You’ve been in the same job for a while and you’re pretty comfortable. Your work doesn’t vary much from day to day and you’re quite settled there. You don’t do too much coding outside of work; why would you? You spend eight hours a day writing code already, right?

Your value as a developer is going down every day!

The world of software development moves quickly. If we are not moving forward then we are being left behind. Don’t become a one trick pony.

Here’s what I think we all need to be doing to stay current and keep ourselves marketable.

1. Have side projects

Unless you are unusual, your day job probably means you work in similar technologies and with similar frameworks every day. Side projects give you the opportunity to work with things that you would not be exposed to normally, keeping your skills fresh.

Work on something interesting in your own time

2. Read a lot

Read blogs like this one, and others like it. Read books, read questions on StackOverflow, read news sites and read other people’s code on GitHub.

I have a shortlist of sites I like to read and blogs that I follow. When I have a spare five minutes I grab the iPad and read the top stories/posts on each.

Read everything

3. Get out there and network

Look for groups of developers that meet in your area; it’s is a great way to meet people you would never normally come in to contact with.

Go to conferences. While you’re there, go to a couple of talks on something you are completely new to.

Answer questions on StackOverflow and help other developers, in doing so you will realise the gaps in your own knowledge and find out what you need to improve on yourself.

Meet other people in your industry.

4. Contribute to the open-source community

Working on your own side projects can sometimes become stale. With no definite end goal or purpose it is easy to drop it when you get bored. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you might prefer the sense of purpose that comes from working on an established open-source project; with real bug reports and real feature requests.

If you can’t find anything you would like to contribute to, consider open-sourcing your own side projects.

Contribute to an open source project, or start your own.

5. Use Twitter

Twitter is the collective voice of the software/web industry.

Follow the influential people in your industry and see what they are talking about. It’s also important to follow others who are not such ‘celebrities’. Check your Twitter feed regularly, follow links and build your network.

This is by far my preferred way to keep up on what’s happening outside of my workplace. It’s quick (it takes a couple of seconds to read the top few tweets in your feed) and it’s current. Keep an eye on what’s being discussed a lot; if everybody in your industry is talking about a new framework, it might be worth looking in to it yourself.

Join Twitter, and use it.