So far, I have read many technical books. Some of them really helped me to deal with situations I faced during my job as a software developer. Others helped me to develop my personality and taught me how I should think about life as a software developer.
Since I started my part-time studies in Computer Science back in 2013, I began thinking about my career from a new point of view. I always wanted to improve all my technical skills as wide as possible. It was difficult to become successful in one thing because I knew as soon as I had a particular understanding of a certain topic, I wanted to move on and learn something new.
John Sonmez‘ book titled Why Marketing Yourself Is Important was a good read. It was not about software development but about software developers and their careers. To be honest, it is as the title promises about marketing yourself as a software developer.
Why should I care about marketing myself?
I never thought about marketing this way. I always believed that if I became good enough in technology X or programming language Y, I would get a great job with a decent salary paid each month. Having worked for nearly 5 years as a professional software developer, I’ve learned that this assumption is not true.
From my experience, I can tell you that there is always someone in your company who gets hired with a higher salary than you or with less experience or skill than you. This is totally normal and has to do with marketing. Maybe this person was able to convince your manager that he’s able to learn what he does not know yet or he was just a smart person.
“Many software developers advance pretty quickly early in their career. For those developers it looks like there is no end in sight, that is, until they hit that invisible glass ceiling that was hovering above them all along.”
Marketing yourself means to spread the word about yourself. If you get a job interview for your next job, you would like to impress your future manager and tell him why he should hire you. It would really help if another person in the room already knew you from somewhere. Maybe he might have read some of your blog posts or a magazine article written by you.
How do I market myself in a way that boosts my career?
John Sonmez explains in his 47-page book what we can do to improve the chances of getting hired in a position we love. He explains what needs to get recognized and how to build a good reputation with the skill set we already have. I can truly recommend you to read this book.
John explains different ways of getting noticed in the community or within a company. He also says that it takes some time to grow so you need to start early and be patient. I think this is a very honest statement. I have heard enough about books titled “Become A C Guru in 24 hours”. This cannot really happen, believe me.
John tells us about setting our goals. We often forget that if we don’t have an explicit goal we will have a hard time trying to achieve that goal. If we have a precise definition of our goal, then we will be ready to work hard to reach that goal. Such a goal could be to get a specific job or 1000 followers on Twitter or get published or whatever we want. We just need to make sure that we have a goal.
“One of the key parts of marketing yourself is building a brand. Just like any successful business or product uses a brand to establish and differentiate itself from its competitors, you also need a personal brand that uniquely identifies you and what you represent.”
After the introduction to marketing, building a personal brand and the definition of goals and brands, John writes about setting up a blog and posting regularly. I run my blog since 2008 and I have written some articles during all these years, but I never keep a well-defined posting schedule. This might be something I should improve.
He also touches social media and how to use them to promote the things we work on. He also talks about writing a good resume and how we should probably pay someone to help us create it.
What is the most important thing to learn?
What I have learned most of this book is that it is important to narrow down the area of expertise. Sure, once we have managed to be successful in one field, we can move on and learn other things as well. But trying to learn everything at once seems not to be a good plan. I haven’t found my niche yet but I hope I can narrow down, in John’s words:
“You want to focus on being everywhere usually inside what is called a niche. A niche is simply a segment of a market that is very specific. The more specific the niche is, the easier it is to conquer it and the easier it is to ‘be everywhere’ within that niche.”
This strategy should help me provide consistent value for a group of people over time. People who read my articles and blog posts should know what they can expect from me.
Do I get a return on my investment?
We should not think about getting a return on investment for writing a blog post or a magazine article. But if we get a better paying job in the future because we wrote those things in the past and gave them away for free, we might get thousands of dollars back from our investment. In John’s point of view it looks like:
“The main form of currency you’ll use to build your following will be value. 90% or more of this value you’ll be giving away for free, and perhaps 10% of it you’ll be charging for.”
We just have to convince people in our area of expertise that we are worth paying for. If they think we have a good enough reputation to do a job, we’ll get real money for our investment. It takes time and therefore it’s never too early to start.
Conclusion and recommendation
The book Why Marketing Yourself Is Important is definitely a book any software developer should read. It does not matter which stage of your career you are in. Immediately out of college or university or maybe you have some years of experience as I do. Perhaps you are already an expert in your niche but you cannot get the job you are looking for, you might find many tips how to get there in John’s book.
If you prefer an electronic copy, there is currently an opportunity to buy a package including the book mentioned above and three other books written by John Sonmez. In addition, there are two video courses and about 10 interviews with well-known Software Engineers like Jon Skeet, Scott Hanselman or Robert “Bob” C. Martin.