5

I've been in the business for around 15 years. Over this period, I've jumped from Web dev in ColdFusion, to Perl; then to more system level stuff in Perl and then to C++, mostly on Windows platforms; after that I did some more Perl and for the last 6 years, I've been doing Web dev in Java (on *nix systems pretty much exclusively, tho probably not very relevant for web) and have been adding javascript to the mix incrementally for about 3 years now, oh and some more C++ with QT on an embedded platform in between.

In any case, it feels like I am becoming less and less attractive for companies that are looking at 25 year's old (I'm in my mid 30s) with 15 years of Nodejs experience. I'm also beginning to suspect that most people get spooked by the stuff I've got in my resume and either think I make it up or classify me as the guy that did Perl or worked with C++.

I understand that I can just cut out the non relevant stuff from the resume and concentrate on just the part that the company is interested in. However, I feel like that would make me seem as even less qualified. For example, if I apply for a full stack Node positions and someone asks me about how much I've done with Node, the truth is that not that much because I've only done it occasionally, since the company I've worked for was primarily a Java shop and we only used Node when the task at hand required it. However, what that person might not understand/care about is that I've developed more complex stuff in Java.

What I've found difficult is transmitting to recruiters and hiring managers, what my career has been like, and what am I an expert on. Many ask questions such as what has been your most significant accomplishment, to which I can only respond in which technology or stack?

How can I best portray my wide experience when looking for jobs (either as a full time employee or consultant) when I am an experienced generalist?

3
  • looking at 25 year's old with 15 years of Nodejs experience ... classify me as the guy that did Perl or worked with C++. ... If the companies/recruiters don't understand that 10 year olds are not professional programmers, and/or dislike you because you know Perl and/or C++, you could be happy that they don't want you. You tried the wrong recruiters.
    – deviantfan
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 13:25
  • as a consultant you just list your areas of expertise. As an employee they normally tend to look for a specific skillset without being too impressed with others. You're not normally trying to impress programmers at the start but relatively non tech people.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 22:18
  • "I am Strongest in 'X', but also have experience in 'Y' and 'Z'" Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 16:43

2 Answers 2

9

This is not an age problem. I am older than you, and get frequent offers due to solid skills. And it sounds like you have very solid skills. Java is in very high demand (along with C#) by enterprises, C++ and Perl are more niche / specific. You have Java, which will open a lot of doors for you, and C++ / Perl will open even more occasional / specialized doors.

It sounds like you just need to sell yourself better.

I've found difficult transmitting to recruiters what my career has been like and what I'm an expert on

They don't care what your career has been like, and only care what you're an expert on if it matches what they're looking for. Just tell them, "I can do it all. I've worked in a very broad range of programming languages, from deep programming in C++ and Perl to systems programming to web programming. I'm great with Java and even have worked with ColdFusion. I have both deep and broad programming experience, and I can do anything your client needs."

what has been your most satisfying

The reason they ask this question is purely to see how you answer, not what you answer. Recruiters and hiring managers want to gauge your personality and general background and ability. They don't actually care what your favorite project is.

Again, just sell yourself. Don't say, "which technology?" Recruiters are not technicians. They don't even know how to answer that question. Just start throwing stuff out there. "Oh, I've done a lot of great stuff in a lot of languages. I wrote a XXX system in Java, and a YYY system in C+. I really enjoyed getting to work with code at a deep level, but also enjoyed the facility of working with Java on business programming. Java removes a lot of the sharp elbows that C++ throws in your face, which is nice, but C++ is just so powerful. I've enjoyed it all."

Tell them what they want to hear. Save the intense technical details for the second interview with a senior developer. good luck!

3
  • 2
    I would be careful about telling them, "I can do anything your client needs." It sounds like, "I know how to do everything your clients need," which the OP doesn't, and might actually sound desperate or like he didn'tDemonstrating that he is a quick learner ("I implemented X feature in Y platform after just two months of experience with it") might come across better.
    – Pedro
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 14:38
  • Eh, went past the 5-minute edit limit. "...desperate or like he doesn't understand how wide the variety of tasks can be. Demonstrating..."
    – Pedro
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 14:46
  • 1
    Agree. There are a bunch of us with broad backgrounds, most are age 35+ Back in the day, you HAD to be multi-talented because there wasn't enough staff to go around. If you specialized, you were a prima donna. Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 16:42
0

Very few employers are looking for generalists. Almost all are looking for people with specific skills. That doesn't mean they won't see general skills as good, but they won't take a generalist unless they are sure you have the skills they are looking for.

The other thing people forget is that you don't have to send the same resume to all employers. So the way to get in is when you see an opening for a C++ programmer send them a resume laying out your C++ skills up front, and making it clear that you are a great C++ programmer. Talk about your other skills secondarily. If you see a Java opening put your Java skills up front.

The employer then reads your resume and puts it in the pile of people who might have the C++ skills they want. That gets you over the first hurdle. Now they will compare all the people who have the skills they want, and this is where your generalist skills come in. If they see both you, and also someone with the same C++ skills but no other skills, they will likely pick you.

When they've employed you, that's when you really shine by picking up whatever they need done and make yourself invaluable. Now you've got a job for as long as you want.

2
  • 1
    There is a catch with sending a resume that highlights only one area. Say, I'm applying for a C++ position, because I love what the company is doing and I can see myself working there, but my most recent professional experience with C++ is from 5 years back? IMHO, I get dismissed right there, because a recruiter will look at my most recent position and say, heck he's been doing Java and he hasn't touched this in 5 years - no good.
    – dryajov
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 17:49
  • In that case you are going to be dismissed no matter what you say. Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 18:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .