Own Your Own Career — a Guide for Software Developers
If you are in a situation where you’ve been working as a software developer for a few years, learnt a whole plethora of new skills yet you are not progressing as far as you think you deserve then you could be suffering from a lack of control over your career.
If you are not getting the right financial remuneration or professional respect then it is time to take the decision to own your own career. But what does that actually mean?
Taking Ownership of Your Career
You need to look at your career as if it is a living organism. If you put in the work you will get good results. Neglecting a garden will not mean you grow great vegetables, the same is the case for your career. You can’t just sit back and hope that doing good work gets you a good pay rise or promotion.
One of our key beliefs is that doing good work gets recognition. In reality this is not the case. Managers have hectic work and personal lives just like everyone else so you need to stand out from the crowd. This can mean getting a better resume, joining in with company activities, or pushing yourself in the wider developer community. Doing a good job alone is not enough.
Reputation Is Key
Reputation is part of standing out from the crowd and how competent you are in your professional life. You can be extremely competent at what you do but those that get promoted and recognized are the ones that push themselves forward and occupy a space where they are seen. Those are the ones who will l and the good jobs and command large salaries. In reality you need to promote yourself, help others, network and get involved in developer communities to build long-term professional relationships.
Helping your manager, proactively discussing any wins and what you can learn from this is a great way to get noticed. Talk about how your work impacts your company — this rarely happens so if you do start this conversation your manager is bound to sit up! Ask for a one-to-one meeting, show interest in what your manager does, ask how your work is assisting the business’ development.
Think about What People Ask about You
People ask questions about others to help them form an opinion so think about what these are likely to be. In the main people ask about personal qualities like kindness, helpfulness, intelligence, and ability to learn as well as things like work quality and mentoring skills. Make sure they know you tick all the right boxes. Be upbeat with a good attitude, and always be seen to be learning and growing.
Look at Your Career Stage and Go above and Beyond
In development the job titles are representative of the level of skill and experience. If you want to stand out you need to look at the requirements of your job and then surprise people by exhibiting an additional skill set.
- Coder — this is essentially a hobbyist and is not a paid position.
- Junior developer — entry level IT professional who works within a team. Usually in the industry for under 12 months.
- Intermediate Developer — this is basically career puberty. The intermediate developer has become a great team member and is competent but on the other side they tend to think they have ‘arrived’ and know everything. They are more confident in their ability to think for themselves.
- Senior Developer — this is the point where a developer is starting to be seen as a mentor. They have specific and advanced knowledge, can build complex systems and are confident in their ability. They do, however, understand that they still have things to learn.
- Lead Developers focus on providing leadership to the team and connects the team to other organization departments.
Getting to the next Level
Once you have honestly evaluated where you are on the ladder how do you get to the next stage?
Again, it is all about visibility. You could try finding a gap in knowledge and then filling it, surprise people about some skill you have. This becomes easier the more experienced you are because you will see more easily which gaps exist and what to do to fill them. At this stage you will probably drift into a team mentorship role.
High Visibility Projects Are worth Their Weight in Gold
If you want to get known and get experience fast get onboard one of the more prestigious projects. Get out of your comfort zone — don’t just stick to what’s easy, you will learn a lot and be seen as someone who is not afraid to get stuck in. This will increase your reputation.
Keep a record of your achievements so you can look back on it to see how far you’ve come. It also helps when redoing your resume.
Get Involved in the Developer Community
Not only is this a great way to make friends, find a mentor and find jobs and also makes you feel part of the bigger whole. You can find developers with similar interests, follow them on twitter, contribute to open-source projects and so on.
Think about how you can help other people. Perhaps you could consider blogging, YouTube how-to videos, write a book? Find a mentor to help you, mentors are essential to flesh out new ideas and learn new ways of doing things.
Above all stay consistent and focused on growing your career, keep it fresh, keep nurturing it and success is sure to follow.
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