Agreeing to a programming job might be one of the best career moves you ever make, or lead you to a dead-end. Most of the people trapped in these jobs never thought they would end up in such a situation when they took them on. You need to know how to tell what will be good for your career, interests, and personality, when you see a job opportunity. Some coding gigs can be catastrophic for your development and your general wellbeing, so you need to be cautious before accepting a job.

Some of the factors you need to consider include benefits and salary, product satisfaction, the work/life balance, and job satisfaction. Some of the industry’s leading software engineers shared their invaluable wisdom and expert opinions with us. You need to watch out for positive signs and red flags. Make sure you keep your eyes open at each stage, whether it's reading the initial listing, the interview or salary negotiations.

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Nobody wants to stagnate while everybody else progresses in their career. Here are some tips to help you avoid such a trap.

Job Listing

Let’s say someone does the smart thing by subscribing to job availability notifications. Once they think a certain alert asks for the skills they possess and has favorable benefits, it is still difficult to determine what the working environment will be like. However, the job description could raise some red flags - for instance, the recruiter could ask for several programming languages - say Java, C++, and C#.

You could conclude from this that the employer wants popular products in new languages, or uses different languages for multiple products because of a lack of modularity and structure. Job listings are designed to provide a glimpse into what a job will entail, but can also be deceiving at times. Some job listings are just too good to be true. Shawn Kessler, AgileCraft’s Senior Director of Technical Operations, says that such postings tend to be masking a lot of problems.

Kessler tells of an experience when he stumbled upon a job listing perfect for him, so much that it seemed like he’d written it for himself. After he secured the job, it turned out to be the worst thing that ever happened to him. The job landed him in an extreme micromanagement environment, toxic politics, no corporate vision and archaic, brutal policies.

He reiterates that it was not possible for him to either foresee or prepare for the chaos he experienced in the workplace, based on the interview or listing. A lay-off sweeping about one-third of workers saw Kessler leave the company, but he would secure another job not long after, one that he says has been the best of his career.

His new opportunity oozed with compassionate and loyal colleagues, a clear development and growth path, an awesome product and an agile and collaborative work environment. The most interesting thing about this gig, according to Kessler, is that it came from a handshake and an informal conversation - no job listing at all - when he met a progressive entrepreneur.

Jean-Francois Lemire is a senior application development manager at TEKsystems. He believes a person should apply for any listed jobs that seem a good fit for them. The required experience and qualification levels give most people a headache, but Lemire believes that still, you stand a chance of securing a place if you meet most of the requirements.

He says someone needs to talk to the recruiter and find out exactly what the hiring manager expects from candidates. This is because most job descriptions take a long time to update, and human resources departments continue to use them in their outdated state, without taking changes into account.

Recruiting

Being unfamiliar with a company might create a lot of work trying to wrap your mind around it. If you have a person you know on the inside, you might find it easier to learn about the company’s culture. Failing that, you need to keep your eyes open so you can learn about it slowly, making your own conclusions.

According to Kamrin Klauschie, Dev Bootcamp San Francisco’s lead career developer, any take-home job with little context or scope should raise red flags. Chances are that someone is applying your code in the real product, especially for small and bootstrapped start-ups. One should also be on the lookout for non-technical people trying to pose as co-founders. A co-founder should at the very least possess some technical know-how, which they are supposed to furnish the project with.

Some of the benefits provided with a job end up benefiting the company, not you. Try to find out the exact manner of execution from people who have worked with the organization, or ask around once you get to your desk.

A good example is the popular “unlimited vacation” policy, which most probably means no time off for you. Where this policy applies, ask the average number of day’s employees take for vacation. Most often, there is no remuneration for vacation days you don’t use.

Interviews

Do not shy away from asking questions that might give you a glimpse of the culture, working environment and the general employee attitude of the company. These are the people you are going to be spending most of your time with. Making friends in the workplace might not be possible for you, but you need to make sure your colleagues respect and support you.

Laura Thorson, a Facebook partner engineer, says she had a bad encounter with a certain company, and decided she would inquire about the nature of team culture at any organizations she intended to work for in the future. That way she’d know what to expect, and reporting to her desk each morning wouldn’t be difficult.

Be sure to gather information on the attitude of potential colleagues and managers towards balancing work and personal life, focusing on how they might relate to you at work. Given the short time you might spend with them, what you can grasp will be limited. Follow your gut to determine if employees possess a positive disposition and enthusiasm about their job, roles or future.

Keep reminding yourself that the job you are subscribing to is not the final one for you and you might end up struggling a bit. The opportunity may not be the one you’ve always dreamt of, but you should still take it up because it might a rung in the ladder. Thorson says that there is a job she used to hate, but it eventually landed her in her dream job, working with a very big company.

Sweat Shop

Disorganization is deadly for any business because it results in a lack of clear direction, hence more crunch time, attrition and burnout. Taking on a job that keeps you occupied for long hours with unending, heavy-duty tasks might not allow you the room to breathe and find an easier and better-paying job.

Watch out for interviewers who know too little about the job at hand. A sweatshop will have no interest in your career progression and further training. To identify a poor prospect, ask tricky questions about coaching, average tenure, seminars, and training.

Your job is a very important part of your life, and a good job leads to a good life. As a programmer, you need to ensure your job enhances your life. This begins with signing up for the gigs that favor you most.

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