So you have your own project and you are trying to figure out how to get a full-time job while you work on it, right? Well, once you do find out let me know, OK?... No seriously... It is quite a difficult task, but there are effective ways to go About it!
Blog Post Table of Contents
It doesn't matter if you have all the top technologies under your belt, and have done work for some of the best brands in the business. If you are working on your own project, the battle you face trying to get into a full-time role is like nothing you have experienced before.
You would think the average employer would find great advantage and excitement in someone who is keeping up with their skills day-to-day on a project, while they work towards their next role. Unfortunately, there is actually a lot of negative vibes that come with that way of thinking, from both, the employer and the average recruiting firm or talent acquisition specialist (we'll use "recruiter" throughout the rest of this article for brevity). So what to do?
Well, you first need to understand from the employer's point of view. To an employer, it's like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes you need to take that gamble when you are hunting hungry, seasoned entrepreneurs, who have a diverse experience in several industry sectors, technologies, and field time that will help lead the team into the next phase of your vision. That is not always what they are looking for, so you need to hunt for companies that are. More on that later.
There are also several things you can do that will undoubtedly get you closer - like I have - to full-time opportunities while you are working on your own project.
There are also several things you can do that will undoubtedly get you closer - like I have - to full-time opportunities while you are working on your own project. Here are the Top 10 things that have helped me throughout time as I hunt for Full-Time roles while having my own project.
The fact is, yes, it’s certainly discrimination to not get hired because you are working on your own project, have another job or even if you are that guy or gal who "didn't seem like a good fit for the team".
You actually do have the right to work at one or more jobs, and/or on your own project, especially these days, and especially when you have mouths to feed.
You also have a right to a job if you have the skills required, more so if you pass that part of the interview. How you look or mesh with others in a new company should not ever be decided for you; nevermind in the initial stages of a hire. Nor can one or more people properly determine whether or not a candidate is a good fit for the team personally, with just a 30 minute, or even a few hour, interview. I can read people extremely well. I have been asked to interview plenty of people by my employers. Yeah, maybe some people you can gauge, but most people are simply different from one another. You can have a loud-mouthed, hair slicked back employee interviewing a quiet-voiced woman or long haired rocker dude, who completely looks past them, not realizing they can do the job asked of them like a "boss"! When you add having your own project into the mix, every negative check mark becomes a more likely possibility when you are gauged on personality or appearance over skill. So here is the harsh reality, though, It doesn't matter. Those very real and very legal rules really don't apply these days in the field.
It gets even harder when you are using recruiters to find you jobs. Why? Well first, recruiters are a major factor for two reasons (1) they are a large consideration in this article. (2) They play a crucial role in the hiring process with A LOT of companies these days, especially in the Tech industry. There are awesome recruiters out there that will do whatever it takes to win with you. At the same time, though, there are some recruiters (emphasis on the 'not all recruiters') that have their own agendas. They sometimes go as far as thinking they have the right to choose your destiny. What they really should be doing is focusing on the right match for the candidate and client, and not on what they think is appropriate for you to be doing on your own time.
In any case, whether you like it or not, you are going to find yourself running across that field, bullets blazing, with no body-army or helmet, taking hit after hit in hopes that you are still standing by the time you reach the other side! You need to be ready to fair the unfair.
Be completely transparent to your recruiters and employers, by stating you are in fact working on your own project. Explain what your plans are and how you are going to safeguard their interests in the process. Nothing gets recruiters and employers working against you faster and more simultaneously than when you aren't clear on your objectives or try to hide your project. Luckily I have always been transparent About anything I am doing, but I have watched some good people fall because of it. Let’s say you do hide your project and pull it off at least temporarily. You are still going to have to explain that gap in work, especially if you were full-time on your project up until the point of the first set of interviews. If they find out before or after your offer letter, there is a chance you will actually not get the role. Don't get me wrong... You take a massive hit to the face that looks real bad on the outside by being transparent. Pretty bloody and bruised for sure. However, you need to remember that you are taking that leap of faith going down these parallel paths. You have to remember that they are too; they being your recruiter and employer. You need to respect their position. You are better off coming clean early on. It helps everyone understand the magnitude of the situation.
Only work with recruiters that you can trust, who understand your intentions, and who have your intentions at the forefront of their mind. I have worked with some really awesome recruiters, and do my best to work with nothing but the best.
Most recruiters will help you if they find you honest and sincere with your objectives. They also know that you are putting the trust in them to succeed with you. However, nothing is worse than getting wrapped up in the bad end of business politics with a recruiter who has influence in the decision-making of your destiny with a future full-time employer. Some might even decide to choose one of their other candidates over you at the last minute, just because you are working at another job or on your own project. I have actually had that happen to me. I have even had some over-the-top recruiters cancel a final stage interview just because they didn't like their last conversation with me, whether it be on rate/salary or some other silly thing that should have been discussed on day one. Talk About going borderline insane when that happens! Look, I get it. If you didn't need the role, you wouldn't be talking to them in the first place. You need to be smart About it, though.
It's an extremely cut-throat market, and you need to make sure they have your back. More importantly, you have to prove to them that you have their back too. They certainly don't want to see you just grab the next best thing that comes your way before, during or after an offer letter. I have never done that, and you should never do that either. That is so not cool, and I can only imagine how quick the word would get around describing you as that type of man or woman.
