Startups Tips for New Entrepreneur 2019
One of the most appealing dreams of many software developers is to start their very own startup. A startup has a huge potential for reward but is also extremely risky. I know many software developers who’ve devoted years of their lives to creating a startup, only to eventually fail and be worse off than when they started.
But if you’ve got a good idea—and perhaps, more importantly, the passion and drive to follow through with it—you might find it’s worth the risk of starting your own company from the ground up. This blog explores 50+ best Startups Tips for New Entrepreneur for 2019.
In this blog, we’ll explore what exactly startups are, how you can get started with one, and some of the potential risks and rewards involved in becoming a founder (the name given to someone who creates a startup company).
A startup is a new company that’s trying to find a successful business model it can use to scale and eventually becomes a medium-size or large, profitable company. If you start a company today, it will essentially be a startup.
Now, even though technically any new company could be considered a startup, there are generally two kinds of startup companies. First are the startups that are created with the intent of getting investments from outside investors to help them grow quickly.
These startups are probably the most common kind of startups that you hear about.
Many large, successful technology companies started out as startups that took money from investors to grow and become successful. Most of the terminology and discussion related to startups refers to these kinds of companies.
The other category of startups is bootstrapped startups. A boot-strapped startup is completely funded by its founders. If you’re creating a bootstrapped startup, you aren’t going out to try to raise money from investors and you might not care about getting so big.
These companies usually end up being smaller than the startups that take funders, but they’re also less likely to fail—because they usually have much less overhead—and the founders have much more control over the business because they haven’t given away large portions of the company.
Because there are already blogs in this blog that talk about starting your own bootstrapped business, here we’re mostly going to talk about startups that have the goal of acquiring outside investments to grow. From here on out, when I say startup, I’ll be referring to a startup that intends to get outside investment.
Go big or go home
The goal of most startups is to make it big. The whole reason for taking outside investments is to be able to scale and grow rapidly. Most founders of startups have what is called an exit strategy.
The typical exit strategy might be to grow to a certain size and then hopefully become acquired, resulting in a nice big payday for the founders and investors and a complete reduction of risk of the future of the company.
It’s really important to think about the future when starting a startup. You might intend to create a company that you’re going to stick with for the long haul, but you have to realize that most investors who invest in your startup are going to want to eventually cash out and see a return on their investment.
Getting acquired isn’t the only way to get a nice return, though. Another common exit strategy is to go public. When a company goes public, it sells shares that represent the equity in the company to the public. The sales of those shares can result in a pretty big payday for founders and investors alike.
Regardless of what your overall exit strategy is, it’s important to understand that startups that take outside investments generally have the goal of a big payday somewhere down the road.
Typically, you aren’t going to create one of these kinds of startups and be very conservative. Startups usually swing for the fences.
As you can imagine, this kind of mentality has the potential for some huge rewards, but along with it, there are some huge risks. Most startups fail. Some estimates show that as many as 75% of startups that have gotten outside investments end up failing.
I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s pretty scary. Before you start a startup, you really need to think about dedicating years of your life and working insane hours, only to eventually close the doors with nothing to show for all your hard work except some hard-earned experience.
A typical startup lifecycle
There is a whole subculture dedicated to startups and plenty of blogs have been written on how they function, so there’s a lot more to cover than I possibly can in this short blog. But in this section, I’ll try to give you my best overview of how a typical startup works, step by step.
Typically, when you set out to create a startup, you have an idea for a company you want to create. Usually, that company is based on some kind of unique intellectual property that’s going to make it very difficult for a bigger competitor to come in and simply do what you’re doing.
A good candidate for a startup would be a new technology or way of doing something that can be patented or protected in some way.
A bad candidate for a startup might be a restaurant or other service that isn’t unique in a way that can’t be copied. A good startup also has the potential to scale very big. Think Twitter, Dropbox, Facebook, and so on.
Once you have an idea, you’ll have to decide if you want to be a solo founder or if you want to take on a co-founder. There are some advantages and disadvantages to each, but in general, most startups have at least two co-founders.
If you want to get into a startup accelerator or incubator—which we’ll talk about next—you probably want to have at least one co-founder.
One good way to obtain some extra help getting started with a startup is to apply for a startup accelerator program. Accelerators are programs that help a startup get started and give them a small amount of funding in exchange for some equity in the company.
You can find a big list of accelerators at Apply to Accelerators. One of the most popular startup accelerator programs is Y Combinator. Y Combinator has helped many famous startups like Dropbox get started.
There’s usually a pretty lengthy application process to get into an accelerator, but it can be well worth the effort. An accelerator program is an intensive program that usually lasts a few months and helps get a startup off the ground.
Most accelerators are run by successful entrepreneurs who’ve already created a startup or two of their own and can offer excellent advice and mentorship to a startup just starting out.
