One of my colleagues—I’ll call him G.—recently told me how he had gotten his current job. He said it was because he had been unemployed for six months. In that time, he got up early every day, studied, and coded. What did he study? Everything listed in the job description.
Having a job can lull one into a false sense of security. Before his layoff, G. had been working for one of a handful of U.S. defense contractors where security, quality, and policy protocols dictated that every piece of technology was vetted and approved. This meant that G. was working with older tried–and–true languages and frameworks. So although he was well–versed in Java, he was walled off from newer developments such as Struts and Spring.
Employment might be the worst thing for one’s career. Not every company is willing to nurture your growth outside the office walls. Insider familiarity with an employer’s proprietary business algorithms might well come at the expense of a broader skill set.
There are a few ways to counteract this career atrophy:
- Read. Not just fiction. Not just about tools, but also about process, about craft.
- Code outside of work. For fun. For profit.
- Respect and value your family time, but attend some tech meetings.
- Present at some tech meetings. The Q&A might teach you more than you expect.
- Blog or tweet. This will collect and reinforce your learning. More about this later.