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I've been facing this difficulty from long time. I have worked on various technologies and completed all projects on time before deadlines (<2% rework) every time.

My technology variety varies from Web development (ASP.NET, PHP), Windows application development, Android application development, Perl, PowerShell, C++, Python, Data warehousing (SSIS, SSAS, SSRS, Power BI, Tableau, click sense, PPS, Information, Talend), Databases (SQL Server 2005+, MySQL, Hive, Oracle) and small project on machine learning (using R).

Now my problem is this that I am not a master of any technology. Whenever, I get any project, I google, research, learn & complete the project. This makes me hard to explain myself in any interview as most of the time the interviews are conducted for specialized technology. I am not sure how to explain to the interviewer or what to write in my resume to let them know that I can do work no matter even if I am not able to speak about advanced concepts or crack tricky questions in interview. Because of this issue I lose more than 95% interviews, and the other 5% doesn't offer me good compensation as they think I am not so good. I feel depressed as despite of being "star" performer many times in organization I am not a reliable choice for any company.

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    Do you have any recommendation letters or performance reviews? – Sandra K May 31 '18 at 8:55
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    There are many reasons why someone may not be succeeding at interviews. Are you certain that the reason you gave is actually the real reason? I ask because it is not so easy to know. Interviewers won’t necessarily tell you why you failed the screen and even if they tell you something that may simply be an easy cover for something else that’s hard to say. – teego1967 May 31 '18 at 12:33
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    Whenever I see a list of major platforms, languages and tools all bundled together, that makes me suspicious. Especially if one of those is C++, and there are curiously specific stats (like <2% rework) that aren’t backed up with a tangible detail. I say this as an example of why what you think is the problem might actually be something else. – teego1967 May 31 '18 at 12:42
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    As a jack-of-all trades guy myself, I found its better to focus on domain problems (rather than tech stack) and narrative “war stories” of working with others to get stuff done. Always back up assertions about what you know with an actual example. – teego1967 May 31 '18 at 12:47
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    Hi, I know this is an extremely old thread but this question struck a chord with me because it very much describes my career a couple of years ago. Have you ever considered moving towards Dev Ops? You get to touch a lot of different technologies and it is a platform where us "jacks" really excel. – DanK Feb 14 at 17:59
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I'm going to frame-challenge your question. You basically asked,

How can I present myself as a useful jack of all trades?

But then you stated,

most of the time the interviews are conducted for specialized technology.

Working on your presentation of yourself will be important as you apply for jobs, no matter what the challenge is. However, it's only half the battle. The other half is, applying for appropriate positions.

If you only apply for positions that are looking for specialists, you probably won't be successful, no matter how well you present yourself as a jack of all trades. You're barking up the wrong tree.

Step one is, apply for the right jobs. Generally, large well established employers are looking for specialists. A company that's built a foundation on C# is going to look for C# developers. On the other hand, smaller or newer companies may be facing a variety of problems for which they have no framework, or for which their frameworks are immature or incomplete. These employers are more likely to be looking for generalist problem solvers who can switch hats quickly and perform no matter what the framework.

Assuming you're going to improve your approach to selecting opportunities, we can move on. In terms of your actual question,

How to present myself being a jack of all trades?

The answer is the same as just about any resume-building question. Think about what the employer wants, and then emphasize that part of your experience/skill set.

Employers who are likely to hire jacks-of-all-trades are likely looking for people who can understand technology AND business problems, and build an appropriate, sustainable solution. They're looking for problem solvers as much as technologists. So, instead of emphasizing development- and technology-focused elements on your resume, make sure you're explaining your success in solving problems.

As a trivial example, instead of,

Checked in code on time with <2% rework. Expert in A, B, C programming languages

you may want to emphasize,

Developed web and windows applications that achieved X goal. Improved front-line staff efficiency by providing X solution. Enabled business development by delivering X analytics in Tableau.

This way, you're showing that you're a problem solver who can think in business terms versus a developer who only thinks in terms of a specific, narrow set of languages.

8

While you mention this is your 'problem', you could view this as your strength. You can communicate with developers from other technologies and you do not shy away from learning new techniques. You would be the perfect person to be the link between the developers of different technologies (ie backend and frontend). You could assist both teams, in case they need help. Focus on your versatility.

In your resume, mention the results you've booked. People like numbers, mention what you say here:

I have worked on various technologies and completed all projects on time before deadlines (<2% rework) every time.

Perhaps the companies you're applying to aren't the best fit for you. If you're just applying to jobs that only focus on one technique, perhaps you should look at some smaller companies that might only need one person to do several jobs. Or would a consultancy agency be a better fit for you?

In case you get some 'advanced questions', are there any links you could make with projects you've done? Can you make similarities to past experiences, perhaps even in other technologies? "I haven't got experience with x in language y, but I have implemented similar feature in language z."

3

You're a programming polyglot. Saying something like,"I'm a polyglot so I'm not extremely comfortable with all the specifics of this language, but a general solution would be..." and then solving the question is a much better path to take than trying to explain how you hack your way to victory. I would recommend understanding general programming methods and then going about every interview using those methods in the chosen language. That way, the employer will understand your skill level. I'd also mention how you could change that answer if you were to write it in different languages, or how one language is just better suited for this than the others and why.

