By John Sonmez March 24, 2014

Why You Are “Stuck” In Your Career

For software developers, there is no guidebook that tells you how to advance from one stage of your career to the next.

Many programmers start out quickly in their careers, advancing up the ranks, only to find that they have hit the proverbial glass ceiling which caps their earnings and gives them the choice to either jump tracks to the management career plan or stay stagnant where they are.

It doesn’t have to be this way though.

Trapped man

In this article, I’m going to tell you how you can shatter that glass ceiling and keep on advancing.

Why the glass is there

Before we talk about how to break the glass, let’s talk about why the glass is there in the first place.

The big reason most software developers hit an imaginary ceiling on their income and career advancement is because they stay with the pack.

Most people have what I call the herd mentality.  It means that you stick with the herd and you value yourself based on where you fit in the herd.  If you are at the front of the herd, you are doing good.  If you are at the back of the herd, things aren’t looking so good for you—you are in danger of becoming a hungry lion’s next meal.

The developers at the front of the herd make more money and have nicer offices, and the ones at the back make less and live in tiny cubicles, but they are all part of the herd.  So, even though there is a difference in pay from the junior developer to the senior one, there isn’t much of a difference in pay from one senior developer to another one, even if one of the senior developers is more valuable and has more advanced skills.

Now, there are a few developer animals out there that break away from the herd.  These developers have figured out that they don’t have to try and compete to be at the front of the pack, instead they can run on their own where they don’t have to worry about their position in the pack, because they can just outrun it.

This is, of course, easier said than done.  In fact, I have quite a bit to say about how to go about doing this and what exactly this means, but let’s not get into that just yet.

First, I want to break up this example a bit more and apply it to real life.

As software developers, we are acutely aware of our position within the pecking order.  We know which developers are higher up than us and which ones are lower.  We have titles at our jobs which help us to know our place.

But, it is important to remember that the rest of the world has no idea about which developers have greater skill and can do a better job, and for the most part, they don’t care—they just see a pack.  They see a pack with some developers at the front and other developers at the back.

When an employer hires you for a job, they just want to know where you are in the pack.  Are you at the front?  The back?  The middle?  They pay you accordingly based on your ranking within the pack.

If you aren’t explicitly standing out far beyond the pack, you are going to be grouped right in with the pack and paid accordingly.  And once you make it to the front of the pack, you’ve got nowhere to go in their eyes—you’re already the best.

roof of moden buildings

So, the glass ceiling isn’t there because someone mandated that software developers shall only make so much money and live in 5 by 5 cubicles.  Instead, the glass ceiling is there, because unless you are doing something extreme enough to differentiate yourself from the pack completely, you are part of the pack and the pack is always going to stick together. That means that the average salary of software developers will be used to determine what the developers at the front of the pack will be paid, as well as what the developers at the back of the pack will be paid.

Breaking away from the pack

So, if you want to increase your value as a software developer, your goal should be to break away from the pack.  But, how do you do it?

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Let’s start by looking at an example outside of the software development world—the restaurant business.

Suppose you are a cook.  There are quite a few cooks in the world.  In fact, each restaurant in the world, whether it be a fast food joint or an elegant upscale restaurant, needs at least one cook of some sort.

Cooks run in packs.  There are low level cooks who don’t make much money at all.  Some of these cooks work at McDonalds or another fast food restaurant.  Some of these cooks work at more reputable places, and we typically call them chefs instead.

But, you’ll probably find that most high level cooks also cap out around the same level.  That is except for a few that end up having their own television shows, write books and make millions.

The same is true for musicians.  There are quite a few musicians who are really good and talented, but only a small number of them break away from the pack to become rock stars.  The rest are relegated to the pack.

If I asked you why you honestly think Gordon Ramsey, or Rachael Ray, or Wolfgang Puck make so much more money than other chefs, what would you say?

You might be first tempted to reply that it is because they are so much better than other chefs, but we both know that isn’t true.  Sure, they are probably in the top tiers of skill level, but the real reason these celebrity chefs make so much money is precisely because they are celebrities.

They are primarily being paid for their names.  There are hundreds of chefs in the world at a similar skill level, but those hundreds of chefs are relatively unknown.  The same applies for musical talent and even software development.

Now, I’m not saying you need to become a celebrity to break away from the pack and advance your career as a software developer, but what you do need to learn how to do, which most celebrities and famous people already know how to do, is to market yourself.

Marketing yourself

Unfortunately, there isn’t a guidebook for software developers on marketing themselves either.

But, that is precisely why I wrote one.

Well, more than just wrote one.  I put together a complete package on marketing yourself as a software developer.

I’ve been in the industry a pretty long time and I’ve made my share of mistakes.  I got stuck for a pretty long time at my own personal glass ceiling, until I started to notice how the developers I would read articles from and see speaking in front of thousands at conferences, had figured out a way to break away from the herd.

I talked to many of these ultra-successful developers, (I won’t use the term rock star here, since it is so overused,) and I found out how they were doing it.

I started applying what I was learning and discovering to my own career, and it didn’t take long before I was able to really break through my own glass ceiling and see that there actually was no limit to the earning potential of a software developer who knows how to market him or herself.

Since then, I’ve been hired for dream projects at my own price.  I’ve been on numerous podcasts and publications.  I’ve created a successful and popular blog that gets over 100,000 visits a month, and I’ve gotten countless other opportunities.

Now I want to share the information with you.

I’ve put together the guidebook that I said didn’t exist.  The one that will help you break away from the herd and put your head right through that glass ceiling.

Only it will be more than just a simple guidebook.  I’ve put together a complete package which includes two complete video courses; several eBooks on topics like how to market yourself, social networks, professional resume advice, networking; and even some video interviews with top developers who have already broken away from the herd themselves and will share their secrets with you.

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This isn’t a scam or some marketing mumbo-jumbo, it is real tried and tested career advice from myself and other software developers who have figured out how to make their names stand out.  The fact that you are reading this post proves that what I am offering works.

If you sign up here, I’ll send you a special discount code that will give you a nice hefty discount on the complete package when it goes live on March 27th.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."