A new chapter

Today I was informed that my position was made redundant. I have been here for 3 years and I enjoyed it, but it will soon be over, and I will be on the market again looking for new job. I am a bit disappointed but other than that I’m fine – I’ve been through that before. When something ends, it also manifests a beginning of a new chapter. There is no use to obsess over what has already happened. Instead I need to look into the future and decide what I am going to do next.

As I know from my previous experiences, it starts with a feeling of euphoria. When a job ends, I would be overwhelmed with a feeling of freedom. “This time,” I would think, “I have a chance to find a job I will truly love. Oh maybe I will start my own business. I can do whatever I want — the sky is the limit!” But not long after that I would start applying for jobs exactly like the one I had before. After a few weeks a depression would slowly creep in. By that time I would be spending most of time on the job boards frantically refreshing the search page trying to pick up job ads which have just been posted. I would apply for multiple jobs a day, and still would be getting very few, if any, replies. Then after another couple of weeks I would become desperate. And the feelings of freedom and purpose I had in the beginning would be long gone…

However, I decided that this time it will be different. Here’s what I am going to do:

1. I will take time to learn new skills.

I have a few rare skills which used to pay good money, but the demand for them was falling over the last few years. In order to stay employable I need to increase the size of my professional markets, and that means learning skills which are in demand.

2. Whenever possible, I will avoid product-specific skills and concentrate on fundamental skills instead.

Specialising on particular product can be extremely financially rewarding. Specialisation allows you to build better skills in your particular area. And almost in any area highly skilled professionals earn more money. The problem with this approach is that the vendor of the product you are concentrating on may go out of business, or the product may become obsolete, and with that your expertise will become obsolete too. And for a professional with a narrow specialisation field it may be very hard to retrain into another knowledge area.

Fundamental skills, on the other hand, provide more breadth of application. Those are skills like programming languages or widely adopted platforms which are supported by more than one vendor. The best fundamental skills to adopt are the ones which present popular rapidly evolving technologies. Although it may be hard to keep up with them, it is unlikely that they will come out of existence soon.

3. Once I learn something, I will keep learning.

I enjoy learning almost above anything else. Whichever new professional field I choose, it will be the one that will force me to learn new things all the time, keeping me on my toes. That will satisfy my hunger for learning, and will increase my expertise at the same time. Hopefully it will result in better remuneration as well.

4. I will be selective about permanent job offers.

Although contract jobs may last for a long time, they are by definition temporary. Contractors agree to forego bonuses, salary increases, paid annual and sick leaves. In return, they are usually compensated for those things with money. Because company-driven career grown is mostly thing of the past anyway, I view contracts as more fair arrangements. Therefore, I will try to avoid dead-end permanent jobs. Instead I will prefer contracts or permanent jobs which present opportunities to learn valuable skills or provide genuine growth paths.

That’s it, quite a manifesto. I will report back here on how it is going.