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There's a difference between becoming a better developer and showing you're a better developer to potential employers or to your current employer (ie. raises and such). I'm wondering what the most cost effective ways of doing that are. By cost effective, I don't just mean how much money said developer going to have to put out. Most commonly these are money and time. The latter is often more significant.

For instance: Having your own blog can really develop you as a programmer, but it may not be seen as a big deal to your current or future developers, and is potentially a lot of work, whereas some certs can go a long way with some employers and is much less work than building up a lot of quality content in a blog or developing a personal/OS project - even if the latter may be more fun.

Assuming you're in the .NET space, what are the more cost effective ways that you can increase your marketability to your current or future employers? In an ideal world, we/I would do them all, but for the purpose of prioritizing, one should/could tackle the higher marketability/cost ones first before moving on to the others.

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Duplicate : How to market yourself as a software developer? –  Aditya P Apr 15 '11 at 17:52
@AdityaGameProgrammer: I tried emphasizing the cost-effectiveness (mentioned it 3 times). Sure, there's dozens of different ways... I could write a full-featured open source operating system, and that'd improve my marketability, but that might take years. Conversely, I could also take a month and get a cert or two. Obviously it would depend on the ultimate career goals I have, but the latter is much more effective and is more likely to be one of the first practices that I'd perform. –  Steve Evers Apr 15 '11 at 18:38
@SnOrfus. Cost-Effectiveness does not change the basic idea behind the question or its answer.It is your perception and acceptance of the results of your efforts.This answer would aptly suit the cost effectiveness quotient of your question –  Aditya P Apr 15 '11 at 18:45
@SnOrfus, please state the function definition of cost(...) –  user1249 Apr 15 '11 at 18:47
@AdityaGameProgrammer: Consider it a ranking, as opposed to a list. I'm asking for the perception of the results of such efforts as seen by the people here. Certainly, I could do so myself, but that'd be just one ranking based on just one set of knowledge. I don't keep a blog of my own, so I can't say whether going to a paid conference (Mix for eg), is more beneficial than maintaining a blog. –  Steve Evers Apr 15 '11 at 18:52

5 Answers 5

  • Write programs in your spare time, to improve your skills.
  • Create an open-source project, to demonstrate your skills.
  • Contribute to other open-source projects, to show your team work.
  • Maintain a very well-written blog, to illustrate your skills.

All of these are essentially free (money-wise).

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Good list, but you forgot contributing to open source projects. –  Rein Henrichs Apr 15 '11 at 17:24
@Rein: I thought of that, but it's difficult to demonstrate what your own contributions are, apart from the others on the team. Still, it's nice to be able to say you're a part of the team that created some high-profile, successful open-source project. –  Robert Harvey Apr 15 '11 at 17:45
@Rein: updated. –  Robert Harvey Apr 15 '11 at 18:10
@Robert Harvey: Could you include, in your opinion, how much these improve your marketability comparatively? IE. which are better than the others from a cost perspective (notably not monetary cost). –  Steve Evers Apr 15 '11 at 18:34
@SnOrfus: Well, all four relate to writing more code, but the last three affect the visibility of said code. The basic idea is: Learn something, then have material on hand that proves you know it. –  Robert Harvey Apr 15 '11 at 22:19

Having done a good bit of hiring, I would take someone much more seriously if he blogs or writes articles or books or gives presentations at conferences than I would he if had a certification. In fact I would not consider the certifications helpful in the slightest. I'm not interested in people who are all about the quick fix of do a little memorization of obscure facts and pass a test and then forget all I learned.

But the best way to be more marketable is to have actual accomplishments. To have actually succesfully developed something. To have met deadlines and gotten the project in under budget. To have solved a difficult problem.

There is no quick fix for a lack of experience.

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If you're going to an interview, then show potential employers that you've taken the time to investigate their market place and give examples of how your skills might assist them in being more successful. Don't tell them how to do their business but show areas in which your experience may be beneficial to them. The only thing you need to spend is your time.

How to get interviews? In most cases potential employers will ask their existing staff to cast their eyes over a CV. Just make sure your CV is clear and is tailored to their market, again showing your experience in that area. If nothing else, it shows you made the effort. At this stage however, nothing beats a personal recommendation. Probably the easiest way to do this is attend developer led conferences and participate in any developments groups that may be local to you. These are normally either cheap or free. In doing so you'll meet like minded people - they are making the effort of going! Over time you can build a network of new friends and in the process learn new things and improve your own ability to communicate your knowledge. Whilst these people may not be your employer, they could be potential colleagues or introduction to a new role (and vice versa).

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I think @Robert Harvey assembled a nice list of things that you can do. But there's a reason why to do those things: it shows that you are serious/passionate about your career and that you are trying to do whatever you can to be better at it.

I also would like to add some things that can help you improve your marketability:

  • If you are a software developer, contributing to stackoveflow.com is a form of contributing to the open-source community (and a good way to make new professional contacts). If you do that, make sure you have a Stackoverflow Careers profile;
  • Do freelance work to show that you can get things done! But be careful: this may be a bad idea depending on your company policy. But if you are allowed to, always make sure you do not get involved in freelance work that are in the same area of development that you do for your company. Remember that NDA ou signed?!? If you've done interesting freelance projects there is no reason why you shouldn't add it to your resume.

By the way, I do share my SO profile in my resume and it has worked well for my advantage so far.

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The fastest way to get proof you know something is to get certified.

Find out what is the most respected certification in the line of work you want to do (.NET/Java/whatever), and take one or more of these. This will most likely be non-trivial to pass, but I don't think you can get anything faster.

If you have plenty of money, take time off to study. If you have plenty of time, prioritize your daily work higher and learn all you can from using the skills you learn in your certification training.

Also be aware that to get the most out of it, you need to use it afterwards...

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Thank you, this is precisely the kind of answer I was hoping for. +1 –  Steve Evers Apr 15 '11 at 19:30
I know dozens of real estate sales people that passed a bunch of different certifications, with no understanding of what they were testing on, there is a entire cottage industry surrounding teaching people how to pass these technical certifications, Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, etc. does that mean they are qualified? –  Jarrod Roberson May 9 '11 at 20:39
@jarrod, some are better than others. The Sun/Oracle ones are pretty telling. –  user1249 May 9 '11 at 21:51
Never interviewed anyone with a certification who was in any way better than those without. Usually they are less knowledgeable. Most hiring odfficials I know don't consider them as something that would make you stand out. Don't waste your money on them. –  HLGEM Feb 23 '12 at 14:43
I think certifications are a great way for new, inexperienced programmers to show some initiative and get a foot in the door for certain positions at certain types of companies. I also believe certifications become less important the more experience one has or if one is seeking higher-level positions. At some point they can even become a negative, as their ability to display skill and knowledge is so much lower than pure code. –  Eric King Feb 23 '12 at 15:02

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