Why job agencies and I do not get along.

Maybe the title is a bit misleading. But hey, at least I got your attention.

But before I dive into this, I want to set the boundaries for this post, I do not want to be misunderstood and be taken for a grumpy old guy who knows everything better.

When I talk about job agencies, I talk about the people who deal in connecting freelance or independent developers looking for a short term contract with potential new customers and taking a fee for that. Now, I don't see anything wrong with this model: I know a lot of people work this way and it generally works out well for them. But, as with everything in life, there is no general solution that applies to all.

I know a lot of developers. I also know a lot of good developers. And, I also know some extremely good developers. People who are at the top of their field. People who teach others to become better at their jobs, people who inspire people to try and go beyond what they thought they could do.

The problem with these people is that it is very hard to describe what they do. When I look at my own resume, I find it hard to label myself. Whenever I talk to people outside the industry I tell them I am in IT and that is usually enough to satisfy their curiosity. Of course, this is not enough if I am looking for a new contract. Saying "I work in IT" will probably not get me a job that makes the best use of my abilities and thus will make both me and the company miserable. And we don't want that to happen.

When people inside the business ask me what it is I do, I say something along the lines of "I am an experienced developer, who is capable to talk about deep technical topics with the developers but who also can talk to the business about their needs. A developer who is able to quickly oversee a problem and find a solution. Next to that I am able to make people enthusiastic about their work, troubleshoot process problems and implement a way of working that works for the team and also for the business. I am very good at making sure everybody in the team is on the same page when it comes to quality. I make sure the team puts their money where their mouths are: promises and commitment will not be taken lightly. And since I can talk to all people involved I can act as a bridge between all parties involved."

Well, that is what I want to say. Of course, I don't so I abbreviate it to "I'm a senior dev lead" which means exactly nothing.

And their lies the problem. If I am not able to briefly tell a colleague why he should consider recommending me to his bosses, how can a job agency even try to do that? The terms I wrote in the above statement are not things you will find in a job description. Sure, the term dev lead might pop up but that's not what I do. I do way more than that. Let's be honest here: most job agencies just scan jobs and resume's for keywords and try to match those. And even that is probably hard enough. You need someone who is good at developing software to do that job but those people are not working at those agencies: they are busy writing software.

I know a lot of my peers struggle with the same problem. They are unique and a lot of companies could benefit from them if only there was a way to get those two parties together. And agencies are not the answer. Maybe one day one agency will be able to fill that hole but I haven't found it yet.

What are your thoughts?

Print | posted @ Thursday, December 17, 2015 11:21 AM

Comments on this entry:

Gravatar # re: Why job agencies and I do not get along.
by Alex at 12/17/2015 10:09 PM

Great post.
What you describe is a general problem in our profession.

The biggest problem I've experienced and still do Europe side is that these agencies employ people who don't know anything about our profession.

I can describe more and become meaner but I'm sorry how can someone evaluate my proficiency if he has never written one single line of code? If he/she has never worked or watched development teams at work.

It's really weird and reminds me experiences with managers who don't have a clue what they are managing.

How can someone lead or identify skill when he doesn't have any actual experience of the subject?
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