Bench marking your skills - How to remain employable in a competitive market by Cherry Swayne

posted: 2014-03-19
When would you go out and look for a new job? Most people start their job search when they're unhappy at work; when their career progression is limited, the work is no longer fulfilling or there are problems with management and team morale. 
When you wait until you're unhappy to start looking for a job, the problem is that you're comparing any future opportunities against a fairly low benchmark. Your standards of what you'll accept are much lower and you find that you may make decisions which aren't as good for your career.
Personally, I believe the best time to look for a new job is when you're happy at work; especially if you have been in your current role for some time. I know a Software Developer who confessed to looking for a new job every 2 years despite being really happy in his current job. 
This concept may seem illogical, but here are a few reasons why looking for a new job is a good thing to do when you're happy at work:
1) To ensure your skills are up to date.
In the fast-moving world of IT there are always new tools and technologies being developed and making sure you remain up to date is a constant battle for most Developers. In reality, most companies can't keep up with the pace of change because it isn't practical or financially viable to keep introducing new technologies. 
That is why if you work in one company for too long, you can find yourself working with out of date technologies and you can find that your skill set isn't desirable when you do look to move on.
By taking the time, at least once a year, to look at the local employment market you will see what the latest and most in-demand skills are. If your current job isn't giving you exposure to these technologies then you know what you need to teach yourself outside of work to remain as employable as possible. 
2) To ensure your skills are up to scratch.
If you took your driving test again tomorrow, would you pass? Or have you picked up bad habits and developed a level of complacency which stops you being the best driver you could be?
Most people, if they're honest, would confess to the latter. The same can apply with software development. 
Most companies incorporate a technical test into their recruitment process and this is a really great way of making sure that your development skills are up to scratch. By applying for positions that you'd be interested in doing and taking their technical test, it gives you a good idea of how you technical skills match up to what they're looking for. 
If you fail these tests, then it gives you some guidance of where the gaps in your knowledge are and the areas you need to improve on to remain employable. If you do well in the test then at least you've put your mind at rest that your skills are at the expected level for your role and, if you enjoy problem solving then it should be fairly entertaining as well! 
3) To make sure your salary and benefits package matches up. 
When you went in to your current role you made sure that the salary on offer and the benefits package were in line with market average. However, as time has gone on, have your pay rises kept in line with the market? As start-up companies start to introduce more flexible working, unique perks & Google style offices, is your benefits package still matching up?
In most cases, the salary and benefits package aren't the most important factor. However, it is still important to make sure you're being fairly remunerated for the job you're doing and to make sure that your package is in line with market average. 
You can make sure your salary is at the right level just by looking at jobs being advertised. However, to get a feel for the benefits on offer and the working environment, you need to go on a few interviews and make sure that your company is remaining competitive. 
The working environment has undergone a massive change in the last few years. It is becoming increasingly difficult to attract and retain talented Developers, so a lot of companies have put focus into making their office a fun place to work. 
4) Because the grass might actually be greener...
Of course, going through this process you may actually stumble upon an opportunity which really interests you. Perhaps it's a chance to work in an interesting industry or the opportunity to work with some cutting edge technology. It could be an increase in salary, the chance to work from home, or to have a more modern working environment. 
You might not have set out on this process with the aim of finding a new job, but if, along the way, you find an opportunity which is a genuine improvement on your current situation, then that can only be a good thing. 
When you're happy in your current job you will really weigh up any possible opportunities and you will ensure that it is definitely the best move for your career. People usually don't start looking for a new job until they're unhappy at work and as soon as you're unhappy then you are comparing everything against a far lower benchmark and you aren't as discerning about the options available to you. 
If you stay in a job for more than 3-4 years it is very easy to lose sight of what employers are looking for. Often you will start working with outdated technologies, pick up bad habits & find yourself underpaid and missing out on the perks that your counterparts are getting by doing the same job down the road. 
By going through this bench marking exercise you will confirm to yourself that you are aware of what employers are looking for and you're getting exposure to the most "in-demand" technologies. You will put your mind at rest that your development skills are up to date & that your salary and benefits package are still very competitive in the local market. 
Worst case scenario you may have lost some time going along to interviews, but at least you'll know you are still employable and be secure in the knowledge that, if you needed to find a new job tomorrow, you would be able to do so comfortably. 
In conclusion, by regularly looking for a new job you are opening yourself up to the opportunity that you may find an opportunity which is even more interesting, better paid or more challenging that your current job. Whilst, at the same time, putting your mind at rest that you're remaining employable in a fast-moving and competitive market. 
If you'd like to have a confidential discussion about bench marking your skills in the local market then please contact one of our specialist consultants at DP Connect. We are an IT Recruitment Consultancy with over 20 years experience in helping IT professionals build successful careers. 
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