Accelerators usually also help startups prepare for pitching their ideas to investors to get funding and often arrange a demo day for startups in their program. During a demo day, startups are given a chance to pitch to a room of potential investors.
Personally, I wouldn’t start a startup today without getting accepted into an accelerator program. The competition is just too fierce, and the advantage of being in an accelerator program is just too great to try to make it completely on your own.
I actually was a co-founder of a startup that was accepted into a couple of accelerator programs, but after some careful deliberation, I decided to bow out of the company, because I decided I wasn’t at a point in my life where I wanted to go through the rigorous startup lifestyle.
Whether or not you get into an accelerator program, the first major milestone for a startup—arguably the one that decides whether the startup actually even has a breath of life in it—is when it gets its first round of funding.
The first round of funding is usually called seed funding, and typically angel investors will invest in these very early startups.
Angel investors are usually individual investors who invest in very early startups. It’s a very risky investment, but it can carry a high reward. Now, angel investors won’t just invest in your company for nothing; they’re going to usually expect some percentage of equity in the company.
Landmine: How do I deal with equity?
You’ll want to be very careful with giving away equity in your new company. Equity is the lifeblood of your startup. Without equity, you don’t have the potential for a reward for all your hard work and you also don’t have anything to offer investors. Be careful with how much equity you give away and to whom you give it.
Many startup founders have found themselves in the horrible position of giving away equity to a dead-beat cofounder who ends up not contributing to the company, but instead becomes a permanent drain on the company as a freeloader who eats up valuable equity.
Just make sure you make equity decisions very carefully and realize what it is you’re giving away when you give away the equity in your company. Giving away equity is un-avoidable—you’re going to have to give away at least some equity—but make sure you carefully think about it before you do it.
Once a startup has some seed money, it’s time to get started. Actually, you should have gotten started before then, but once you have some seed money, you can probably hire some employees and start scaling things up.
It’s expected that most startups aren’t going to be profitable in this state. In fact, it’s likely that you’re going to get pretty deep into the hole as you burn up the initial seed money building out your business model and prove it.
Once you run out of seed money, if the idea is still viable, it will be time to get some serious investments. The first round of investment after the seed round is typically called series A.
In this round, venture capitalists usually get involved. When you hear about pitching to “VCs,” it means to pitch your company to venture capitalists hoping to get a large investment from them so that you can grow.
VCs usually contribute a large amount of capital to a startup in exchange for a large amount of equity. Don’t be surprised if, after a series A round of funding, a venture capitalist owns more of your company than you do—especially if you have more than one co-founder.
After the series A is complete, most startups go through several other rounds of funding as they exhaust the initial funding and struggle to get to profitability and scale. You basically continue this cycle of getting more funding until you can’t get any more funding, become successful and profitable, or get acquired
Stages of getting funding
This is, of course, a simplification of the whole process, but hopefully, this blog has given you a good idea of what the process of creating a startup is like.
Look up the history of one or two of your favorite startups. Pay attention to how they got started and how they got funded.
Did they have a single founder or multiple founders?
Had the founders successfully founded other companies?
When did the company get funding? How many findings did they get? Did the startup go through an accelerator program?
Working remotely survival strategies
Today more and more software development teams are allowing their developers to work remotely from their own homes. Some teams are even completely virtual and don’t actually have an office. If you decide to become an independent consultant or entrepreneur, you’ll likely find yourself in the situation of working alone at home.
Although working remotely may seem like a fantasy come true, the reality of working in your PJs might not be quite as appealing as you had imagined. There are many struggles and challenges that the at-home worker must face.
In this blog, you’ll get a better idea of what it’s like to work from home and how to deal with problems like isolation, loneliness, and self-motivation.
The challenges of being a hermit
When I got my first work-from-home job I was thrilled. I couldn’t imagine a better way to work than rolling out of bed in the morning, strolling across the hall, and sitting down in my own nice, comfortable chair. Although I still think working from home is great, I soon found there were also many challenges that I hadn’t anticipated.
Challenge 1: Time management
First, we’ll deal with the most obvious: time management. When you work from home, there are all manners of distractions that don’t exist in an office environment. If you decide to click over to your Facebook window and hang out on Facebook all day long, no one is looking over your shoulder to notice.
The mailman comes to the door to deliver a package, and you think “Hmm, maybe I should get a snack.” Your kids or spouse come in to ask you a question or steal you for “just a minute.” Before you know it, your whole day can be gone without anything to show for it.
Many work-from-home newbies think they will deal with this problem by working odd hours and getting work done when they can. They figure they can enjoy the nice day and get work done later that evening.
This kind of thinking is a recipe for disaster because when evening comes, there is always a new set of distractions or you end up too tired to sit in front of a computer.
