Also find the author on twitter @hullsean.
Demand for talented engineers has never been higher. It is in fact the dirty little secret of the startup industry, that there are simply not enough qualified folks to fill the positions.
What this means for you is that you have a lot of options. What it means for a hiring manager is that you will have to work even harder to find the right candidate. Just going to a recruiter isn’t enough. Use your network, go to meetups, follow Gary’s Guide daily.
Also check out our Mythical MySQL DBA piece where we talk about the shortage of DBAs and operations folks.
Further if you’ve dabbled in freelance or independent consulting, I wrote an interesting an in depth look at Why do people leave consulting. Understanding this can help avoid it in your own career, or avoid your resources leaving for better shores.
1. Build your reputation
As they say, your reputation precedes you. So start building it now. Fulltime or freelance, you want to be known.
Speaking, yes you can do it. Start with some small meetups, volunteer to speak on a topic. A ten person room is easier than 30, 50 or 100. Once you have a couple under your belt, fill out a CFP for Velocity, OSCon or some software developers conference. There are many.
Blog – if you’re not already doing so you should. Start with once a week. Comment on industry topics, controversial ideas, or engineering know-how. Prospects can look at this and learn a lot more than from a business card.
Write a book, yes you can. It may sound impossible, but the truth is that publishers are always looking for technical writers. Pick a topic near and dear to you. It’ll also give you endless material for your blog.
Social media – being active here helps your blog, and helps people find you. Twitter is a great place to do this. Interact with colleagues and startup founders, VCs and more. If you’re a hiring manager or CTO, you may find great programmers and devops this way.
We also wrote a more in-depth article Consulting and Freelance 101. It’s a three part guide with a lot of useful nugets.
Also take a look at our MySQL DBA Interview Guide which is as helpful to devops and DBAs as it is to managers hiring them!
Above all else, build your network & your reputation. It will put you in front of more people as a person, not a commodity or a resume in a pile of hundreds.
2. Qualify prospects
You definitely don’t want to take the first offer you get, and managers don’t want to hire the first candidate that comes along. You want two or three to choose from. Best way to do this is to have options.
If you’re a candidate, network or work through your colleagues. When you do get a lead, be sure you’re speaking to an economic buyer. If you’re not you’ll need to try to find that person who actually signs the checks. They are the ones who ultimately make the decision, so you want to sell yourself to them.
Get a Deposit – I know I know, if it’s your first freelance job, you don’t want to scare them off. Or maybe you do? The only prospects that would be scared off by this are ones who may not pay down the line. Dragging their feet with a deposit can also mean bureaucratic red tap, so be patient too.
Sara Horowitz has an excellent book Freelancers bible, we recommend you grab a copy right now!
Commodity You Are Not so don’t sell yourself as one. What do I mean? You are not an interchangeable part. You have special skills, you have personality, you have things that you’re particularly good at. These traits are what you need to focus on. The dime-a-dozen skills should sit more in the background.
You’ll also need to price and package your services. We talked about this in-depth in Consulting Essentials – Getting the Business.
We also think there is a reason Why Generalists are better at scaling the web.
3. Play the numbers game
For hiring managers this doesn’t mean working through recruiters that might be bringing subpar talent, it means networking through industry events, meetups, startup pitch and venture capital events. There are a few every single day in NYC and there’s no reason not to go to some of them.
For candidates, be eyeing a few different companies, and following up on more than one prospect. You should really think of this process as an integral and enjoyable part of your career, not a temporary in between stage. Networking doesn’t happen overnight, but from a regular process of meeting and engaging with colleagues over years and years in an industry.
At the end of the day hiring is a numbers game so you should play it as such. Keep searching, and always be watching the horizon.