Regardless of experience level, exploring the job market is something all professionals have to do from time to time. As you delve into that ocean of opportunities, given enough time, you will eventually realize there is an unspoken truth about it that is not really discussed at school – or at all. Sometimes, it even includes ideas that the larger society may frown upon and most corporations officially dismiss. Yet, they’re still there in practice, and might forever stay.
It’s not exclusively about the hard-skills
The first hard-pill-to-swallow is that being a competitive candidate is not exclusively about hard skills. Even experts with the highest credentials still need to sharpen other areas of their professional self to be sought-after by recruiters. Workplace dynamics go well beyond how you carry out your technical activities. For the most part, it involves office politics, networking, personal branding and personal marketing. Developing your “people-person” skills is critical for survival in the corporate world. Some people argue that it’s even more crucial than your competence in your field of expertise – and, unfortunately, I would agree.
Credentials don’t necessarily mean competence
Another common mistake is believing that seniority is achieved with academic credentials or professional certifications. While there is a solid argument that such qualifications have significant contributions to one’s expertise, the lived experience in the industry carries substantial weight, too. So which side of the scale is the heaviest? It depends on the job. In some areas, especially in academia, credentials are almost everything. In others, industry experience wins. Luckily for us, IT is the latter category; however, if hands-on experience is your forte, you still have to ensure it has enough significance to make the academics section of your resume secondary.
Being better than your peers is not the same as being a senior
Seniority is not endowed in relative terms. Instead, it is measured based on objective metrics defined by the market. One can be much better at their job than their teammates, however, this factor alone does not justify a better salary or position – it may just happen that one’s peers are much less motivated than average. To assess your seniority level, you must look at the specific criteria defined by the job market for the positions with which you identify. These usually encompass, at least, a typical number of years of tracked experience, a list of verifiable must-have skills, and required credentials.
Salary is based on market scarcity
There seems to be a lot of confusion lately about how salaries should be determined. For example, some people may find that less desired jobs should pay more, as the experience lived while on the job is not perfect or somehow unfair. However, the brutal reality is that there is a reason why some positions pay more than others: market scarcity. Engineers, for example, are relatively more difficult to find than a few other professions. For that reason, companies looking for them have to go on bidding war and offer attractive employment conditions to be competitive as an employer. Engineering, IT, and a few other areas, have high entry barriers, and therefore, it’s only fair that there is a better reward to find by those who make it to the other side.
Finally, the unspoken, controversial truth. In a job-hunting season, yes, looks matter. However, most people avoid talking about it and may even claim that it is not an issue at all – and they’re lying. Your image is an integral part of your professional branding, and caring for it is just as important as caring for your qualifications. The expression “to dress the part” has a special meaning here and is very much applicable. For instance, when HR associates interview you, they assess if you are a good fit for the job and, at the same time, try to picture you in the company environment. Likewise, when an investor gives you the opportunity for an elevator pitch, they listen to both your business idea and the signs presented by your body language and physical appearance. Maybe it’s an old-fashioned idea, maybe not, but dressing up for either occasion is a sign that you care about the person in front of you and respect their time. Needless to say, being dressed for your best can also be fun and an ego boost.
At the end of the day, there are nuances about the job market that must be acknowledged, and understanding the different variables is vital when setting professional expectations and career goals. Depending on your personal beliefs, these items may be more or less relevant, and you may even have identified a few others based on your experience. In any case, learning the quirks of how the market works and the things that are expected of you is extremely important, and the sooner you figure that out, the faster you will advance in your professional IT career.
About the Author
Luiz Parente is a senior software engineer who is passionate about systems design and technology. Having started his journey in computer programming at the age of 14, his core expertise is centered in solutions architecture with .NET technologies.
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