The real solution to this problem is careful time management. You can work whatever hours you’d like to work, but set a schedule for each week and stick to it. The more regular and routine the schedule, the better.
My wife and friends often joke with me about why I work a typical 9-to-5 schedule when I work from home and for myself, but that schedule is exactly what ensures that I’m not distracted and take my work seriously.
We can’t trust ourselves to try not to be distracted or to manage our time wisely; we have to plan it in advance, or we’ll succumb to temptation repeatedly—trust me, I know. I have a whole string of failed attempts behind me.
Challenge 2: Self-motivation
I’m just going to say this now to get it out of the way. If you struggle with discipline and self-control, you probably should reconsider working from home.
Next, to time management, self-motivation is probably the single biggest “killer” of stay-at-home workers. It’s closely related to time management, but even if you can manage your time effectively, sooner or later, you won’t feel like doing any work.
When you get into this mood at an office job, you’re immediately cured of it by the imminent threat of being fired. If your boss sees you lying down at your desk fast asleep or playing games on your phone when you’re supposed to be working, you’ll probably be handed a cardboard box and walked right out the door.
But when you’re working from home, there are no prying eyes to see what you’re doing. You alone are accountable for your own motivation and the discipline required to keep on working when all your motivation is gone.
Like I said before if you lack self-discipline, I really think it’s a lost cause. I could teach you all the tricks to motivate yourself, but the temptation of turning on the TV, playing a video game, or browsing Facebook all day is just going to be too great.
On the other hand, if you do have some self-discipline to draw on, read on. It’s possible to deal with self-motivation problems if you’re willing to put the work in to do it.
Schedule and routine are very important to rely on for those times when you aren’t feeling all that motivated. We’ve already covered that, so I won’t go over it again, but make sure you do set up some sort of a schedule or routine.
When you don’t feel like doing work, having a time-boxed period for when you need to work can help you stay motivated enough to get it done and get it over with. The same goes for routine.
If you can, develop a routine. Habit can help carry you through motivation dips. There are many times I feel too tired to brush my teeth in the evening, but habit compels me to do it anyway.
You should also remove as many distractions and temptations as possible away from your working environment. If the TV is right there next to you, the temptation to turn it on when you get bored is just too great.
Never rely on your own willpower to overcome temptation—this lesson will serve you well in many areas of life. Instead, remove temptations and you’ll have a much easier life.
And when you’re feeling absolutely unmotivated, one very simple solution that I employ all the time—in fact, don’t tell anyone, but I’m employing it right now—is to sit down, set a timer for 15 minutes, and start working.
During that 15-minute timer, you have to work. You can’t allow yourself to become distracted; you must focus on the task at hand.
After 15 minutes of clear, focused work, you’ll probably find it’s much easier to keep moving forward. It turns out that once we give our undivided attention to something for that long, we end up getting drawn into what we’re doing and we have some motivation to continue.
I call this momentum.
Challenge 3: Loneliness
At first, working from home can seem like a relief. No one to bother you. You can just sit down and do your work. It’s actually very true, too. When I first started working from home, it became very apparent to me how much of my day in the office was actually wasted by idle conversation.
When I started working from home—once I learned to focus—I was able to get much more work done in a shorter period of time.
But after a while, that peace and quiet can become a bit unnerving. You may find yourself peering out the window looking for any signs of life. “Oh look, a person walking a dog. Maybe I should run outside and talk to her.”
(Don’t forget to put on your pants first…not that I’m talking from personal experience.) Okay, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic here, but sitting at your desk alone all day, week after week, can eventually start to take a toll on you.
Most software developers who work from home never anticipate that they’ll actually become lonely from the lack of social interaction—after all, as a group, we can tend to be kind of reclusive.
But just trust me on this one: after about a year or so, if you haven’t figured out a way to get some kind of social interaction in your life, you’re probably going to feel like you’re going nuts.
Think about one of the worst ways rowdy prisoners are punished in prison. They put them in isolation. A day or two “in the hole” is a pretty bad punishment for anyone because as human beings we are social creatures.
So how can you cure this? I’ve got a simple answer here—get out! Make sure you’re setting up activities in the week that will take you out of the house and give you opportunities to see other human beings. Your spouse and kids don’t count.
Try joining a local software development group that meets on a weekly or monthly basis.
For a change of scene, head to a coffee shop or café. I go to the gym three times a week, and I’d, of course, recommend something like that as well. I also find that going to conferences and other networking events gives me a chance to unleash my geek talk to willing recipients. Sometimes it’s pent up for months at a time.
You can also utilize some resource to help you feel a little less detached. Skype calls or Google Hangouts can give you a chance to talk to and even see your coworkers.