Only apply to companies who look for innovative, experienced workers, that they see can leverage the full spectrum of their trade solely (those with their own projects generally can), but can also work really well with a team. A team player is very important; in some cases crucial to a company's specific rally-the-troops requirement. Team collaboration has always been a quality of mine even though I am independent. In fact, when you are one working on your own project, you tend to become very independent. However, it's extremely important to be able to re-establish yourself as a team player if you have gotten too used to your independence. Companies looking for that team player tend to respect what you are doing and will at least listen more, instead of simply looking past you and your little project there, if they see that you can play both sides of the fence.
I literally receive 100s of recruiter emails and calls every, single week. This is because I strive to become an absolute expert at what I am doing. You should too. I am not only in software and web application development, but I can do creative design, client-side programming, server-side programming, database development and project architecting which is extremely rare. Yes, I meet awesome one-tech-career developers who blow me out of the water with this technology or that, but a rarity I still am. On a side note, I actually like working with developers who are very skilled at specific technologies, because it helps people like me better allocate specific tasks to the collective project architecture, while I am focusing on other aspects of the big picture. There is serious value in this ability, and if your project shows that (your full spectrum of skills) you will find companies who embrace that in the most positive of ways.
So, being that expert and hopeful rarity, as well as having that readiness to be a team player, will absolutely broaden your chances with a full-time employer considering you even though you again have your own project.
Stay away from companies who - on the first time you meet - ask, "You say you want to work with us, but why are you still working on your project?" Any company who expects you to give up on your project before you are even in the deal-making process with them should be a cause for alarm. Never, ever stop what you are doing until you are absolutely positive that you have a signed offer and that both sides have agreed upon some approach to business with them while you have your project. Moreover, any respectable hiring employer/manager will give you the time necessary to put your project in a state of being that fits that final agreed upon approach. The ones who don't are either thinking of themselves entirely or don't understand or don't care for your current situation. Remember, companies that are looking for workers aren't always in the process of growth. More so than not they had a person who left on their own or was let go prematurely, and they are now spinning their wheels until they get someone new in place ASAP. You as the replacement needs to watch out and are sure that you are not jumping on board with the wrong team.
You have to be ready to sign non-compete agreements and non-disclosure agreements, and you have to fully understand the role you are applying for to ensure - for both sides' sake - you are not getting yourself into something that creates a conflict of interest for you or them. You think things are complex now? Get into a legal battle with a company who has more money than you.
You have to be ready to travel and/or relocate. The pile of opportunities slims down to almost zero when you have your own project as it is, no matter how many calls you get initially. You may just have to travel and/or even relocate to a place that is more open to cross-innovation between your dreams and theirs.
This should be number 1. You have to be ready to do your thing only on your own time now. Not only will an employer expect a full-time 40 hour week out of you (unless you are seeking part-time of course), but you would be wrong not to provide that to them. If they are going to give you a shot with them, you damn well better give them that time! You owe it to them, and anything less would not and should not be tolerated in my opinion.
Contracting, as opposed to full-time roles, are a healthy alternative. Especially, if contracts are the preferred approach by the hiring employer. You also get to work with cutting-edge technologies, broaden your scope of knowledge and understanding of many different business situations and you are enabled the ability to troubleshoot problems across a large array of technologies and devices, which makes you more useful to the team.
There are some disadvantages to contracting. You are more subject to the chopping block than say a full-time employee. I actually feel is an appropriate trade-off. In a horrifying way, it gives both sides the ability to evaluate the current arrangement a month or so down the road. Review, extend, renew or discard. Repeat. Not to mention contracts are a lot easier to obtain than a full-time role for these reasons. As a contractor, the employer even tends to care less About your future and more About the current fires that need to be put out in their workplace. I have made the latter half of my career as a contractor for all these on-the-edge-of-your-seat stages of a project. Getting old? Sure. Tis the reason to be full-time. Be careful, though. Too much contracting can taste just as bad to an employer or recruiter who already feels uncomfortable About you working on your own project. A neutral balance is important to establish.
I would always leave your self open to contracting. I turned down over 200 contact roles in the past 4 months, because a full-time was my unbreakable goal. However, literally 72 hours after I open the door to new clients, contract roles and full-time roles in late Dec of 2016, I was reunited with a former client that needs my help and received two grab potential contact opportunities that are worth me investigating.
After everything, you may eventually have to choose anyway. There may come a point before you even get an offer letter, that you will need to choose their project over yours. It could come out of the blue, anytime, throughout the hiring process. It’s a very tough thing to ingest, but you quite simply need to understand that you may just not get a full-time job until you do. I have done well not having to, but like me, you have to be ready to actually end your project for the foreseeable future if you come across a full-time employer who is providing you a viable path to success in their organization (and maybe for life), but won't budge on having your project co-existing. You have to be ready to make the ultimate call. Are you?
It all may not seem fair. The truth is, you need to understand that it just isn’t. You have to respect the fact that almost all employers are looking for the best of the best, and sometimes that best is giving up your dream for theirs. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but that is the reality. Again, though, as long as you are 100% transparent with your intentions, become that expert, and stay true to yourself, your employer and/or recruiter, you could very easily find a happy medium somewhere, somehow, and in time.
This article has had minor updates since it was created. The one major thing that was changed, aside from minor grammar and content changes, was that I turned down over 200 contracts to reserve myself for the right full-time role, in addition to putting a message on my site that declined any new client opportunities, and has been so since Feb 2016. However, I released the new 2021 jSilvestri.com website on Dec 22, 2016 and opened the doors for any form of business activities (i.e. contract work, full-time roles, sole proprietor and/or C2C work, etc. ) The hunt for a full-time role, however, has not changed. I am still actively looking for that right opportunity.
Feel free to like, share & comment!