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I'm finding myself in a bit of a pickle. I've been at a pretty comfortable IT group for almost a decade. I got my start here working on web development, mostly CRUD, but have demonstrated the ability to figure out more complex problems. I'm not a rock star, but I have received many compliments on my programming aptitude, and technologists and architects have commented on my ability to pick things up (for example, I recently learned a very popular web framework that shall remain nameless since I don’t want to be identified).

My problem is that, over time, my responsibilities have been shifting towards work such as support or ‘development’ with some rather niche products (afraid to mention here due to potential for being identified). Some of this work, if it includes anything resembling coding, is very menial scripting in languages such as Powershell or VBScript. The vast majority of the time, however, a typical day consists of going back and forth with the product’s vendor support to send them logs and apply configuration changes or patches they recommend. I’m basically starved for some actual software development.

However, even though I’m more than capable of doing that development work (and actually do a much better job at it than anything else), our boss is more interested in the kind of work I mentioned above, her reasoning being that since no one else in the organization wants to do it, it must mean job security. This has been going on for close to 3 years, and the only reason I have held on is on the promise that we would eventually get more development projects assigned to us.

Well, that turned out not to be true at all. A recent talk with the boss has just made it more explicitly clear, as she told me in no uncertain terms that it’s very likely that development work (web or otherwise) would go to another group. The reason given to me is that our we don’t have enough resources in our group to handle that.

So now I find myself in the position that I either have to stay in what has essentially become a dead end IT job that is tied to the fortunes of a niche stack of apps, or try to find a position that will be better for my long term career. My problem (is it a problem?), however, is that compared to others, my development projects in the last three years are very sparse in number. To compound things, projects using the latest and most popular frameworks, amount to the big fat number of just one—with no work of that kind in the foreseeable future.

I am very concerned that this sparseness in my resume is a deficit, and that it will hurt my chances of landing a different job. I’m also wondering how much it will hurt me, and whether that can be ameliorated with hobby projects of my own. I guess I’m looking for opinions.

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You've got the best answer you can possibly have for the "Why do you want to leave your current job?" question. –  MrFox Nov 2 '12 at 19:34
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@Keoma Please do not post the same question across Stack Exchange sites. If you feel you were in error to post at one site then flag for moderator attention and tell them where you think it belongs and they will consider migrating it for you. –  maple_shaft Nov 2 '12 at 19:58
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same answer to same question.. get a new job.. –  Hanzolo Nov 2 '12 at 20:16
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If you like the company and your work performance is good to excellent, then consider a transfer to the group that is doing the type of work you want to do. You are a known entity to them and less of a risk than an outside hire. –  HLGEM Nov 4 '12 at 20:27

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

First, it sounds like you have talked with your boss on this subject multiple times over the past few years. Given what you have said, it does not seem likely you will be able to "fix" this problem in your current position ever.

Second, this means you probably are going to want to look outside your current company or group for opportunities to do more development work. There are lots of options for competent developers (at least in the USA).

I am very concerned that this sparseness in my resume is a deficit, and that it will hurt my chances of landing a different job.

Realize that in most cases, what you put on your resume gets you in the door. You have been doing development/IT types of work for nearly 10 years with the same company. It sounds like you started doing the more development type of work you are interested in. Just because you haven't done this for a few years does not mean you have to take it off your resume!

Additionally, if you feel you cannot elaborate much on the previous experiences, use terminology and phrases to indicate your skills at learning and assimilating new things. For example:

$(BORING_SCRIPTING_LANGUAGE)

  • Researched company needs
  • Developed functional requirements
  • Implemented, tested, deployed solution

Presents the work you did in such a way to show your personality and learning and doesn't focus so much on the actual language/tasks you did.

I’m also wondering how much it will hurt me, and whether that can be ameliorated with hobby projects of my own.

Absolutely! If you have done hobby projects more closely related to the types of work you want to do, put them on your resume (assuming you have done a meaningful amount of work on them... typing two lines of comments and committing to an open-source project doesn't indicate "contributed to open-source project XXX).

Third, as someone with 10 years experience in development/IT world, you have a lot of flexibility in how you present your resume/cover letters because you have nearly 10 years experience. If you want to get into more 'heavy' development - make sure that is clear on your resume and in whatever cover letters you use when applying. During interviews, make sure your interviewer knows this. Being able to answer the "what do you want to do" question more specifically is not a negative, in fact, this is a positive!

Fourth, and last - from the tone of your question, you sound really resigned to your fate. You have a lot more options than you give yourself credit for - especially if you are a talented person who can quickly learn new software languages, frameworks, etc.

You are NOT trapped into a dead-end career position... unless you choose to be.

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The first step is to talk to your boss. Explain that your career goal is to move towards doing more development work and that if the company isn't willing to put you in a position to accomplish that goal then you will start looking for a job at a company that will.

If you are a talented employee then they should offer to transfer you to the group that will put you in a position to achieve your career goals (in this case, the group doing the development work).

Early in my career, I got stuck working on legacy code in a proprietary programming language. I was good at my job, but there's no way they could replace me with a new hire who would be willing to work in a proprietary language (Windows NT and Visual C++ were the hot tech then). As a result, I was never able to work on the next generation C++ based product that our company was developing. I ultimately had to leave the company to move forward with my career.

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I probably wouldn't say "if the company isn't willing to put you in a position to accomplish that goal then you will start looking for a job at a company that will." This will come across as a threat. Maybe something more like "this job isn't moving me toward my career goals, and I value myself enough to do something about this." Then move on to what those career goals are, and let your manager come forward with ideas to help you, or not. Then start looking, or don't depending on the response. –  Amy Blankenship Nov 4 '12 at 16:47
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It's a threat either way, but your way of saying it is certainly less aggressive :). –  17 of 26 Nov 5 '12 at 13:42

I can certainly relate to your position as I have been there twice, one after 8 years as an application developer and another time after 5 years as a database developer. My choice in both situations was to eventually get a new job. I tried other internal positions but I didn't get the variety I needed.

I believe you have two broad choice - stay in your job, or leave. Within both there are various options to try and make things better:

Staying in your job.
- Make education a big focus.
- Study personally and find good material to study on company time or paid for by the company.
- Make sure you suggest/request training courses every month.
- Explain how IT today requires a huge amount of constant retraining, as much as 20% of your time just to keep up.
- Find examples of companies that too support more training and give them as examples of the competition.

Leaving your job.
- This is where it is a lot easier. The very nature of getting a new job with new tools, applications and environments is the one of the best way to learn new stuff
- Be selective about where you go. Remember the leaner/smaller the company the less opportunity there tends to be for learning and the more the need to hit the ground running.

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I disagree. I've worked for both large and small companies, and large companies want to put you in a box and just let you work in one are of expertise (because they have dedicated people who are being paid to do those tasks), whereas a small company will probably need you to cover several areas. –  Amy Blankenship Nov 4 '12 at 16:51

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