If you can overcome these three challenges, you’ll be a successful remote worker, but if you can’t, you might consider whether working from home is the thing for you. Some remote workers who just can’t deal with these issues have found a solution by utilizing what is called coworking spaces.
You can think of these spaces as small offices formed by remote workers and entrepreneurs. It’s sort of like working in a regular office environment, only your coworkers don’t actually work with you.
Landmine: I want to work remotely, but I can’t find a remote job
For a long time, I tried to find a job that would let me work from home, but I couldn’t find one. They aren’t all that easy to come by and there’s often fierce competition. If you’re looking for a remote job but you can’t find one, there are two things I’d recommend:
You might want to see if you can work remotely from your current job. Perhaps start out on a trial basis. You might ask to work one or two days a week from home. Have a good argument for it, like that you can get more work done and focus. If you're given the chance, really show extra productivity when you're working from home.
You can start tracking companies that allow remote work or have completely distributed teams and start making connections with those companies.
It makes take some time, but if you're focusing on specific companies that you know allow remote work, you can increase your chances of getting a job at one of these companies.
Get to know the developers who work there already, speak to the hiring managers, express your interest in the company, and when a job opening comes up, apply for it.
Take an honest self-assessment. After learning about these three challenges, how do you think you'd deal with time management, self-motivation, and loneliness?
If you're working from home or planning on working from home, come up with a schedule that you'll stick to each week. Decide what your working hours will be and what days you'll work.
Fake it till you make it
In your career as a software developer, you’re bound to come across many situations that you aren’t qualified to handle. We all often find ourselves presented with challenges and obstacles we aren’t prepared for. What you do at those times, though, will be the primary factor in determining your success.
Many people, when faced with adversity, will choose to hightail it and head for the hills. But other people, when faced with the same challenge, will rise up to face it head-on.
Do all the people who choose to stay and fight have confidence in their ability to succeed and overcome? No, but many of them do have one thing in common, though—they’re able to fake it till they make it.
What it means to fake it until you make it
The phrase “Fake it till you make it” is pretty common, but it’s also a fairly overused phrase. Different people will have different interpretations of what exactly it means.
When I say “Fake it till you make it,” I’m not suggesting that you lie and pretend to have some knowledge or ability that you don’t currently possess.
Instead, I’m suggesting that you should act as if you’ve already succeeded at accomplishing a task or feat before you even begin it. When I say “Fake it till you make it,” I’m talking about acting “as if:”
As if you already possess the skills and talent you need to succeed As if you’re already the kind of person you want to be
As if the battle is already over and you have emerged victorious because you know deep down that if you keep trying, you’ll eventually prevail
As if the unknown road you’re about to embark upon has already been traversed by you many times before
When you act in this manner—and the keyword is “act”—you eventually bend reality to conform with the image you’re presenting. It might seem like magic and transcendental nonsense, but the truth is that our minds are very powerful.
In section 7, we’ll dive much deeper into the power of the mind to control and shape your reality, but for now, it’s enough to know that if you act as if something were already true, and you can convince your mind of the same, it will take a great force to prevent that reality from actually coming into being.
Faking it till you make it is all about putting on such a great act that you convince your own mind and body to make that act a reality. Faking it till you make it is the opposite of being unconfident.
It’s acting with confidence in all that you undertake, even when you’re in way over your head because you have a supreme belief in yourself to overcome all obstacles.
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Putting it into practice
Faking it till you make it is all about purposely putting yourself in situations that are over your head and forcing yourself to learn how to swim.
It really is a mindset you carry forward with you in life that propels you into the unknown, confident that new challenges will bring new opportunities. If you want to learn how to fake it till you make it, you have to be willing to jump into the deep end.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you didn’t know what you were doing? A situation that made you feel very uncomfortable, perhaps a bit embarrassed, and maybe even a little incompetent?
How did you react in that situation? Did you try to figure out how you could get out of it? Did you make excuses for why you might fail or not perform well?
It’s natural to react to an uncomfortable situation or obstacle with fear, embarrassment, and excuse-making, but if you can overcome those tendencies and see the truth that the new or challenging situation you’re currently in will someday become regular and routine, you are well on your way to learning how to fake it till you make it.
Remember the first time you tried to write some code or learn a programming language? It was hard, wasn’t it? Perhaps it may still be hard for you. But wherever you are now, you can always look back to a time when anything you consider easy was difficult and might have even seemed impossible to you.
The key is to be able to see ahead to how easy some task or situation will be in the future and act now as if it were then.
One common place where this applies to software developers is in the job interview. It’s almost impossible to be an expert at all of the technologies any particular job requires.
There are just too many different technologies out there for you to be a master of all of them, so most job interviews you go into will be for jobs where some of the skills that you’ll need to do the job aren’t yet in your possession.
