Current State of PHP & Web Economy

May 18, 2011

So I’ve been on the job hunt since November when I got laid off from my previous position.  It’s been taking me a while, primarily because after having a number of jobs ‘in a row’, I’m really this time trying to find the ‘perfect’ fit.  A position that I’m going to stay in for the next 5+ years.   My next career, not just the next job position that sounds interesting enough to work on for a while.

The job hunt has come (essentially) to a close, and I’ll share more on that in the future.  But in the meantime I’m writing a series of blog posts here about this experience, and how the job landscape, for PHP specifically, has changed.

One thing that has surprised me, is how this particular job hunt situation is different from others that I’ve been on (unfortunately) over the last 5 years or so.   When Digg and I parted ways in July 2008, it seemed that the entire world was trying to hire experienced PHP Professionals.  There was no end to the number of positions that existed.  Everyone was hiring.

Fast forward to when Zend and I parted ways in the December 2009 / January 2010 timeframe.  The world had changed in those few years.  Suddenly noone was hiring.  Money was tight all over, hiring freezes were in effect.  Literally only a handful of positions were available to me (locally or remote).

Now, at the end of 2010/beginning of 2011, I’ve realized that things have changed again.

Actually numerous companies are hiring again.  It’s a glorious thing to see all the PHP jobs out there again.  But there’s an interesting catch now that didn’t exist before.  It seems that every single company, is hiring for the exact same position:  “PHP Programmer with 3-5 years experience”.  It’s uncanny how all these positions list exactly those same requirements.

Companies aren’t looking for more junior/entry level positions (not that this fact affects my job search).  But in talking to the companies, it’s that they just don’t see the ‘bang for the buck’.  They are hiring, but operating lean.  In that, they are seeing the 3-5 year experience person as the sweet spot.  Someone with enough experience that they won’t detract from the effectiveness of those around them needing to manage them.  Someone who can work independently.

But this leads into the other problem.  They also aren’t hiring for people that have more experience.  I walk in with 16 years of experience, looking for leadership positions, and they simply don’t exist.  Again this comes down to running lean.  They aren’t wanting multiple ‘cooks in the kitchen’ if you will, and they already have their Lead/Architect/Director/CTO/etc positions filled.   The words “Overqualified” have been stated quite often to me.

Even if I wanted to take the position at (much lower) salary than I’ve been making, the companies aren’t willing.  Because, perhaps validly, they assume that someone with 16 years experience isn’t going to be happy in a position with responsibilities designed for a 3-5 year person.

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