Today in the world of IT and Software Engineering, there seem to be only two ways to gain employment - start your own company or get picked up by a head hunter. head hunters, or staffing agencies, make up most of all the IT job ads on Monster and Indeed. If you are a Software developer looking for a job you know what I mean. They claim to have hundreds of jobs for which "you are a perfect fit", but there is a catch - you're not.

When you read the job ads posted by staffing agencies, you'll notice they all pretty much state the same thing. You must have years and years of experience, you must have a BS in computer science, you must have a strong desire to work in a fast paced environment and face insurmountable challenges, and so on. In other words, you have to be the best of the best and be able to design solutions for problems no one else can solve. On the surface it all sounds good. Who among us would not want to believe we fit that description? But in reality, most of us are good, solid programmers with varying experiences, most of it hacking away on our home PCs at 3am trying to get that script working perfectly. Staffing agencies want you to be so good, so talented, so passionate, that you could start your own company without hardly lifting a finger and be successful. Think about that for a moment. If you were really that good, why would you be looking for a job?

That's when the low self esteem kicks in. The kind that lets you believe Bill gates can code with nine fingers tied behind his back. The kind that lets you believe Linus Torvalds created linux in a day and hasn't coded since. The kind that staffing agencies prey on. If you really are that good but think you can not make it on your own, they've got you!

There is one other kind of programmer that can win the trials of the staffing agencies: the con artist. If you can talk the talk, look good in a fancy suit and sell someone the Tobin Bridge, then you fit the profile. Even if you lied on your resume and think PHP is a law degree, then you will get the job. And if you are at all competent with a text editor and can google sprintf, you can probably meet the employer's expectations and get away with it. Because let's face it, employers don't really want the best of the best. Employers want the best of the OKs. They want programmers to whom they can farm out the work and pay cheaply. Otherwise you would be good enough to take over their company someday and no employer wants to be out of a job.

The moral of the story is: if you are a good programmer, start your own company. Connect with other good programmers who want to start their own company. Find inexperienced talent who can help you. Build a foundation for success. And someday when a staffing agency wants to recruit programmers for you, tell them to go hell.


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