Having recently changed jobs I read a fair number of job specs and a phrase that stuck out for me was a desire for companies to hire someone “at the top of their game”.
I can understand the sentiment behind that. You want to hire someone that is very good at what they do. However that turn of phrase is off-putting for one big glaring reason. If you are at the top of your game now, where do you expect to be in the future?
I will be quite honest and say that I am not at the top of my game. I don’t expect to be at the top of my game for decades to come. And when I do get to the top of my game it will be the day I retire.
What I do expect of myself is to continually learn and improve. Each day I improve “my game”. I take the mistakes I’ve made in the past and commit to not repeating them. I take the successes and find out what made them successful and apply them to appropriate situations in the future. I learn new technologies as that broadens my horizons and makes me more valuable. Through my blog, at conferences, or mentoring colleagues I teach others what I have learned as that helps everyone improve and it solidifies in my mind the knowledge I have.
The interesting thing is that I didn’t used to think that way.
When I left university I had the arrogance to think that I knew it all and for a few years I worked on that principle. But that attitude eventually caught up with me and I spent some time unemployed partly as a result of that attitude. I am determined not to let that happen again. These days I am acutely aware of what I don’t know. I think that now I am more aware of my limitations I am a better developer. Because I’m more aware of what I don’t know I strive to fill those gaps by ensuring my own education – I don’t let an employer dictate what I should be learning. I am pro-active and go out there and ensure I’m educated. Of course, if my employer wants to put me on a specific training course I’ll accept it.
Eventually, one day, I will finally be “at the top of my game”.
I don’t expect ever to be top of my game. The candidates that most interest me when interviewing are the ones with a passion to learn, because I don’t want to employ someone for tomorrow, I want to employ them for next year and 5 years time, and I don’t know yet what technology they’ll be using.
I’ve been a professional programmer for around 30 years. The days when I though I knew it all are far behind me, coinciding I think with the rise of the internet showing me the code of many, many others. I know I’ve good experience, and I’m always learning, always trying to keep up, because if you’re coasting then your going downhill.