The key phrase in that sentence is “aren’t yet.” Many developers go into a job interview with an apologetic and nervous demeanor that projects a lack of confidence because they have some doubts about their own ability to do a job dealing with some technologies they haven’t yet mastered or encountered.
Their vision is short-sighted because they’re looking at things from the perspective of now. Now is fleeting. Look at it and it’s already gone. It’s much better to have your eyes set on the future.
Sure, it may be true that at the precise moment when you’re interviewing for a job you may not possess all the skills required to be excellent at that job. But unless you’re a seasonal worker, an employer isn’t hiring you for the short term.
Just about every other developer interviewing for the job is also going to lack skills or experience in a certain area—perhaps ones different than yours.
For that reason, it’s better to project an aura of confidence and capability, knowing that you’ve faced challenges in the past, you rose up to meet them, and there’s no reason to believe you won’t do the same in the future.
Don’t confuse this with lying, though. I’m not suggesting you misrepresent your skills to a prospective employer and claim competency where there is none.
Instead, I’m suggesting that you be perfectly open and honest about your ability or lack thereof, but at the same time carry forward the attitude and posture of someone who has already overcome the obstacles that are before you, because you know that the only thing that stands between the present you and the future you is time.
Your confidence—careful here, not arrogance—will be contagious. When you carry around this “can-do” attitude, when you have a true belief in yourself that isn’t inflated or exaggerated but based on knowing that you eventually will succeed at anything you set your mind to, you’ll find that others will believe this too. Walk into an interview with this attitude and you understand the power of faking it till you make it.
Honest assessment time. What is your attitude in difficult situations? How do you deal with encountering the new and unfamiliar? Think about the last time you were in a difficult or unfamiliar situation and how you reacted.
How can you create a more confident attitude without appearing arrogant? What is the difference? What steps can you take right now to improve your ability to fake it till you make it?
Bonus: Practice your strategy by going out and purposely putting yourself into a situation that is “over your head.”
Resumes are BORING— Let’s fix that
Have you ever gone on a vacation and seen those racks that are filled with dozens of colored brochures about all the local attractions in the area? Ever picked up one of those brochures and looked at it?
Most of them are full color, three-page, beautifully designed works of art. I’m not kidding. You can tell that quite a bit of work went into designing that pamphlet to convince you to spend $100 to go parasailing or rent a ski jet.
Now, contrast that with the average developer’s resume: a single-font, double-spaced, five-page monstrosity, complete with grammatical errors, typos, and poorly structured sentences full of phrases like “spearheaded” and “results-focused.”
Make no mistake about it, both are trying to advertise and ultimately get
A typical resume doesn’t compare to an advertising brochure. someone to spend money on something. In one case, the advertisement is trying to get you to spend perhaps $100 on some vacation excursion.
In the other case, the advertisement is trying to get a hiring manager to fork over $60,000, $80,000, or more to rent a software developer for a year.
It seems a bit crazy to me that someone trying to sell a $100 item would put so much work and effort into an advertising vehicle, but someone trying to sell a $60,000+ item would produce such a substandard version.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying your resume is “crap,” but chances are, if you’re like most software developers, it probably could use a little work.
You aren’t a professional resume writer
There’s a reason your resume … stinks. It’s pretty simple, actually— you aren’t a professional resume writer. You don’t write resumes for a living.
I can just about guarantee you, though, that the guy or gal who created that beautiful brochure trying to convince you to rent a jet ski does create brochures or other advertising material for a living.
And while many career-coaching blogs and programs will try to tell you how to create a better resume, I’m not going to even bother.
Why? Because you shouldn’t have to be a professional resume writer. It’s a waste of your time and talents. Writing a resume is a skill that you’ll only use a handful of times in your career.
It makes absolutely no sense for you to invest heavily in that area when there are thousands of professionals who already can do a better job of writing resumes than you could probably ever hope to do.
Think about it this way. The CEO of the company you work for probably doesn’t write software. Sure, your CEO could probably sit down at the computer and crank up an IDE and learn how to code to write the software needed to run the company.
But it makes a whole lot more sense to hire you to write the software instead. So why would you waste your time learning the skills of a professional resume writer instead of hiring one?
Hiring a resume writer
Hopefully, by now I’ve convinced you that you need to hire a professional to write your resume. But how do you do it?
There are quite a few professional resume writers out there. A quick search on the internet will produce plenty of them, but you do have to be careful in choosing one.
Writing a resume for a software developer is a bit more challenging than writing a resume for many other professions because there are so many buzzwords and technologies related to our work. (If you’re looking for a good one that I’d personally recommend, check out Information Technology Resume-Service.
What to look for in a professional resume writer
Familiarity with the tech It does no good to hire a professional resume writer who the industry doesn’t know how to sell your development skills.
