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In-the-know coders and hirers are aware that brushing up on your language skills is a great way to land that plum job

The world was very different 20 years ago. London was hit by the Brixton Riots, Brit Pop was everywhere, the first Toy Story movie was wowing kids and adults alike and South Africa won the Rugby World Cup amid those iconic scenes of Nelson Mandela handing the trophy to Francois Pienaar. Oh, and a trader called Nick Leeson lost $1.4billion on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, triggering the collapse of Barings Bank. How Greece must yearn for debts that small.

Just as significant – in technology terms – was the arrival of Java. Back in 1995, we might have all thought of it as a South Asian nation, but nowadays we know it as an across-the-board computer language. Simple, versatile, reliable. There might be fresher options around – languages considered more contemporary or with more improvement options. But how many languages have more tools and more integration – especially when things go belly-up?

You only have to scan the IT recruitment section in any vacancies column to find proof of Java’s enduring popularity. Worldwide, there are tens of thousands of Java job ads listed on any given day. Globally, Java is in the top 10 skills hiring managers and IT recruiters like Computer Futures look for when they are seeking to fill cloud positions. Its position as the basis for so many open source projects means that far from shrinking, the demand for Java is as great as ever.

So what are the secrets Java users need to know to help nail down that career step-up? Keeping up your technical skills is a must. If you’re looking for a move into a large corporation, you should be keeping abreast of developments in the world of Java. Sound moves which will impress Java recruiters include attending conferences, signing up for on-the-job training and undergoing review tutorials on key aspects like minimising code in loops to boost speed or reducing memory gaps.

Signing up to developer communities is another indispensable way of broadening your knowledge. Techies love to share what they know and what you learn while you’re chatting online might put you that important half step ahead of the next candidate for that plum job.

There are plenty of other good tips about different aspects of the developer’s work. Soft skills might not come first, but an all-round skill set is going to stand out like an Xbox 360 at a Game Boy convention.

Interpersonal skills are crucial. Communication is everything, with colleagues, with other departments, on emails, in discussion and policy meetings. Don’t be afraid to talk, or to list ideas and solutions – but be sure you’re talking from a position of solid knowledge.

Problem-solving is another area in which you can prove your worth. Any IT recruitment agency like Computer Futures – and any employer – will put a premium on someone who can come up with fixes and answers and workarounds for coding issues. And don’t be afraid of suggesting changes or improvements to working practices. A good manager will embrace and reward ideas. A bad one won’t last.

Another crucial, if not immediately apparent, area of soft skills is to prioritise the needs of the end user. As a Java developer you may not be in direct contact with the customer, but you’ll be working on projects which impact of his or her technology experience, so why not make life easy for them. Always bear in mind that the technology whizz and the little old man grappling with his first laptop are equally important.

Another way to enhance your skill set (and one guaranteed to impress IT recruiters) is to add another language to your armoury. Familiarity with multiple programming languages can only help your chances of problem-solving and, again, will give you the edge over the next Java developer in the queue.

Scala is a language which has many advantages, including a reduction in verbosity and utilisation of functional programming elements. It interoperates with Java and runs on JVM, so it should be an easy option for Java developers.

A body of project work will always enhance your chances of landing an IT job. You can access career development through online training, coursework, certification programmes, webinars or mentorships.

It’s all about thinking hard how you can best become a more rounded employee, alongside honing your Java skills. The computer world still loves Java, so utilise it to make potential employers love you.