How NOT to Market Yourself as a Software Developer

Written By John Sonmez

I've talked quite a bit about ways to market yourself as a software developer over the years (I've even created a course on the subject), but I haven't really talked about how NOT to market yourself as a software developer.

Arguably it is just as important to know how to NOT market yourself as it is to market yourself. There are many mistakes you can make that can either cripple your career or severely hurt your chances of getting a job, landing clients, or pursing any other venue you want to pursue.

So, this post is all about those common–and not so common–mistakes many software developers make when they are trying to market themselves–whether they even realize that is what they are doing or not.

Talking in terms of what you want instead of what you have to offer

Two businessmen discussing.

If there is one big mistakes that you need to make sure you avoid it is this one. One of the most common problems I see with developer's resumes is that their resumes start by declaring what they want.

Most of us were trained to put “objective” at the top of our resumes and to state out plainly what we are looking for in a job. It's not common to see at they very top of a resume an objective that states something like:

“To find a senior software development job where I can utilize my skills in C# and .NET in a challenging position where I can continue to grow professionally.”

At first, when you read this statement, you might not even think anything of it; It seems innocent enough. But, not only is it a complete waste of space on a very crucial document with limited space to convey your message, but it is also starting off the conversation with the completely wrong tone.

What can you possibly hope to achieve my stating what YOU want to a prospective employer? Do you really think an employer cares what you, or I, want?

Have you ever hired someone for a job or any sort? Perhaps just to mow your lawn, or fix your faucet?

Did you care what they wanted?

No. Neither did I. If I called up a plumber and the plumber told me what he wanted–what his objective was–instead of telling me what he had to offer me, I would probably not be very impressed at all.

By the way, if you are single and are on an online dating site, you might want to think about this concept as well. Is your ad targeted to what you want, or does it focus on what you have to offer someone else?

Always think about what the other person wants and what you have to offer them rather than what you want and what they have to offer you.

You may want that job, you may want to gain that client, but what you want is irrelevant; no one cares what you want. Everyone cares what they want.

If you want to sell yourself effectively, if you actually want to land that dream job, or be considered for that wonderful opportunity, you need to learn how to phrase things in terms of what the other party wants. You have to show what you have to offer them, not what they can do for you.

Consider the difference between these two phrases which are almost identical in meaning, but are framed in completely different contexts:

“I like working in a team environment with highly skilled developers who care about writing good code.”


“I am a team-player who cares about writing good code and works well with developers who share that passion.”

But, we can do even better if we think about what problem we can solve for a prospective employer. Not just talking about what we have to offer, but the specific kinds of problems we can help solve. The value of hiring us to work on your team.

“I have a proven ability to foster and improve teamwork by sharing my enthusiasm and excitement about writing good code with other developers on the team.”

The third version communicates everything in the first and second versions, but it also communicates how hiring you can help improve the overall quality of an existing team by introducing your enthusiasm and excitement. It conveys the idea that you can improve the dynamic of a team you are on as well as improve the code quality of that team.

Most importantly though, it doesn't say anything about what you want. The third statements talks all about what you have to offer.

Being involved in drama


There are certain kinds of people that just always seem to be involved in drama. No matter what happens it seems like for some reason or another they get involved in emotionally charged situations.

It may not even be their fault–at least it may not seem to be on a surface level. Bad things just seem to happen to them. There is always some crisis that is making them the victim yet again.

Smart people learn to avoid those kinds of people. They know that some people just seem to attract chaos, drama and… trouble.

It's fun to spread your opinion on the internet. It's fun to get into heated arguments with “stupid people” on the internet, but just remember the old adage:

“Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” – George Carlin

The smart people who will likely be the ones hiring you for the kinds of jobs you would like to be hired for, will know to avoid people who cause drama. They know that someone who always seems to be a victim is most likely a victim of themselves and makes anyone who gets involved with them a victim as well.

So, my best advice on this subject is to learn how to keep your mouth shut and to pull your fingers off of the keyboard.

Don't be the person who jumps into every social media scandal blasting people on Twitter for misogynistic, homophobic, antisemitic, racist, you-fill-in-the-blank behavior.

Don't spew your political or religious views on the internet where you'll seldom convince anyone of your point of view, but instead enrage.

And don't… don't… play the victim or indulge anyone who does.

Just stay out of the mess and stay as far away from it as possible. When you see a mud puddle on the road do you go sloshing through it or do you go around it? Why then do so many people dive right into mud puddles on the internet, roll around in them and even let out a few oinks?

No good can come of being involved in drama unless you aspirations are for becoming a daytime talk-show host or a shock-jock radio personality. (In which case follow the exact opposite of my advice.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you shouldn't have opinions, and I'm not saying you should tolerate abusive and destructive behavior. I'm just saying that you are best to keep your opinions off the internet and the best way to deal with abusive and destructive people is to avoid them, not to interact with them.

Undervaluing yourself

Sad college student sitting on a bench in park

No one likes sheepish apologetic people who spend half of their words making excuses for themselves and the other half in self-deprecation.

Don't be that kind of person.

Know what your value is and present it confidently.

You might not be the best software developer in the world. You might have some weaknesses. You might still be learning. You might have even made some serious mistakes in the past. But, don't let those things stop you from always presenting the best version of yourself. There is no need to apologize or make excuses.

This doesn't mean you should be arrogant. There is a big difference between arrogance and confidence.

Arrogance is in your face showing how great you are at the expense of others and because you are seeking admiration or praise.

Confidence is security in your own abilities and the belief that you can genuinely use those abilities to overcome any obstacle in your way.

Arrogance is often a false-confidence that actually indicates a need for external acceptance, because you are acutely away of your own weaknesses, but refuse to acknowledge them.

You have to learn to take a realistic assessment of now only what you are now, but what you can be in the future and always step forward, projecting that assessment whenever you have the opportunity.

There is no room for excuses of apologies. No one cares about that. There is only what you are and what value you can provide–take it or leave it. Don't be afraid to be yourself and to show confidence in your own abilities. We are all at different levels at different points in our careers. We all have different strengths and weaknesses.

(If you are struggling with this issue, you might want to read this book: Psycho-cybernetics)

Your worth is not tied up in how many programming languages you know or how many years of experience you have, but in the person you are and how confidence you are in being that person.

Don't sell yourself short. Other people's perception of you will be mostly based on you own perception of yourself.

Now, if you want to learn how to market yourself, sign up here and I'll send you my best tips about boosting your career by taking the right steps and putting learning how to put your best foot forward.