I was talking recently with a friend who is a job seeker, someone who has been out of work for more than a little while and was trying to add some new skills to their portfolio to improve their chances of finding work. His strategy was simple: learn PHP and MySQL and attempt to enter the Web 2.0 economy after leaving a biosciences background.
During our conversation, he indicated they’d be completely leaving behind the biosciences field as they pursued their new field and I suggested that was a huge, critical mistake. Why? PHP/MySQL folks are a dime a dozen. It’s one of the first combinations of platforms to be taught to aspiring technologists and as a result, nearly everyone has it on their resumes. It’s so common, in fact, that you can find an experienced developer overseas that will work for less than the guy flipping burgers at your local fast food joint. Unless you are the very best of the best, pursuing it by itself is not a formula for winning.
So what is the winning formula? The ability to code in PHP and MySQL in combination with something else. I said in conversation that these platforms by themselves are somewhat uninteresting now, but if you can combine them with something else, bridge the gap between different areas of expertise, then you’ve got something relatively rare and valuable.
For example, in my friend’s case, knowing how to write and extend web services while having a biosciences background and knowledge of the field means he can write very specific solutions for that field, knowing the ins and outs far more than an overseas outsourced contractor ever would. He knows what people in his field are looking for, what their problems are, and how they prefer to solve those problems.
The future for the successful job seeker follows one of two routes: either be the very best of the best, or find a niche that allows you to combine different areas of expertise together in combinations that are rare and valuable. Pursuing a commodity skillset or degree by itself will not guide you to the success you seek.
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