Cover image from CreateHER Stock Photos. The following is an excerpt from the book Your First Year in Code, written by the DEV Community! Read the full chapter (and many others with even more sage tips and advice) here.
When I started my first job in tech, it was as a support team member at a website builder geared toward musicians. My background made me ideal: years of retail and entertainment-industry customer service, HTML and CSS experience with an interest in web design, a music business degree, and the vocabulary to communicate with low-level tech users. I was pumped - a dream job that felt created just for me. I’d never considered that there was a company out there that married my disparate passions, let alone that I could land a job there.
In that position, I was doing a lot of intense troubleshooting for both members and co-workers while getting exposed to and comfortable with how the tech industry works and how companies are structured. It was a company with a QA department of one, and though I fell in love with troubleshooting and breaking things, we already had a great employee in that position. I didn't see myself being available to transition over. A small, awesome company means low turnover, so I didn't really give much thought to if there would be additional positions on the QA team to transition to eventually. But when our new CEO did some restructuring, she promoted the old QA guy to Project Manager, and behold - I had the opportunity to train for my (new) dream job!
Over the course of a career, your dream job can change and shift - and that’s a good thing. While you work, you’re learning more about the industry you’re in and being exposed to more facets of it, discovering positions you never knew existed. In tech and dev, things are always changing. There's always something new to learn or a new startup being founded. That’s another reason you might have to continually revisit and redefine your “dream job”: new positions and new fields are often being created, so your eventual dream job might not even exist today, though your dream company might.
Advancing in your career also opens more opportunities - and once you start to stagnate, even the perfect job can stop feeling perfect. That's a good thing, but it can feel confusing to know how to keep growing and keep going. After all, wasn’t this your ideal position? When this happens in technology, we have a unique opportunity to shape and design our dream jobs.
Even if you're not in a place to consider a transition right now, it's beneficial to look around and see what types of positions are open from time to time. Being aware of what else is out there and interests you is important to keep in mind. Being able to clearly recognize the next great fit when you see it can help stave off self-doubt, while staying prepared to apply when opportunities arise can combat impostor syndrome.
A great way to start considering what your new “dream job” might be is to start reviewing open positions even before you’re ready to leave your company or position. Not only does this give you an idea of what new skills or education you can focus on, it can also put new jobs, industries or technologies on your radar. Industries like developer relations and the Internet of Things might not have even been on the map when you started your tech career. As these categories get more popular and more positions are being created, keeping abreast of what requirements companies are looking for lets you tailor your experience to a new, growing industry.
To start evaluating your next move, even if it feels far off, try to take a look every week or two at open positions at your dream company. If you see one that particularly interests you, save it to your computer. Highlight or circle aspects of the job that interest you, and you can update your resume or portfolio using the same wording.
This also helps you to know what parts of the job you wouldn’t be interested in - your “dream job” likely has parts that feel very dry to you, and that’s important to keep in mind as you continue searching as well.
Keeping up to date and being educated on other current openings and industry growth will make you confident to know when your new dream job pops up, and ready to land it!