As the year comes to a close and another one looms around the corner, most of us start to think about our goals for the new year. Some people have the lofty goal of going to the gym every day, whereas others create goals around their careers. For those wanting to launch a career in tech or broaden their job prospects, you may be lost on where to start and what to focus on for the coming year.
Software engineering is an incredible career path as it opens a door of opportunity. It’s regarded as a well-paying sector within tech with room to expand and grow. Whether you are a current or aspiring software engineer, setting goals around developing your hard and soft skills is a great way to catapult your career forward.
In this article, I present actionable steps you can take for your career development as a software engineer. The recommendations may or may not include suggesting that you dance more! Hopefully, by acting on these recommendations, you’ll be closer to landing your dream job or be on the path to up-level your career in 2023.
Improve problem-solving skills
Strengthening your skills can help you perform tasks more efficiently, increase your productivity, and ultimately support career growth. A core skill every developer should have in their tool kit is the ability to problem-solve. Problem-solving allows you to identify a problem, develop an action plan to face it, and then act on the plan to overcome it.
What parts of problem-solving are important to develop as a software engineer?
As a software engineer, it is critical to have strong problem-solving skills as challenges are destined to arise in every position. Areas of problem-solving that you can develop include:
- The ability to efficiently understand the cause of a problem
- The tools you possess that help you overcome short-term issues
- The ability to develop strategies to solve longer-term problems
- The optimism of turning problems into opportunities
- The foresight of identifying potential problems and developing strategies to mitigate them
How do I develop my problem-solving skills?
Career development as a software engineer does not have to come from activities directly related to tech. For example, dancing positively impacts neural processing, a critical process involved in problem-solving. Moving to a groove gets your heart pumping, improves your social life, and keeps the grey matter in your brain in top condition. Together, these benefits make it the perfect catalyst for solving problems. Different dancing styles can help us solve different types of problems. For example, the Cha-Cha can help us solve puzzles faster, and dancing freestyle on the funky disco floor can make us more creative. So, next time you face a problem you can’t solve, get up and try dancing to the solution.
Learn a new programming language
The 21st century has seen rapid changes, especially in technology. Almost every day we read news about technological updates. Thus, your career development goals must involve staying up to date with the latest changes!
Changes in tech range from new programming languages to adapted technologies to updated frameworks. As a software engineer, it’s crucial to stay on top of these trends as some are here to stay. Failing to expand your skills could mean that you get left behind.
Why should this be a top career development goal for a software engineer?
In 2023, a valuable goal where you are likely to see a good return on investment (be it monetary or ease in which you land a job), is to learn at least one new programming language. By learning more programming languages, a software developer has more opportunities to work on various projects, regardless of the purpose or the language being used. Employers and recruiters are looking for candidates who stay on top of industry trends. Being skilled or familiar with more than one language is a highly sought-after quality.
Improve and develop your soft skills
Soft skills are difficult to measure, yet are a fundamental part of thriving in all aspects of life. They include social skills, interpersonal communication, know-how, and character traits. They help a person in both their social and professional life.
One of the best ways to develop soft skills is to put yourself in situations that challenge you. Unfamiliar situations allow us to grow and learn. The Learning Zone Model is a great framework that helps us understand how moving out of our comfort zone and into our learning (or growth) zone can help us. We can broaden our comfort zone by moving into the learning zone which translates to more and stronger skills.
- Empathy/emotional intelligence
- Problem-solving/critical thinking
- Time management
By developing these skills, you’ll be able to better manage projects and deliver results that will benefit you and your work.
Increase your professional network
You might be wondering, “Why would I want to broaden my social network as a software engineer? How will this help my career?” Although everyone knows the saying by Porter Gale, “Your network is your net worth”, the quality also matters. Thus, by broadening your network, you have greater chances of interfacing with more quality people. And by quality, I don’t mean more established or influential. Instead, I mean people who are relevant to your career. Perhaps they have amazing connections to a job you want to apply for, they have an interesting career path you want to learn from, or they are a great sense of motivation to push you to grow and develop.
By broadening your network or intentionally engaging with the one you have already developed, you’ll have opportunities to can share ideas, develop new skills, and potentially find new job opportunities. On top of that, networking allows you to establish yourself as a reliable, supportive, considerate, and knowledgeable industry professional. Essentially, the more your network expands, the more people know what you can offer and what you’re looking for. One thing is for sure – no matter the challenge, it’s much easier to overcome when other professionals have your back.
Build on your personal projects
It is no secret that when making hiring decisions, tech companies place a high value on side- or non-classroom projects. Many companies don’t even consider candidates who don’t have side projects to show. This is particularly relevant for software engineers and people just starting in the tech industry. Companies look for builders, hackers, and the hands-on and creative types.
Personal projects are one of the best ways to learn a new skill or to continue developing those you acquired throughout your education. They also give you opportunities to be exposed to languages or tasks you haven’t come across yet. By completing projects, you can broaden your knowledge base so that when you get into a professional setting, you’ll know a little about how everything works.
Keep in mind that employers don’t expect you to showcase big, perfect projects. Instead, they are interested in a person’s commitment to learning.
If you are starting to think about your goals for 2023, consider adding career development to your list. Whether you are in tech or another industry, the above goals will help you continue to grow as an individual both personally and professionally. Get out of your comfort zone and into your learning zone. Remember — keep your goals realistic but ambitious!
Talent Incubation Specialist
Amila Duranović is an HR generalist at Jarvis - she hires Candidates for Jarvis's Technical Consulting Program.
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Jarvis is a leading IT consulting firm headquartered in Canada that provides total talent solutions with ongoing partnerships across North America’s top financial institutions, cutting-edge startups, and major technology companies.
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