What's a Developer to Do? Staying "Fresh" in Down Economic Times

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There's no hiding it. Turn on the news. Open a paper. Read your email. Analyze your spam. The answers all point to the same conclusion – recession, downturn, depression, rising unemployment, layoffs, downsizing, reduction in force, off-shoring, etc. Have I got you despentent enough? So now that we are facing this situation, how do we rise to the challenges before us? How do we best prepare for the future?

1. Update your resume. How long has it been since you took a bold, fresh look at your resume? Is your resume the same resume you've had for years with the exception that you keep adding the last position? Resumes, especially in competitive times, need to not only convey your experience. They also need to "sell" you. In a sense, your resume is print advertising and the product is you. Look at your resume. Would you "buy you"? Go online and look at some samples. Many professional résumé reviewers will even donate their time to quickly critique resume layout and design. Contact local recruiters to see what format they think best candidates or "sells" their candidates. They bought to know as their lives depends upon it.

2. Stay active. Many who have been laid off make the mistake of treating a lay off as an unscheduled vacation. These individuals soon find themselves running low on funds. To avoid this situation and approaching, treat your extra time as an opportunity. Staying active will not only keep you productive now but increase your preparedness for getting back to work once that time comes.

3. S tay current. COBOL developers are very hard to come by; certainly harder to come by than 25 years ago. There is a very good reason for that – there are few shops USING COBOL anymore. Of course I'm using sarcasm to impress my point but the point is still valid. Perhaps now is the time to retool a bit. Are you a C ++ developer in a C # .NET world? Contact local recruiters and find out the TRENDS facing professionals in your area.

4. Learn something. This is a great opportunity to pick up a new skill or enhance an existing one. Community and technical colleges offer great training at a great price. Recent news has actually reported these learning institutions are actually lowering their price because of the increased enrollment. In addition to these schools, there are technology user groups that meet in local areas across the country. If you live in any metropolitan area across the United States and Europe, chances are there is an entire group of active users of most technologies (from .NET to SAS, from SAAS to Java, from Linux all the way to Robotics). Finally, there are excellent tutorial pages and lessons giving step by step tutorials. More of a visual learner? Hobbyists are going online in increasing numbers and recording demonstrations and lessons for posting on Google Video and YouTube. These tutorials range from broad introductions to very specific detailed tasks. You can also download and install trial software, Beta versions or Express editions (ie Microsoft Visual Web Developer Express Edition).

5. Share what you've got. You learned it on the playground in Kindergarten. It's polite to share. You have a skill and there are those who need your skill. Teach them. Just as you can learn from someone either online or in a user group, you can also teach someone. Perhaps you may post a tutorial mentioned above. Are you thinking that you do not have any bought-after skills? A simple search of what is out there will dispel that thought. Volunteer to be a guest speaker at a local college or user group. The bottom line is think of others.

6. Offer yourself. There are many organizations like non-profits who could benefit from your skills, abilities, talents but lack the capital to pay as much as their professional, industrial, corporate counterparts.

7. Think smaller. Perhaps you've been looking for the long-term perm position of the past. Now may be the time to consider a contract position. If you're used to longer 18-month contracts, now may be the time to seek a shorter 3 to 6 month contract. Shorter still there are project sites you can go to which list project descriptions and allow developers / engineers the opportunity to fixed-bid for participation in that project. Most of these sites even provide space to respond in detail as to how you envision the scope and / or design going to help substantiate your knowledge and experience.

Now may not be the worst time of your life. Now may be the BEST time of your life. It can be a time of tremendous opportunity -that is, if you make it such!

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