Software development is an area of high demand with plenty of future potential for progress — but that does not mean that you are guaranteed to be successful just because you have entered this industry. In fact, many software engineers and programmers end up stagnating after just a few years because they are not sure how to advance their careers.
Fortunately, there are a handful of important yet reasonably easy strategies that can help you continue your career.
First, it is important to set goals for yourself – and come up with a vision for your future work. What does it mean to “advance your career?” What are you looking for specifically?
For most people, it is a combination of the following:
- Job title and responsibilities. Some people want to achieve a prestigious job title or get into a position where they manage others. Do you want to be the leader of a larger organization that is responsible for coordinating entire teams under you? Are you looking for a specific title?
- Salary / salary. Are you interested in making as much money as possible? If so, you may be interested in gaining more experience or learning more marketable skills. You may also be interested in starting your own company rather than limiting your salary by working for someone else.
- Industry / work area. Some software developers try to get to a specific industry or line of work. For example, they may dream of working for a company in a particular niche, or one that is a Fortune 500 brand.
- Independence and autonomy. Other software developers just want a job where they have as much independence and autonomy as possible. It can mean finding a flexible, accommodating employer or simply starting your own business.
Once you have set your long-term goals and priorities, you have a better direction you can use to make decisions and new habits today.
Education and learning
Either way, you can move your career forward by investing more in your ongoing education and experience. The more knowledge and first-hand experience you have, the more valuable you become – and the more flexible your career becomes.
- Sign up for new classes. Even if you feel like an expert, it’s a good idea to keep signing up for new classes. Learn the basics, or learn something completely new; Either way, you want to break out of your comfort zone and challenge some previously held assumptions about software development.
- Learn new languages. Although it is possible to find success as a specialist in a single programming language, most successful software developers know several languages. Not only does it make you a more versatile developer, it also helps you think and solve problems in more innovative, creative ways. There is no shortage of popular programming languages out there, so there will always be something new and interesting to learn.
- Stay up to date. The standards for your preferred programming languages are likely to change regularly. Be sure to stay subscribed to the latest industry news and talk to your peers to stay up to date on the latest best practices. It is easy for knowledge to become obsolete in this area.
- Follow your own creative pursuits. If you work as a full-time software developer for a stable employer, you may feel that your schedule has already been reached. But even if you work 50-hour weeks, you should find at least a little time each week to work on your own personal projects. Creating your own projects will help you build your project portfolio, improve your skills in new ways, and possibly allow you to start your own business in the end.
- Develop your soft skills. Most software developers understand the importance of improving their technical skills, such as language skills — but they neglect the crucial soft skills that are critical to long-term career success. Be sure to polish your people’s skills, communication skills, negotiation tactics and other soft skills.
Networking and collaboration
Promoting your career is not just about improving your technical skills or gaining more experience. There is also a social dynamic you have to keep in mind. Interacting with other people can improve your knowledge and experience – while giving you access to new potential opportunities.
- Find a mentor. Consider getting help from a mentor. A more experienced, veteran programmer will be able to guide you, provide you with career advice and possibly connect you with powerful people in the industry.
- Partner with others for side projects. Contact other software developers in your area and consider collaborating on specific side projects. It’s a great way to see how other people work and complement your own creativity.
- Attend local groups and meetings. Get involved in your community, join groups and meet regularly. You’re building your personal brand just by participating – and you’ll probably learn something in the endeavor as well.
- Expand your network of contacts. You never know when you might meet a software developer recruits or a hiring manager for a larger company. Use networking events, meetings, and social media to keep expanding your network of contacts.
It is difficult to make any career advancement unless you are actively marketing yourself, in the same way that you can market a product or business.
These are some of the best strategies to help you do just that.
- Grow differentiators. There are millions of software developers out there. So why should one company hire you over another? Find the things that make you unique. For example, you will specializes in AI development? Do you solve problems in a way that other people cannot? Do you have experience that most people cannot match?
- Build a personal portfolio. Then work on building your professional portfolio. Most software developers who hire managers are interested in your true abilities – and simply having an education or a certification is no guarantee that you will be able to do the job. View the programs you have previously created and keep this portfolio up to date with your latest work.
- Establish a personal brand. Create and promote a personal brand – a concise, packaged identity that you will represent in the job market. You can showcase your skills, knowledge, expertise and even your personality on social media and on a personal website. The more you network and the more active you are in software development communities, the more visibility and prestige you get.
Other important tips
These other tips and strategies can help you get even more out of the above suggestions:
- Get uncomfortable. Comfort is a career killer. When you become determined and familiar with a particular role or work for a particular company, you become reluctant to change. It may make you feel satisfied or complacent, but it does not help you further. To move forward, you need to become uncomfortable and take risks (at least occasionally).
- Change jobs. Different types of companies offer radically different experiences. You meet new people, get a feel for different work styles and expand your horizons by working in different places. Plus forcing yourself to change jobs on a regular basis gives you plenty of chances to reevaluate your goals and your current progress; with each job change, you are likely to make more money and climb a little higher up the ladder.
- Get feedback. Finally, get feedback from your peers, mentors and bosses at every step of your career. What do they see as your greatest strengths? What about your biggest weaknesses? There is a lot you can learn about yourself just by listening to others.
A software developer’s career development can go in many different directions, and it tends to unfold over years and decades, rather than months. You have plenty of time to build your skills, expand your network of contacts and eventually settle down in the position you want. If you are hardworking and ambitious enough, it is only a matter of time.