It’s true, finding a position right after graduation is like finding a needle in the haystack. It all starts with deciding what your career path is going to be. But, don’t fret, we are here to support college grads’ career path and share some tips and tricks for realising successful tech career path.
Career Path Checklist
Before we go on with our tips and tricks, you need to think about the skills you can put on the table when you face the recruiters and ultimately your day-to-day job. Let’s take a moment or two to go through some of the questions you can ask yourself and make sure you’ve made the right decision when it comes down to your career path.
This question checklist can help you with that:
- What are your interests? – Think about the activities you like to do in your free time. We spend a lot of time doing our jobs, so it’s important you end up doing something you actually like.
- What are your skills? – Make a list of skills you have acquired so far that can help you do the job better.
- What are your talents and strengths? – Some things come to us more easily than others, and this gives us a certain work advantage as well.
- What about your personality? – Are you a leader or a follower? Work in a team or alone? Competition or cooperation? What kind of things do you value the most?
- What education and training do you need? – Do you have what you need to start working right away? Or do you need to invest more in your education to acquire the required knowledge and skills to be able to work?
- Are there jobs available? – Take some time to analyze the industry you want to work in and identify some of the trends regarding jobs within it.
- How much money would you like to earn? – Different career paths offer different salaries. We can’t all be millionaires, nor do we want to end up with loans we can’t pay off. Think about what type of salary would be acceptable for you.
- Where do you want to live? – Some careers require often shift in location and some require you to be in the same place the whole time. Or would you prefer a remote position?
What Skills You Need in Your Arsenal
The balance between technical and soft skills is always desired, so make sure you hone your soft skills and not entirely focus on the tech side. Nonetheless, since you decided to go down the tech career path, here are some of the technical skills that are in demand now and are going to be even more wanted in the future.
Depending on which path you’ll take, job openings will require certain skills. We’ve listed some to give you a rough idea of what they are.
Basic coding. If you are not on a first-name basis with coding languages, check out websites like CodeAcademy, edX, or GitHub. There you’ll find ample sources to learn from and get familiar with the basics of coding.
UX/UI design. UX or user experience focuses on how something works and how users interact with it. UI or user interface design pays attention to the look and the layout of the website. It ensures that the page visually communicates the desired paths. Make sure not to skip “Don’t Make Me Think” book by Steve Krug.
Mobile and app dev. The companies that want to sell well on the market don’t just need websites; they need apps. If you want to contribute to this field, some of the most common frameworks are React Native, Flutter, Xamarin, Ionic and adobe phonegap.
Open-source. Open source development stresses cooperation and coordination, and it requires a working knowledge of “democratic” programming languages such as PHP and MySQL.
Data visualization. According to WEF, understanding and using big data for business is going to be one of the top skills in the next period. All the big data needs to be presented in a way leaders and decision-makers can understand them. There are multiple tools like Tableau, Power BI which can help you to convert complex results to a format that will be easy to understand.
Python Coding. Python is the most common coding language and it’s typically required in data science roles, along with Java, Perl, or C/C++
Machine learning. You need to know some of the machine learning techniques such as supervised machine learning, decision trees, logistic regression etc. These skills will help you solve different data science problems that are based on predictions of major organizational outcomes.
Network and information security. Staying safe online has never been of more priority than it is now. And this is only going to go up in the next few years. So investing in cybersecurity skills is one of the good decisions if you want to go on a tech career path.
Technology has taken the front seat in the digital economy and thus you will need to interact with your peers, subordinates, and superiors to solve problems or do some creative projects that will benefit the company.
This is why you will need to be a good communicator, think outside of the box, don’t be afraid to ask questions about how things work, show your passion, be ready to solve problems and help others if they need it.
Here is a small reading list to serve as a starting point:
- I’m OK – You’re OK by Thomas Anthony Harris
- Stop Guessing: The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers by Nat Greene
- Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
- Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson
Big or Small: Work for a Startup or a Tech Giant?
Reflect on a type of work environment and culture that would be a good fit for you. Just to give you a few ideas – think about the level of formality in the organization and how much they focus on rules and procedures, are you motivated by reward and status, what opportunities for progression and/or promotion this company could offer you etc.
Here is a quick comparison of what it’s like to work for each.
Being part of the more-structured, corporate world often means you get stuck with one project, the main task and opportunities for branching out are rare. Positions in such companies are usually one-person-fits-one-task, and you would probably get conditioned to repeat the same behaviors day after day.
If you end up working in a startup you will most probably wear many hats and have the opportunity to (sometimes simultaneously) work on different projects. Both have some good sides and some bad ones, so it’s up to you to decide what might suit you the best.
Joining a startup comes with challenges, one of them being a constant change. Project plans, offices, reporting systems, daily assignments, job titles… they all get changed more frequently than the filter in the office coffee pot. These rapid and often changes can get a bit frustrating but you need to embrace the chaos if you want to succeed in the startup company.
On the other side, most of the changes in seasoned companies usually start from the top and take some time. If we take into account that they have well-defined processes and procedures and hundreds of employees, the change in the way you are doing your job is probably going to be very slow.
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A lot of challenges in a startup environment often push people to learn quickly on the job. You would need to make impactful things happen, take on more responsibility and work in different positions and roles, covering various aspects of the business. All of this can help you foster a broader set of capabilities and expertise.
When it comes to bigger companies, you already know the work you would be doing. These companies are more established and they often have a much larger budget for all external learning workshops, conferences etc that can be essential to growth. On the other hand, big companies are well-structured which means clear information and structure for the training and mentorship programs.
In any large company getting to a managerial position would usually take years. The positions are more systematic and the process of advancing job level is generally clearer. However, it’s not a rare situation that a role opens only when somebody else leaves and there is a possibility you might be blocked from climbing the corporate ladder by the peers or employees who are above you in the hierarchy.
On the other hand, startups are more flexible and titles don’t really mean that much compared to your contributions and impact. Even if the startup is bigger it still means you can climb on the corporate ladder faster and enjoy some benefits that only senior corporate employees get. But have in mind that there’s always a risk in startup’s success and longevity.
Before You Go
Success begets success, and as the tech landscape continues to evolve at an increasingly rapid pace, people who invest in their ongoing development will have a competitive advantage in the digital economy. So the next time you get in front of the work opportunity that is even remotely good – say yes – and then leverage the heck out of it. Prepare well for the recruiting process, negotiate for the things that matter to you and pick the offer that best matches your background and your desires. And remember to work hard and smart toward the stardom where you deserve to end up.