These days it can be tough to find the job you want as a software developer, either because the lack of opportunities out there, or facing huge competition in the process. In this article, I'd like to offer some tips that might help you to maintain your value as a software developer.
All of these tips apply to those who are in current employment, or who are looking for a job. If you aren't working right now, some of these points are essential: you don't want it to appear as if you've lost interest in software when you're not getting paid for it!
While you may think that you know all that you need to know, there's no harm in expanding your experience and improving your CV by achieving some relevant certification.
Certification is a really effective way of learning new things and refreshing on the things you already know. Java developers have huge certification options available through the Sun Java Certification exams. Starting off with the SCJP exam, you can choose the path that suits you, all the way to Enterprise Architect. Eclipse developers can earn RCP and OSGi certification through the Eclipse Training Alliance.
If certification isn't an option for your technology, or you've done it all before, make sure that at the very least you stay educated. This can be as simple as buying a book, or doing an online tutorial. As well as keeping up to date on technologies that you use, it's really rewarding to educate yourself in a new framework or technology. Once again, your CV gets a nice update and you'll probably find ways to apply what you've learned in your current job.
Training course can be expensive, but if you can afford it - go for it. Make sure that you do a sufficient amount of research into the course to make sure it suits your needs and covers what you expect.
However,once you know the basics of software development, it's easy to teach yourself. There's a lot of information available out there, and a large amount of the tools and IDEs that you need are probably free.
Join A Community
If you have a local user group, or gathering of other technologists, why not try to go to the meetings once in a while? Maybe start up a local technology conference and work on your presentation skills.
If you're out of work right now, joining an open source project can be of huge benefit. You get to work as a team with other people passionate about technology, and pick up new skills from them. More importantly, joining an open source project can fill that empty year in your CV, and show that you've kept your skills sharp.
Find Your Voice
Finally, starting up your own blog can really help your confidence. It's never been easier to set up a blog, with so many providers available. Teaching can be the best way of learning - so as you write about the technologies, tools and frameworks that interest you, you'll find that you have an even better understanding. Researching new topics for your blog can be really interesting too. The most rewarding part is when you find that you have an audience and people are interested in what you have to say.
I should point out here that we do have an MVB program here at DZone, which is a really effective way of getting traffic to your blog from the DZone platform.
The key point I'd like to make is that you should never stand still as a software developer - there's always someone behind you who will pass you out. Have you any other tips to share on staying sharp?