You sound like a hacky person to me - it sounds a lot like you tinker with code till it works well and then you move on. Because of that, you can add research to your list of skills since your ability to do research should be MUCH higher than most other people you work with.

You could also look for jobs specifically looking for Polyglots.

  • Also, are there jobs specifically for polyglots? What do you have in mind there? – Wilson Feb 15 at 10:49
  • @wilson there are. Generally you'll see the words "language agnostic" or "programming polyglot" in the job description. I think, "you should like a hacky person to me" should have been, "you sound like a hacky person to me" – user53651 Feb 15 at 14:39
2

I understand your frustration, as I am in much the same boat. If someone were to ask me what language I like to use the most I'd have a hard time answering; I've used way too many and wouldn't say I'm particularly strong with any of them (I was pretty good at ABAP at one time, but talk about a niche skill!)

The thing to realize is that while being a jack of all trades means you don't know about the advanced features of many technologies and might have to spend more time looking things up, it also means that no matter the situation you likely have experience in some tool that will help get the job done. You are in a better position to see the big picture and understand how all the moving parts in a complex computer system work together. And you have the ability to come up to speed on just about anything quickly. Not everyone has these skills and they are valuable.

Technology is about solving problems. So concentrate on the problems you have solved and the results you delivered on your resume. Your resume can mention the tools you used to do it, but that's secondary to what you actually did. When they ask you about your projects during the interview talk about the challenges you encountered ad how you overcame them. Make the focus of your resume and your interview about what you actually accomplished. Someone who can talk about the hard money savings their project delivered is far more valuable to an employer than someone who can only talk about their mastery of Java. When they ask you advanced technical questions you can't answer, it is ok to admit that you don't know the answer, but then use that opportunity to pivot the conversation to how you would go about finding the answer and demonstrate your advanced researching skills. Make it an opportunity to talk about your vast experience in similar tools and show how that makes you a fast learner.

You do have to accept that you won't be a good fit everywhere. Some employers do want a specialist who can hit the ground running with their technology stack on the first day. They aren't for you. But there are plenty who just want someone who can get the job done, understand that any technology can be learned by someone with good fundamentals, and are willing to give you the time to do it. You aren't a technology specialist, you are a problem solver. Seek out employers who are looking for one.

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There's a huge difference between 'having used' a lot of different technologies and 'being knowledgeable' in a lot of different technologies.

Your resume should only highlight the technology/skills that you can talk about in such a way that conveys you have some level of expertise. If the depth of knowledge you can convey on a technology can be learned in a few days then your 'jack of all trades' claim doesn't carry much value and will certainly be a disappointment (perhaps disproportionately so) if the skill of interest is highlighted as one of the technologies you know but you can't convey depth to your knowledge during the interview. Perhaps add a 'technologies used' section way at the bottom of the resume for technologies that you used but won't be able to convey some level of proficiency in an interview.

Finally, most companies become very excited when they find someone that can fill in gaps which are lacking with their current workforce. Thus, while it is great to be knowledgeable on a lot of different technologies...that wide breadth of knowledge would be magnified tremendously when you would immediately become the company expert regarding one or more specific skill sets upon joining the company. So continue with the jack of all trades path but I strongly recommend becoming an expert in at least one or two areas.

0

Presentation is huge. Step 1 is to give them their resume, not yours. By that I mean tailor the resume to those skills you match and downplay the others. Your first step is to be buzzword compliant to the non-technical recruiter or HR person. I was once nearly never called for not having mentioned it was the .NET flavor of C# I used. Another was worried that I didn't list source control.

When applying for a Microsoft full stack developer position, lead off with the specific ones that match that position, like:

Core skills: ASP.NET (MVC, WCF, REST), C++, SQL Server (SSIS, SSAS, SSRS), TFS Other skills: PHP, Perl, Python, MySQL

Pick enough others to say you are versatile and comfortable, but don't weed yourself out as someone who may just be learning Skill X. You only have a few lines to grab their interest. Don't lose what they care about in the noise.

When you do interview, tone down talking about the others. To the "tell me about an app you wrote that..." question, respond with "I wrote an app that," rather than, "I wrote a PHP app that..."

To, "I see you've done some MySQL..." that's your opening to extoll that while you've been doing a lot of MS stack, you've never had an issue picking up another branch of .NET or a new language.

When they get into what you don't know, remember that's fine. In many scenarios it's okay to shift from the exact question to an analogous success. Technologies like .NET and Java span huge areas. Few expect you to know every last library they support by heart. By example, maybe you'd been doing RESTful APIs, but had a case where you needed to support a WCF web service. Briefly discuss having built onto what you already knew of .NET and that once into the service had been entered, the real making things happen was normal C# code.

Also, spend some time thinking about some key stories of how you've really saved the day, learned something new and applied the technologies you know that they do care about. Trying to come up with those examples on the spot will be much easier if you've already been rehearsing it.

And one final consideration: figure out what you want to do and speak that message. I've cornered myself in a couple jobs where I became a go to for any problem. What I found was I wound up being a useful SME to everyone, but spent little time doing any actual development. This may be a perfect fit for you or a huge distraction from what you really want to do.

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