Career Musings…

Performance evaluation time has rolled around at my company. Time to take stock of what it is I’ve done well, what it is I’ve done not so well, and how to convince management that the done well was done so well that payroll should hand a little extra money my way. That’s the basic part of the performance evaluation… the harder part is figuring out my goals for next year. They impact both my chances of getting reviewed well next year (and thus keeping my job/getting a chance at another bump up the payscale) and how I actually spend my time in my career. The economy being what it is (lousy for those of us in software development that don’t have some X level of security clearance), the career path weighs more heavily, as it affects marketability both within my company and outside of it. How do my needs/abilities/interests mesh with the market? What can I highlight of my talents that someone will then be willing to hire me for? How do I make myself indispensable to someone, anyone, with signing authority for employment contracts and paychecks? I’m not willing to sell myself out and do something like go back to writing Cobol, but I am interested in at least putting my finger up to the wind to see which way things are blowing.

Dave Thomas (of The Pragmatic Programmer’s and one of the authors of ‘The Pragmatic Programmer’, rather than the deceased founder of Wendy’s) has put together a talk called ‘How to Keep Your Job’. The talk addresses some of the excuses (my word for it, not his) developers give for why they can’t find jobs or get laid off – H1B visas, companies hiring “fresh-outs” and laying off more expensive “graying” developers – and basically says, hey, you need to manage the stuff companies pay you for (your knowledge) in the same way as you would an investment portfolio. Balance risk and reward. Invest regularly. Monitor your investment to determine if you’re still balanced in risk and reward, and if your payback is getting you where you want to go.

All seems to make sense by me. So now I’m weighing what “value” I bring to the market, overall, and I can do to increase my knowledge worth. BEA training? .NET certification? Java Certified Programmer? Begin an MBA (probably not until next fall at the earliest, so not applicable to this eval cycle)? How far am I willing to go geographically within my current company to get exposure to other sides of the biz? How hard am I willing to work?

I’ve got about a week to get those thoughts down, or whatever slice I’m willing to reveal to my employer, on that performance evaluation piece of paper.

Just to give a non-career slant on the whole thing, here’s Po Bronson’s What Should I Do With My Life?. I don’t own a copy of it, but I’ve been drooling over it for a while, based on an interview I heard with him on NPR and a Fast Company article. (There’s apparently an audio segment, as well, but I haven’t listened to it yet.)

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