Has sample resumes to The best way to know what kind of work you’re likely to get is to show you look at the work a resume writer has already produced.
I have to warn you, resume-writing services—at least good ones— aren’t cheap, but they’re worth paying for because a good resume can easily pay for itself by helping you land a higher-paying job much faster.
Expect to pay somewhere around $300–500 for a quality, professionally written resume. Again, an expensive price, but if you can get a job that just pays 2 to 3% more, you can easily more-than make up for the price within the first year.
Also, before you hire a professional resume writer, make sure you have all the information that a person will need to do a good job.
You don’t want to pay someone to write a professional resume that has inaccurate information because you were too lazy to look up the correct dates of your previous employment or you didn’t give her an accurate description of your skills and responsibilities.
When you hire a professional resume writer, you are primarily hiring them to do two things for you:
Write good and compelling “copy” to advertise your services and present you in the best light possible.
Package it in a visually appealing, aesthetically pleasing format.
You aren’t hiring them to be a research assistant or to fact-check your information. You need to give them as much information as possible and they’ll take that information and condense it into a highly refined format that will effectively market your services.
Landmine: I don’t feel right about hiring someone to write my resume
This is the most common objection I get to the advice of hiring someone to write your resume. Many people feel it’s somehow “wrong” and deceptive to hire someone to write their resume; they feel that they should write their own resume.
I can understand this viewpoint—and you’re welcome to write your own resume—but how is hiring someone to write your resume any different than hiring someone to design your website or decorate your house?
In fact, many celebrities employ ghost-writers to write blogs for them, in which they put themselves as the author. My point is that it’s not as big of a deal as you might think. Just because you’ve always thought that developers should write their own resumes, doesn’t mean that it’s true.
You don’t have to share that you had a professional resume writer write your resume. And if you really feel uncomfortable about it, write your own resume and hire someone to “improve” it.
Going the extra mile
The title of this blog indicates that traditional resumes are boring, and that’s true. Although a conventional resume is important for any software developer looking to get a better job, it isn’t the only way to present the same information to a potential employer.
You can, and should, take the information from your resume and put it online. You should have a LinkedIn profile that has the information from your resume on it, and you should have an online version of your resume so that you can send someone a link to it.
Applying for a web developer job without an online version of your resume is sort of like being a professional carpenter who doesn’t have their own tools.
Even the format of a resume is subject to revision. Try doing something unique with your resume and present it in a way that really grabs the reader’s attention.
You can either ask a resume-writing service to create something unique for you, or you can take the resume you get from them and hand it over to a graphic designer to make it really “pop.”
I once saw a resume of a video game programmer who had created an online version of his resume that was an actually playable video game. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have a hard time finding a job. And here’s a list of really nice-looking, creative resumes that you can get some inspiration from:
You don’t have to have the fanciest-looking resume, but it’s important for a software professional to have a professional-looking resume. If you think that old Word doc resume you wrote ten years ago that’s filled with typos and awkward sentences is going to cut it, think again. If you’re looking for a new job, one of the best investments you can make it in a professional resume.
What if you don’t want to hire a professional?
I can understand if you still would rather create your resume yourself. Perhaps you aren’t ready to make the financial investment or you feel like it’s something you have to do yourself.
Whether you're looking for a job or not, send a copy of your current resume to some recruiters and ask for their opinion on it. Recruiters see a large number of resumes and often are the best people to tell you if your resume needs work.
Investigate some professional resume-writing services and look at some samples of the resumes they produce. How do those resumes compare to yours?
Don’t get religious about technology
I don’t know if you’re a religious person or not. Regardless of which side you fall on, I’m sure you can agree with me that many of the most bloody and grim wars in history were fought, to some degree, over religion.
I don’t say this to knock religion or to in some way suggest that religion itself is inherently good or bad, but to make you acutely aware of the fact that adherence to dogmatic beliefs tends to be quite inflammatory.
The same is true about software development. Religious beliefs about software development and technology tend to be just as inflammatory as religious beliefs about the origin of life or the existence of a supreme deity.
Although we typically don’t kill people because they prefer iOS over Android, we do have a tendency to batter them around a bit and perhaps give them a quick punch in the stomach when we think no one is looking.
I’m a firm believer that you’ll go much further in your career if you can keep yourself from becoming religious about technology.
We are all religious about technology
It’s true. You might as well admit it. You have some bias toward some technology or programming language that you think is the best—at least, most programmers do. It’s completely natural. We’re enthusiastic about what we do, and any time there’s enthusiasm and passion, there will be highly charged opinions. Just take a look at professional sports.
The problem with being religious about technology is that most of us are religious about a particular technology because technology is what we know. It’s natural to believe that what we’ve chosen is the best possible choice, so we often feel slighted by any suggestion to the contrary.
