How To Market Yourself As a Programmer

10 ways to obtain better opportunities for yourself every day

Jun Wu
Jun Wu
Oct 18, 2019 · 6 min read
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Photo by Pietro De Grandi on Unsplash

If you’re a full-time programmer at a software company with a career path laid out before you, you may not realize the need to market yourself — but it’s important.

Internal marketing is often as important as external marketing. Every single day, as you are working, you are also marketing this one product: You. You, as a programmer is your product.

Putting your best foot forward will only expand your horizons and lead to those hard-to-obtain opportunities. While everyone’s concerned with technical interviews, you’re seeing the bigger picture.

To make it happen, you need to put yourself out there and build your skill stack. But you’ve got to build that stack with mindfulness.

You Are Not a Code Monkey

Anyone can be a code monkey. This is someone who simply writes code without any consideration.

There’s no creativity in being a code monkey. There’s no fun. Instead, as a programmer, you consider the implications for your code in the scope of design, architecture, and functionality. You learn frameworks and apply them. You see patterns and can use computer-science techniques to program with style and efficiency.

In other words, you don’t just get the job done, you get it done well.

You Have a Specialty

Anyone can be a jack of all trades with no thought as to the direction of one’s career. If you are a front-end programmer, a back-end programmer, an AI programmer, or a database guru, who are you as a programmer? At work, do people go to you for special kinds of problems to solve?

Do people look up to you to provide areas of knowledge that you know better than others in your company? This is different from the skill set you put on your resume. It’s the expertise people in your company perceives you to have. It’s based on your experience. It is the unicorn in your resume.

Your need to discover your specialty through other people’s eyes and elaborate on that specialty with a vengeance. If you are a Python programmer, what types of Python problems do people at work ask you to solve most frequently? Can these problems be solved by anyone else? What are the key skills that you possess to be able to deal with these types of problems well?

Discovering your unicorn is the same as discovering your gift. Highlight your gift in interviews and on your resume. Make use of it at every opportunity.

You Can Communicate

By communication, I don’t just mean that you can explain things, work with people, and present your ideas. By communication, I mean that you can engage. Everyone has a short attention spans these days. It’s much easier if you can engage people and just get to the point.

There are various ways of engaging. Are you eloquent? Do you have a unique sense of humor? Are you profound? Are you rough around the edges? Can you tell a story? Do you have hobbies that show you off as a person?

Often, the best programmers are engaging in many outlets besides their day job. They are engaging at network events, on online forums, in open-source communities, and on blogs.

These programmers are building a brand for themselves by engaging with not just coworkers — but with the world. You can brand your real self with your real skills.

You Can Get the Job Done With a Personality

Everyone wants to work with someone they have fun with. In every project, there comes a time when things are boring and you need a lift. You want a coworker who can crack jokes and have hobbies.

Within the company, people from other departments will remember your name if you had a personality that shined through during project meetings. This is how you become popular within your network of colleagues, acquaintances, and friends.

You may not want popularity. But with popularity comes opportunities that you never thought you’d receive.

You Are Reliable in Times of Trouble

So many technical managers I know want people on their team who are reliable. This is true in any engineering profession. There are too many points of failure.

A programmer who can deliver in times of trouble is truly the golden unicorn of hiring. This is when you can be paid premiums for the skills you have. This is when you can differentiate yourself from the pack.

What do you need on a rescue mission? Discover these skills and practice them. When deadlines are tight, do you pull it together?

When everyone steps away from a problem, can you step forward to solve it?

You Need to Know

I’ve met some extremely talented programmers. These are people who are inspired. By being inspired to know everything, they are inspiring to others around them.

What separates these programmers from the pack is their insatiable curiosity for everything around them. If you give these programmers a research topic, they’ll literally comb through every corner and give you a very detailed analysis. They have intrinsic motivation to learn about anything — not just programming.

You Are Balanced as an Individual

Interestingly, the best programmers I’ve ever met are the ones who didn’t think they were the best at all.

They had this extreme humility about them. They had this sense of wonder about the universe. You can tell they respect the world and its vast knowledge store. They put their own abilities into perspective. They have a healthy mix of imposter syndrome and drive.

They may know they’re good at their jobs, but they don’t think they’re great. They’re always learning and striving.

You Don’t Define Yourself Solely by Your Work

As a programmer, it’s very hard to not define yourself by your work. But a lot of the programmers who don’t burnout easily are the ones who define themselves by other passions in their lives, too.

For instance, a programmer can also be a parent, a student, a teacher, an activist, and a gamer. A programmer can also raise funds for their favorite charities, run a marathon, and paint. A programmer can also be a botanist with a home-based greenhouse lab. A programmer can also be a farmer, a foodie, and a speaker.

What you do in your off time is just as important as what you do at work. How you spend your off time often defines what kind of person you are at work: your creative capacity, your ability to engage in teamwork, and your ability to sell your ideas.

You Work on Self-Improvement As Much As You Work on Interview Questions

As a programmer, it’s easy to get lost in the relentless quest for innovation. But the best programmers I know don’t chase the dream — I mean they barely chase the full stack.

What do they do to get better at what they’re doing? They chase the depth of the skills they currently have. Once they’re satisfied and confident, then they add on breadth as they go. They don’t relentlessly work on interview questions. Instead, they work on projects that’ll teach them new ways of looking at real-world problems.

They’re also focused on living rather than working. They love their work, but they see living a better life as the ultimate goal. They work on that project every day.

You Promote Your Work

We have so many social-media outlets. Just pick one. Even if you’re in a chatroom, do people know what you do for a living? If you never reach out and tell people about your day job, then you are not making yourself available to be found.

Often, the best way to get your next job might be through a distant acquaintance, a friend, or an excolleague. Tweet what you are working on. Post about your new project on some online programming forums on Quora and Reddit. Share your thoughts about technologies and your programming journey.

Self-promotion is about making friends. The more friends you make, the easier it is for you to get your next job. The more options you have, the easier it is to find the right fit.

Now I’ve given you the motivation to market yourself, so go and be yourself!

You can:

  • Start a blog
  • Join an online programming forum
  • Put together a YouTube channel
  • Help others solve programming problems on various online forums
  • Help connect your programming friends together
  • Mentor other programmers
  • Work on your hobbies
  • Be the go-to person at work
  • Socialize

So many ideas and so little time. Nowadays, there are many programming jobs that are 9-to-5 jobs. With balance, you can improve your life the same way you improve your programming skills.

When you improve your life, you’ll shine very brightly in the eyes of your next employer.

What are you waiting for?

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

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