“Don’t End the Week With Nothing” is some of the best career advice anywhere. It is too long to excerpt effectively and you should read the whole thing. Nonetheless,
One of the reasons developers have embraced OSS so much is because it gives you portable capital between companies: if your work is sitting on Github, even if you leave one job, you can take it with you to your next job. Previously this happened pretty widely but generally under the table. (Is there any programmer who does not have a snippets folder or their own private library for scratching that one particular itch?) One of the great wrinkles that OSS throws into this is that OSS is public by default, and that’s game changing.
Why? Because when your work is in public, you can show it to people. That’s often the best way to demonstrate that you’re capable of doing work like it.
Telling people you can do great work is easy: any idiot can do it, and many idiots do. Having people tell people you do great work is an improvement. It suffers because measuring individual productivity on a team effort is famously difficult, and people often have no particular reason to trust the representations of the people doing the endorsements. . . .
Work you can show off, though, is prima facie evidence of your skills. After your portfolio includes it, your ability to sell your skills gets markedly better. Given that most people’s net worth is almost 100% invested in their personal capital (i.e. if you’re a young engineer the net present value of all future salary absolutely swamps everything in your bank account), this is a fairly radical improvement in your present situation for not a very radical change in how you go about things.
This is particularly good advice because we live in a world in which your employer has zero loyalty to you and will jettison you in an instant if doing so is effective for him or it. Company loyalty is dead and has been dead for decades. Getting a job so you can “pay your dues” is a moronic notion today propagated by employers who want to exploit the worker. Paying your dues means you are lining someone else’s pocket.
Paying your dues is dumb, but if you can get a job that builds skills you should take it. Build your skills and then sell them to the highest bidder. That is how you get to the top of the financial / economic heap. There is an analogy to game here: For many guys who aren’t naturals and don’t have lots of reference experiences banging hot chicks, you build into banging hot chicks by first banging less-hot and suboptimal chicks for experience, skills, practice, ladder climbing, and branch swinging. You’re better off banging than not most of the time. If you don’t have an active harem you should be very wary of the word “standards,” just like if you don’t have a job you should be very wary wary of not getting some kind of gig somewhere doing something.
Back to work stuff though, you need to do at least two things in any modern job: Have skills and be able to demonstrate those skills. Being able to demonstrate those skills means you should not end the week with nothing. You need to be thinking about your portfolio (pretty much every job needs a portfolio now) and how that portfolio applies to your next gig.
This is a particularly timely piece because it’s the end of the year, which means it’s a good time to make a list of everything you’ve accomplished this year and why you accomplished it. You should also make a list of what you’re going to accomplish in the year to come. If you have nothing or too little on your accomplishments list you need to get off the Internet and make a real plan to do what you need to do.
What a portfolio means is going to differ based on your work. Hell even if you’re a bartender you should take pics of the best drinks you make and/or have a bunch of drinks you can make real fast. That is a kinda contrived example but you know what I mean.
You are in a world where your formal credentials, like a university degree, mean surprisingly little and lots of people have them. I have hired and fired many idiots with degrees. You need to set yourself apart and demonstrate that you have real skills. One way to do that is to make sure that what you do is visible in some way, and that you don’t have a lot of weeks where you get to Friday and you aren’t sure WTF happened that week.
“Goodwill” from your employer or clients no longer exists. When someone says they will pay you back down the road they are usually full of shit. Get it now or take your full value elsewhere.
I have other career posts I have been meaning to write, my favorite being that the only way to really get ahead in money and responsibility terms is quitting and getting a new job. Most companies will not bump you by more than 5 – 10% per year, but it is possible to jump by 50 – 100% or more by going from one company to another.
Keeping your financial footprint as small as possible is another good topic. The less you spend the less they own you (the marketing industry already owns you by the way, and if you don’t think so just look at the way people think their car expresses some deep facet of their personality and the personalities of people around them). The three biggest areas of waste are usually housing, cars, and (for younger guys) over-pricey school.
The best cost-benefit things for sleeping with women are clothes that fit, money for drinks, and a gym membership. Those things are orders of magnitude cheaper than cars or “impressive” housing, with “impressive” being defined by some marketing guy.