When IT careers stall: 5 tips to accelerate progress
A career in software engineering or computer science can sometimes feel like a high stakes game. New technologies and languages are emerging and evolving constantly, and new opportunities often involve taking risks and choosing between startups that could be hugely successful – or burst into flames within months.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only made things more dangerous. While many take advantage of times of crisis to contemplate major changes in their lives and careers, a recent Harvard Business Review article points out that in reality, “threatening situations encourage us to adopt a more conservative behavior”, leading to potentially blocked careers.
The pandemic has had an even more acute effect on working women. According to a CNBC and Survey Monkey poll, 22 percent of women have experienced a career setback in the past 12 months.
[ Want more advice? Read also: IT careers: 10 critical skills to master in 2021 and How to improve your LinkedIn profile. ]
The same volatility that can make IT career development seem like a race at the blackjack table is also a constant source of opportunity.
Realizing that your career has stalled or that you are not on track to achieve your goals can lead to feelings of disappointment, dread, and anxiety. However, there is one bright spot for those working in tech: the same volatility that can make career development feel like a race at the blackjack table also provides a constant source of opportunity. Reinventing yourself and breaking out of a rut can be as easy as learning a new coding language or contacting a fast growing startup in your area.
IT Career Path Tips: 5 Ways To Break The Stalls
Do you feel like your IT career needs an adrenaline rush? Here are five tips to get things going:
1. Recognize the danger in comfort
Feeling stuck in your current job probably means you’ve mastered your current responsibilities. While we should always strive to be good at our jobs, it’s important to recognize when we’ve become too comfortable. It can be nice to do your job with ease and have time to breathe out, but the comfort can easily lead to stagnation, followed by boredom and resentment.
Take charge of your personal growth. When your job has become too easy, investigate the technologies widely adopted in your industry. Trends like containerization and Kubernetes are likely to shape the next decade of jobs in IT and software development. Entering the ground floor of a transformation software tool will put you in a smart position.
2. Find the path without obstacle
A stalled career is not always the result of complacency. In some cases, a small or struggling business will not have the staff to offer you internal development opportunities. If you can’t identify a clear path to advancement in your current role, don’t wait for something to open – stagnation won’t improve over time.
Many job seekers search for their next opportunity with the mindset that they need to find a next-level opportunity; for these people, a lateral move to another company feels like a step backwards. These positions need to be viewed in the context of the larger business. If a large company offers a wide range of opportunities for promotions, skills building, and professional development, a lateral move could be extremely beneficial for long-term growth.
3. Look beyond yourself
There is a common debate in sport when it comes to who should win the MVP award. If the best player in the league plays on a losing team, can he really be considered the most valuable? The same principle can be applied to career development. If you think you are being ignored for a promotion, look around and consider your team’s performance.
Your exceptional work is more likely to be recognized if it takes place as part of a successful team or a remarkable project.
Success breeds success, and your exceptional work is more likely to be recognized if it takes place as part of a thriving team or a remarkable project. Sometimes team performance will require you to focus less on individual excellence and consider how your work can support the larger mission. Your destiny is closely tied to that of your team or division, so their priorities should become your priorities.
4. Identify and acquire essential skills
Today’s job seekers have more information at their fingertips than at any time in history, with platforms like Glassdoor and LinkedIn offering a wealth of information on job openings. , job requirements, average salaries, etc. If you’re struggling to land your dream job, these sites should become key weapons in your arsenal.
Use these lists as a to-do list to improve your skills that can guide the immediate next steps in your professional development.
A quick Google search for your target position should bring up hundreds of examples of past and present job postings, in addition to resumes or portfolios of successful ones. This information gathering should allow you to compile a list of the most common skills required for your role.
[ Which IT certifications and skillsets pay off most? Read also: 15 highest-paying IT certifications in 2021. ]
Even if you are not able to apply at the moment, or if there is no relevant position in your area, you can use these lists as a to-do list to improve your skills that can guide the immediate next steps in your professional development. As you learn and hone these skills over time, you will become a go-to candidate for the next opening that meets your needs.
5. Find a mentor
For better or worse, career advancement is often about networking and advocacy, finding people in high places who will vouch for your talent and are invested in your advancement.
If you don’t feel like you have people in your area, try to find a mentor. It’s not just a Machiavellian hunt for the right reference on your resume. A good mentor can do everything from helping you identify the skills you lack on your way up to providing practical advice on how to stand out in an interview. Remember to pay it forward once your career is booming and provide mentorship to the next generation.
While these five tips offer specific advice on how to restart a stalled career, there is a common thread running through each one: Your future is in your hands. Don’t wait for career advancement to come to you – do whatever it takes to help you out and make sure you’re ahead of the pack for the next big opportunity.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]