experience these are the four key events:

  • Job hunting
  • Finding the right company to work for
  • Handing in notice
  • Dealing with a counter offer

Job Hunting

Finding a new job as a software developer in Dublin these days is not hard. However that doesn’t mean making the right choice much easier. Dublin’s software scene is on fire right now and companies are screaming for top talent.

Here are some of the options I considered:

  • Contracting — always a nice option because you become your own boss, you can be flexible with your work schedule and earn more cash. There are downsides though, you are now a mercenary expected to perform at a high level and can be dropped at short notice. You need to chase money and look after taxes and accounts. You must have a good network to continually find work.
  • Startups — 1–20 staff, be part of potentially building the next big team, get some piece of the company, potentially lower salary/package and risk of burnout. Huge opportunity to learn and progress with the company.
  • Small/medium companies — 20–150 staff, normally have a proven product and are financially stable. Harder to stand out (compared to the startup but still possible). You get the chance to learn and observe the company growing to the next stage and move with it in your career — this could be around process, scaling and operations.
  • Large finance/companies 150 + staff, get good money and die a little inside :) Hard to stand out, you’re probably a cog in the big wheel. Potential for lots of bureaucracy and work will move slow. Take home a fat paycheck and won’t need to exert yourself.

The new place

Now comes the though decision on the new role — where you feel is best for you. You should know in your gut which is right but I need to emphasise how important it is to think about the culture and heart of the organisation your are going to join. A wise man once told me to write a list of all the likes and dislikes you currently have, compare them with the new job or next step and if you have made this choice, stick with it.

I discussed the different options of types of companies — tread carefully around startups who aren’t willing to give you a decent percentage because you will truly earn it. Be aware that there are many small to medium companies are out to make a big sale and turn a profit for investors, if your company is raising funds it can be important to look at the how that is being used, make a call on what way you think the company is heading. Having been part of the investment and acquisition process in a company personally I can say it’s quite exciting and you learn a hell of alot.

Companies who have already sold or are public are an alternative, they could be considered stable, well resourced, and have a steady set of career paths. There would be strong management and leadership control over profitability and company direction.

There is always the option to work for a non-profit. For example Changex is doing amazing work right now and so is Foodcloud, it’s not all about money. Self fulfilling work influencing peoples lives is always a great option :D

Handing Notice

This is probably the hardest part, you need to stay composed and not bottle it. You have made this decision based on facts and a matrix of reasoning.

It’s super important not to burn bridges and if you have a direct relationship with senior members (ahead of your line manager), make sure they know your thought process and that this news is coming. The standard procedure however is your line manager — make sure you give a notice letter that includes your final date of work and is signed and dated. If there’s something legitimate or personal it should be amicable. Health, stress, organisational frustrations and personal goals are all very reasonable things.

You should do an exit interview and if not facilitated try to arrange it, this feedback to the company is very important for them. When you are on the way out is also a very good time to capture honest opinions and give constructive criticism.

Counter Offer

Counter offers are a huge compliment and show that you are highly valued. This normally includes incentives like a change of role and more money. This may sound appealing at the time but long term its unhealthy. The company has now probably lost your trust, you’ve been looking around and they will realise they need to tee up a replacement.

Realistically you will reflect on your decision to accept the counter offer in 6–12 months and realise it was a mistake. When you get to the stage of handing your notice it’s highly likely you will continue to be unhappy in the long term.

More money is always nice, but once you hit a certain salary it really doesn’t matter. When you can pay your bills, feed your family and live to a good standard forget about it. Your new role and career development is more important.

Closing off

I decided to join the team @thephorestword, it reflects nothing negative on my last role — I just needed a change of scenery. Phorest are paving the future technology for an untapped industry. I admire the core values of bootstrapping and growing organically, and you can read more about that here.