We can’t possibly know enough about all the technologies out there to make the best and most informed decision about which one is best, so we tend to choose what we know and assume it must be the best—life is too difficult to handle otherwise.
But this course of action, although built-in and natural, is also destructive and limiting. When we dogmatically hold onto beliefs that are only based on our own experience, we tend to associate with only the kinds of people who also hold those beliefs and shun all others.
We end up segregating ourselves into communities where the same ideas are circulated over and over and over again. We reach a point where we stop growing because we’ve already found all the answers.
I spent a good deal of my career being overly religious about operating systems, programming languages, and even text editors before I knew better and started to learn that I didn’t have to just choose one technology that was the best and consider all the others inferior.
Everything is good
Not all technologies are great, but most technologies with widespread adoption are at least “good.” It’s hard for a thing that isn’t at least good to become successful and to become widely known or used.
Of course, circumstances change over time, but it’s important to realize that, at least at some point in history, just about every technology was at one time good or even considered great.
Having this perspective will help you understand that in many cases there isn’t just one good or best solution for a problem. There isn’t just one good and best programming language, framework, operating system, or, yes…even text editor.
You may like a particular technology more than others, and you may find you’re even more productive using one programming language over another, but that still doesn’t necessarily make it the best.
I had a hard time believing this for a long time. I’d spend countless hours arguing why Windows was so much better than Mac. I’d yell and rant about how C# and other statically typed languages were far superior to dynamic languages like Perl or Ruby.
I’d even at times— although I’m ashamed to admit it—berate other developers who thought otherwise. How could they dare believe something different about technology than I did?
The eye-opening experience for me was when I was first asked to be a team leader for a Java project. Up until that point, I had been primarily a .NET developer focused on C#.
I couldn’t stomach the idea of working with Java. Java was such a dirty language compared to the elegance of C#. How could I possibly enjoy writing Java code when I couldn’t even use Lambda expressions?
I eventually decided to take the job, because it was just too good of an opportunity and I figured that because it was a contract, I could stomach it for a year or so. Well, it turned out that taking that job was one of the best decisions I made in my career.
Working with a technology I hated made me see all the technologies in a different light. It turned out Java wasn’t so bad at all. I could see why some developers actually preferred it over C#.
I learned more over the few years I worked on that Java project than I had during my entire career up to that point. I suddenly had a huge toolbox full of tools that I could use to attack any problem instead of the few overused tools I had restricted myself to before.
From that point forward I adopted the same kind of open mindset I had given to Java to other programming languages—even dynamic ones—and I was able to use what I was learning from each to become a better programmer at them all.
I also backed off of my opinions about operating systems and frameworks, trying out new things before I judged them. I probably wouldn’t even be writing this blog if I hadn’t had this experience—or rather, it might be called Why C# Is the Best and Everything Else Sucks.
Don’t limit your options
The real point here is to not limit your options. There is no good reason to vehemently insist that your choice of technology is the best at the expense of ignoring or belittling all others. It will only hurt you in the end by deciding to hold onto that viewpoint.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to have an open mind about technology and not simply hold onto what you already know, claiming it to be the best, you’ll find many more opportunities will open up to you.
Make a list of all your favorite technologies or technologies you feel are superior to others.
For each item on that list, think about why you're drawn to that technology and what comparison you're using to justify its position. Do you have actual experience using its competitor?
Pick one technology you hate and find someone who loves it. Ask open and honest questions about why they're excited about that particular technology. For bonus points, try using it yourself.
The importance of having a routine
The true secret to productivity: small things done repeatedly over a long time period. Write 1,000 words a day, every day, and in a year you’ll have written four novels. (The average novel is between 60,000 and 80,000 words.)
Yet, how many people sit down to write a novel but never complete even a single one? They don’t realize that the only thing that’s standing between them and their dream is routine.
A routine is one of the most powerful ways to shape your life, become more productive, and achieve your goals. What you do every day adds up over time in every area of your life.
In this blog, we’re going to discuss the importance of having a routine and talk about some ways you can set up a routine for yourself to make you more productive and help you achieve goals that might currently seem out of reach.
Routines make you
Every morning I get up and either go to the gym to lift weights or go for a three-mile run. I’ve been doing this for years and I’ll continue doing this for years to come.
When I get back from my workout, I sit down at my desk and go through my daily routine. I know exactly what I’m going to do each day and each week. The routine changes from time to time, but I always have some routine that’s pushing me toward my goals.
The routine I put in place a year ago shaped the person I am today. If my routine involved going to the donut store every morning instead of working out, I’d actually look quite a bit different than I do now. If my routine involved practicing kung fu every day, I’d probably be a pretty good martial artist.
The same is true for you. What you do every day defines and shapes who you are over time. There are many things you may want to change about yourself, but the trick is that it takes time and consistency to do it.
