Being really good in your field is important, but more important than that is to seem to be good. Invest in yourself. Be searchable!
How many times did you search your name on Google? How many times did you search some keywords related to you? Did you like the results you got? Can them be better? They should.
We, developers and engineers, built the Web like it is today, but sometimes we forgot how important we are, and mainly, how important we should be. This is something that – believe me – happens more than you think. We like to code for others, to create software, to make money, but we forget to invest in ourselves images, and how people think we are.
This is not about your work, this is not about your job. This is about you, your image, and how you take care of it.
The community is huge, and it’s growing fast. In the PHP world, the current community we have is totally different from 10 years ago, maybe even 5 years ago. It’s moving really fast, and sometimes we have to run to be part of it, to show to the world how good we are, or we seem to be.
I know many amazing developers that don’t even have a blog, never had. I know many amazing developers that are really good at their jobs, but never went to a conference, or even spoke about a subject he/she is really good at. Maybe this post is for you. Does the world know who are you, and what you do?
This post is for many different types of developers and engineers. Maybe you are a shining person, maybe you want to be anonymous, maybe you think you’re beginner enough to stay quiet where you’re right now, or maybe you have experience, always wanted to start doing something great, but never started that.
How to invest in yourself?
Here you can find some tips (or suggestions) to start making something different with your career. These tips worked for me or for others close to me. Maybe you’re doing some decisions wrong, and here you can find possible solutions for that, to start changing your image and improving your career.
1. Show up your code
Do you have a GitHub account? If your answer was yes, what do you have on it? Do you have a good code you wrote? Do you have contributions to open source projects? Do you have something to show? If you answer was no, stop what you’re doing, create a GitHub account and read this paragraph again.
Many job listenings request a link to something you’ve created. Some ask to send some code you wrote, but let’s agree the easiest way is to send a GitHub – or any Git repository – URL, with everything you have worked in the last year or so, with that interesting solution you’ve found in particular.
If you have interest in reading more about how open source can change your life, read this blog post Why you should contribute to open source projects.
2. Meet people
Nothing is more important than people. Technology is made by people for people. So, create relationships, improve your networking, go to conferences and talk to them. Talk to that speaker you like, that one responsible for a project you use, for a podcast you listen, that one you follow on Twitter.
I remember when I went to PHP Conference Argentina in 2014. I met – and took a photo with – awesome people like Rob Allen – Zend Framework and Slim Framework contributor, Ben Marks – evangelist at Magento, Phil Sturgeon, Michael Widenius (Monty) – MySQL and MariaDB creator, Nate Abele, Anthony Ferrara, Fabien Potencier – Symfony creator, Mitchell Hashimoto – Vagrant creator, and much more.
3. Join the Community
Believe me. There’s a local community in your city, or state/province, or country. There’re communities everywhere, for PHP, for Python, Ruby, Java, it doesn’t matter. If you cannot find any community to join maybe it’s time to start one.
This doesn’t mean that you have to organize events or meetups, but I can assure you that you can help with something. Organizers need help, and everything starts small, so you can meet people and be part of the community starting small as well.
Being part of a community is an excellent opportunity to start being known or even start speaking for a small-to-medium amount of people.
Remember, everything starts small.
4. Start blogging
I started blogging in 2011, but if I knew how important it was, I had started before that. My first posts were written in Portuguese, but some months later I saw how interesting would be if I start writing in English. The beginning was hard, believe me, but I have no words to say how important it was, and how my English skills have changed since then.
Create a routine for blogging according to your schedule. Start with a blog post per month, then maybe one every two weeks, or even more. Writing is a good exercise to the mind, and it’s an opportunity to show your thoughts and experiences to the world.
Blogging allows you to be searchable. Instead of only your social networks being shown on a search engine, you start to be shown as a writer, with a content you know exactly what you said. With some time your blog posts will start being read and your blog will start getting even more attention.
