Even though it's at least a year away, I'm already thinking about my next job. I actually ran across a job posting for a telecommute position from a software company headquartered fairly close to my hometown. I thought I'd take the opportunity to send them my resume and an introductory email explaining my situation: that it's too soon for me to formally apply to any position, but I'd like to at least establish a rapport.
Surprisingly, the HR lady I talked to on the phone actually had me complete a web-based technical questionnaire, a sort of interview pre-screening. I submitted my responses to their questions, and a few days later received the "we've decided to pursue other candidates at this time" form letter... Update: I was a bit premature in my complaining about the form-letter. Shortly after I posted this entry, I received a personal reply from the HR rep; she said that we should keep in touch, and that my answers to the questionnaire were very good. So while my argument is now slightly weakened, I think the general idea is still valid.
This whole string of events is to me another case for self-employment. (In the context of a software developer, I use the term self-employed rather loosely, to encompass freelancing, starting a small consulting business, independant contracting and similar means of putting food on the table. Basically anything but the typical cog-in-a-machine corporate employee.) Having never actually been self-employed, I can only speculate what it's really like. But I would like to think that it gets you past the nonsense of Human Resources departments, and gets you talking to the actual decision-makers. Getting past HR means there is really only one question: can you do this job? And by "this job", I mean, more specifically, can you fix these bugs, can you deliver this enhancement, can you deploy this system... can you perform whatever task our internal people cannot?
A contrived but realistic example: a company wants a system developed using the some new technology, "UberScript". None of the internal staff has experience with UberScript, so the company has two choices: hire someone with experience in said technology, or hire a consultant/freelancer on a one-time basis to do the intial work. If the company chooses to hire somebody, they might say something like "minimum 5 years experience with UberScript" required, and then it becomes HR's job to filter out everyone who has four years or less experience.
Now say I have some experience with UberScript, but am not a five year veteran. Perhaps (and this is likely in my personal case), I have worked on a personal pet project using UberScript, and that my hobby project is reasonably similar to what the company needs. I would say I have an excellent chance of getting this company as a client, particularly if I can talk directly to the decision-maker, and explain how my experience is short-but-relevant to the job he needs done.
The point is this: my hunch is that being self-employed might allow me to avoid HR filters built on arbitrary criteria.