I started programming in grade school. I dreamt of the day when I would be writing state-of-the-art games just like Space Invaders or Tempest. Being a grown-up was going to be so cool. I was going to own a Corvette.
In college, I took a course that introduced me to databases and SQL for the first time. I hated it. I told my dad that I intended to avoid databases for the rest of my career. He wished me good luck with that plan, because 90% of business programming involved databases. He told me that nobody really likes databases. A better plan would be to learn how to like them, so I could become good at them. Which meant a company would probably pay me really well, because I would be the only person they could find who liked databases. I had to think about that. It was an interesting challenge.
Throughout my career, I have noticed a few things that seem to work well, career-wise. It is basically a generalization of the advice from my dad: Find something that people hate to do (because it is really hard) and learn to love it and do it well (especially if there seems to be lots of demand for it). People will pay you well and you will have job security.
As a result of that, some portion of my career has been spent working with the following unpleasant technologies:
- Reporting (Crystal Reports, SSRS, etc)
- Advanced MS Access
- Legacy stuff like VB6 or classic ASP
If you look on any job site (monster or dice, etc) you will notice that the pay for these topics can be pretty generous. With a year or two of experience, you can make some really solid pay. So, what gives? Why does a Biztalk dude make 100k after two years? I will tell you this: most people who try Biztalk, don’t make it past their first project or two. After my second one, I wanted to become a farmer or brewer or janitor. Anything but Biztalk.
I guess you could say that some technologies just seem to suck the joy out of your soul. This is what I’m talking about. Working with databases and reports requires a special kind of madness. Luckily for you, if you already have that madness, then you could be cashing-in.
It occurs to me that I know several people who are perfect for doing this kind of work, but don’t. I don’t think it would/could make them any more screwy or ornery if they were working on Crystal Reports or SAP. Their current jobs seem to be irritating to them, but just don’t pay very well.
My point is this:
- If you would like to make more money, be willing to do a job that you don’t want to do.
- Working harder is always an excellent career strategy for earning a raise. However, there are some jobs that will pay better and don’t require you to work harder (if that is not your thing).
- Doing a job, that nobody wants, might not be as bad as it sounds
- If you know somebody who doesn’t like their job, maybe you should encourage them to seek another unlikable job that pays better. At least that person will get paid better.
- Fun jobs don’t typically pay very well. Unless you find an unlikeable job and convince yourself that it is fun. Some people will think you are crazy but you will be crazy all the way to the bank.
- Jobs that pay well, are often unlikeable. Especially if you intend to do the job well, and keep that job. That is unless, you convince yourself that you like the job (in spite of what others think). Be prepared, either way.
I realize how strange all of this sounds, but it is all just economics. If demand remains high (people want their reports) but supply remains low (nobody wants to deal with reporting) then the price will go up (cha-ching for you). The world really does need all of the clever people, out there, to be doing these jobs. So, please grab a book and a mouse. There are companies out there who are looking for you, or your friends/family members. Don’t be afraid to dive-in and try this stuff. You might end up liking it and getting paid well.