I recently asked for your personal thoughts on recruitment via the London Java Community.

I received a response that I thought was interesting and (after getting permission of the candidate) wanted to open up to you all….

“Good morning Barry……I spend a lot of my spare time learning or touching on Java related frameworks, JUnit, Hibernate, Spring and anything that I see coming up on jobsites as ‘Requirements’…….My answer to your question is from the perspective of someone who hasnt been out in the Java job market and is this;  Its very hard for me to judge what level i’m at and the thought of going in to the job market not knowing what to expect at all is a little daunting.  I see some of these jobs and think, Yeah I can do that, and that, but as I’ve always worked alone its hard to know what level I could pitch myself at.  For me, personally it would help if there were some sort of ‘pre – pre-interview coding tests’ where someone like myself could get a better feel for what level they are at from maybe a recruitment consultancy or agent or even if there were any refresher courses to get more up to speed, things like that would certainly help me.

Im sorry if I’m replying to the wrong end of this question and you were looking for more experienced programmers thoughts but this is my 2 cents worth.”

I see two questions here:

What am I worth?

How important are Spring & Hibernate?

Regarding finding your worth – It’s easy with houses, type your postcode into Rightmove, see what the neighbours are selling for and add a few thousand but it’s very difficult to judge this and there is definitely no ‘one size fits all’ rule. I have worked mainly in the London Java Market focussing mainly on permanent placements for over 5 years, so I have as clearer idea as any, and if I have noticed one thing, it’s that someones true value doesn’t come down to the amount of time they have had in industry. I have known candidates recently with just a few years of experience (outside of banks) be offered between 25k and 55k, a huge range.

So if it’s not time spent developing, it must be your level of ability at coding. Unfortunately “how good am I at coding” is another difficult thing to measure. I recently attended the first Software Craftsman Community meeting in London and there was a discussion at the end for half an hour to try and decide how you can judge a ‘master’ developer. I certainly left none the wiser. In my opinion there isn’t really a ‘how good am I’ test because there isn’t really a universal scale… and if there is please someone put me out of my misery. Rather than trying to judge your worth, I would try to make yourself worthy, if that makes sense.

This brings me onto the Spring/Hibernate point – Instead of using the job boards to find out what the industry wants right now, then learning the skills, then trying to join the race… Try to work out where the industry is going (just come along to a few events and discuss with some ThoughtWorks employees), work out what skills are going to be in demand tomorrow and find some technologies that motivate you and inspire you to learn them (if not a technology then an industry/sector). Then focus on learning those skills. Get passionate about it – become involved in User Groups, Open Source projects and the wider international community, become a specialist in this area, as you build knowledge give lightening talks and do whatever you can to progress down this route. I have found that this is the approach the best developers follow and have seen it throughout my career. In my opinion it is the best way to get the top salaries/positions in the market, and the best part is you are working with a technology that you love (personally I believe it applies to any position in any industry – but in the software industry it’s easy to apply purely because it moves so quickly and you can be a specialist in just a few years).

I know this doesn’t really answer the question on what you’re worth and I’m more than happy for you to send in your CV to give you my opinion on it, but I’ll offer this advice at any point I can (Sorry to all those that have been bored in the pub over the years)

Keen to hear the communities thoughts too though.