5. Start speaking
Speaking is not easy, but the most difficult part is not speaking itself, but start speaking. Think of this as a monster you never saw. When you fight face-to-face this monster you’ll figure out how to kill him, step by step, on your way.
You can start submitting to CFP (Call4Papers) to big events, of course, but it’s a very big move, IMO. Start with a local community, a local event, with 20-30 people, and please, collect feedback about your talk, about you. Receive the good feedback respectfully, but focus on the bad ones. They are really what’s important for you right now.
One important point that’s a big problem for some people is not speaking but finding something to say. You talk don’t have to be about something great, but something that would help people. Again, everything starts small, so start speaking about something that helped you on your work, for example.
6. Organize your ideas
One good advice for blogging or even speaking is to prepare. You’ll never be prepared to submit a talk proposal until you start doing that in advance. When that interesting event opens its CFP you should have all ideas and talks ideas prepared, ready to be sent.
I don’t know what’s gonna work for you, particularly, but for me what worked was a free Trello board with “Ideas”, “To-do”, “Doing”, “Done” columns, like Kanban. I also have two labels: “talk” and “post”.
Basically, the “Ideas” column is where I add every idea I have, since the simplest one to the most complex one. The point here is to save all ideas you have. The rule is that you cannot delete any card from this column, only add. For each idea you have, you can select the “talk” or “post” label, or even both. This means that that idea is for a blog post or a talk, for example.
I read all ideas frequently, and the better ones I move to the “To do” column. Here at this point, I have to define a good title for each card/idea, I have to write a good description for it, always following “what, why and how” guide. Then I pick one card from “To-do” column, move to “Doing” and start writing (if it’s a blog post). Then I move to “Done” when finish and next week start this workflow again.
One of the big improvements for me is that when a CFP is opened I only take a look at the “To-do” column and pick one or more good cards. At this point I already have a good description for each one, so I just copy and paste to the CFP website, making the process easier and faster.
7. Reinvest in yourself
Think like you are a company. You work, make money and pay the bills. Then when your company has some profit you reinvest back on it, right? You should do the same for you, reinvesting part of your profit back on you.
You can get this money to do courses, to attend conferences, to watch online classes and videos, reading a book, it doesn’t matter. But you should keep part of your monthly profit to reinvest back in you. This is something you should keep doing every month, making your company (you) growing each more.
8. Share your experiences
We work five days on a week and I’m sure you do amazing stuff every day. Here is the point: you always have something to share. Maybe you can do a simple tweet about that, or even write a blog post about that challenge you had. If so, add that to your “Ideas” column and maybe that can really be a new blog post.
One interesting thing I saw recently was about sharing code on Twitter. I always took a screenshot of my editor and share the image, but since I found Carbon I cannot think of another way to do that. It creates an image using your code, allowing you to customize background color, theme, font, etc:
9. Never say no
I know you might be happy with what you have been doing, or with the company you have worked for, like I am, but never say no to any opportunity you have. This is not about changing the current job you have, nothing like that, but it’s about creating a network.
If you have a good LinkedIn profile you might get some messages frequently, like I have. If some recruiter pinged you about a new amazing opportunity to work with that new amazing technology, even if you are totally satisfied with your current job, never say no as your first answer. Always say yes and listen what they have to say. Here is the point, you are creating your network, so make friends, meet people. You never know when you’re going to need them 😎.
It doesn’t matter what’s your experience level. This is not about being awesome, but it’s about sharing and improving yourself. You always have something to learn and to share, so start doing that today. Remember, everything starts small, so you have to do a big move to start.
Think you have to invest in yourself. Think how people search for you, think of what image you want the people have from you and start creating that. It would take some time to you start seeing the results, so start as soon as possible.
I’m not saying you have to do all tips I presented in this post, but start with one or two. After that goes to another one and so on. I’m sure you are going to transform yourself into a better developer, and the most important: people would start noting you as a developer or engineer, and then you will start showing your work.