If you want to achieve a goal, like writing a novel, developing an application, or even building your own business, you have to put in place a routine that slowly but surely moves you in the direction you’re trying to go.
It seems like common sense when I write the words here but take a look at your own life and goals; examine the dreams and aspirations you have. Are you making an active effort to progress toward them every day? Don’t you think that if you created a routine that put you one step closer toward your goals, each day, you’d eventually achieve them?
Creating a routine
Now is the time to act. Not tomorrow or next week, but now. If you want to reach your goals, if you want to shape your future—rather than let someone else or circumstance shape it for you-you have to develop a routine that will guide you in the direction you want to go.
A good routine begins with a big goal. What is it that you want to accomplish? You can usually only focus on accomplishing one big goal at a time, so pick the most important goal you have right now. You know, that one that you’d like to do someday, but you’ve never had the time to get around to doing.
Once you’ve picked your big goal, it’s time to figure out how you can make incremental steps toward that goal each day or week that will eventually get you there.
If you want to write a book, how many words do you need to write each day to get it done in a year? If you want to lose weight, how many pounds do you have to drop each week to reach your goal?
This big goal will form the basis of your routine. You’ll build your schedule around this goal. Most people have to commit 8 hours of their day to work at their job.
There might not be much flexibility there, but you still have 16 hours left to schedule your day. We’ll take another 8 hours off for sleeping, which leaves you 8 hours. Finally, we’ll take another 2 hours off per day for eating. At worst you should have about 6 hours each day that you can allocate to what you want to achieve.
Now, 6 hours a day might not seem like all that much, but that’s 42 hours a week.
Alright, so now that we know what we’re working with, the next task is to actually schedule that time. You’ll be most successful scheduling your routine around a five-day work week because you already have a routine around going to work each day. I’d recommend taking the first hour or two of your day and devoting that time to your most important goal.
You might have to wake up a couple of hours earlier, but by utilizing the first hour or two of your day, you’ll not only be more likely to stick to what you’re trying to do, but you’ll also have the most energy.
With just that simple change, you’ll move yourself each day in the direction of your most important goal. If you only schedule your progress on weekdays, you’ll still move 260 steps each year in the right direction. If you’re writing a novel and writing 1,000 words a day, you’ll write 260,000 words in a year.
Getting more detailed
So far we’ve only scheduled one thing into your routine—but it’s the most important thing. If you only do this, you’ll be pretty happy with the results, but we can do a bit better than that. If you really want to be productive, you need to be even more in control of your life.
I work from home for myself, so you can imagine that my routine is pretty detailed. I have a routine that defines what I’m going to do for most of the day.
This routine enables me to get the maximum amount of work done each day. Most people I talk to are surprised to find out that I follow a routine each day when I have the flexibility to do anything I want. But that routine is critical to my success.
If you work for yourself or from home, you should definitely put together a routine that clearly defines what you’re doing during the day, including what time you start working and what time you stop.
The lack of flexibility will be more than made up for by the increase in productivity and the security of knowing you’re making forward progress toward your goals.
But even if you don’t work from home, you still need to develop a routine that encompasses the majority of your day. If you’re working a regular 9-to-5 job, the good news is that most of the structure is already in place for you.
I’d highly recommend scheduling out your workday so that you know what you’re going to be doing each day and each week. We talked about having a big goal that defines your routine, but you probably have many smaller goals you want to make progress toward as well. The best way to make progress toward those smaller goals is to schedule them into your routine.
Decide what you’re going to do each day when you first start working. It might be checking and responding to your email, but perhaps a better choice is to start working on the most important thing you have to do each day. (Email can always wait until later.) Pick out a few tasks that you’re going to repeat on a daily or weekly basis.
Schedule a time each day to work on those tasks so you can be sure they get done. When I worked in an office, I regularly had 30 minutes each day I dedicated to learning more about whatever technology I was working with. I used to call it “research time.”
You should also schedule your meals and even create a routine around what meals you’ll eat each day. I know it might sound a little bit crazy, but we waste a large amount of time deciding what to eat and cook and we end up eating poorly if we don’t plan these things out ahead of time.
The more structured your day is, the more control you’ll have over your life. Think about it: if you’re always reacting to circumstances, if you’re always handling things as they come up instead of planning them out, your environment is directing your life, not you.
Table Example routine
You should have a general routine you follow, but be flexible as well. You may miss a day or mess up your schedule. Don’t forget that there are unpredictable events like your car breaking down that will potentially mess up your routine. You need to learn to take these events in strides.
What is your current routine? Track your daily activities and see how much of a routine you’re already following.
Pick one big goal and work it into your routine at least every weekday. Calculate how much progress you’ll make in a year if you make a daily step toward your goal.