One of my readers asked me this question recently: What are the best ways to advance my career?
And I thought to myself... hmm... good question... This bears some reflection.... The more I thought about the more I realized that this was a perfect thing to write about in more length and here we are!
I'm not going to tell you to build a portfolio, start contributing to open source, write a blog, be active on social media, speak at user groups and conferences. Nope. We're going to dig deeper.
The first thing that nagged at me about the question was the advance my career bit. Why? Because advancing my career is very ambiguous. What is advancing your career for you? (What is advancing my career for me?)
- Is it earning more money?
- Is it leading a team? Is it becoming a manager? An architect? A CTO?
- Or is it working at one of the big tech companies?
- Or perhaps at an exciting startup?
- Is it working on a amazing product that will change everything?
- Or is it being famous? Admired and recognized by your peers?
- Is it having the freedom to decide what you work on? Be your own boss?
- All or many of the above?
I think the first thing that you need to do is to ask yourself about what you value in life. What makes you tick. What exactly advancing your career means to you. Answering all these questions, which in the end, means to know yourself will enable you to steer your career in the right direction and make the right decisions when opportunities arise. (Where right means in alignment to your values)
- You're a very senior software engineer and a great leader within your team. Your boss offers to give you a promotion, a higher salary, a team and the role of manager. Some people will see this as an awesome opportunity for growth and as an advance in their career, whilst others who really, really, really enjoy coding would be torn to accept such a promotion.
- Or, you're the same person but this time they offer you a job at Google or Microsoft as a Test Engineer or as a Customer Solutions Engineer who doesn't necessarily develop software actively. What do you do? Do you value working at a big tech company? Or do you value even more being able to continue developing software?
- Or you have this amazing idea you're working on your free time. It is shaping up great and you're about to quit your job to start your own company. But just before you do you get an offer to work as a Software Engineer at Spotify (one of your favorite companies of all time)? What would you do?
I hope these examples make my point. Advancing your career isn't the same thing for everyone. Knowing yourself can help you understand what exactly advancing your career means to you.
How to Advance Your Career
Once you know yourself a little bit better and know what you want out of life (or have an inkling about it), this is what I really think is important. It's not contributing to open source, talking at conferences, writing books or building a portfolio website. Those are mere tactics, it goes deeper than that.
There are the three principles I've always followed (or aspired to follow):
- Be Awesome
- Be Kind
- Be A Leader (a.k.a.) Make Everybody Else Awesome
Seek excellence in everything you do. Whenever you work on something put your heart and soul into it. Try to do the best job you can and have pride in your work. Continuously seek ways to improve. Aim to awe, aim to put that little extra that makes a world of difference. Care about your work.
Be the kind of person people want to have around. Be nice and caring to people. Be empathetic. Listen and appreciate the people around you. Aim to add some more light to other people's lives. Truly care about people.
Be A Leader
Make everyone else around you awesome. Teach them what you know. Lift them up. Inspire them, support them, fill them with energy and enthusiasm. Make them believe they can do anything. Again, truly care about people.
Follow these principles. Build up from them. And success will be a side effect.
And More Random Thoughts:
- Blogging, speaking, portfolios are great. They amplify your reach and scale your impact. They are also awesome tools for learning. Austin Kleon has a lot of interesting ideas about this in Show Your Work.
- That been said, I know a lot of successful and happy engineers who don't use social networks, don't blog, don't speak, don't have a portfolio, don't contribute to open source.
- People often underestimate the human factor. 80% of the jobs I was offered in my career were in no small part due to the fact that I knew someone at the company and they recommended me. How did I know these people? Random friends, friends of friends, people I meet at meetups, twitter, etc.
- Don't be afraid to own your wins. Let people know what you've achieved and be ready to praise and appreciate others for their achievements.
What do you think? What is the best way to advance your career?
This article was first published in the Barbarian Meets Coding newsletter of goodness. Hope that you enjoyed it 😊!!
Top comments (21)
Love it. I live by this, too. I call it "providing value". By providing value to others you'll be sure to open doors and creating opportunities in the long haul.
It's what I preach at Shipharder.com and in articles here at Dev.To.
People that are trying this out with a focus on short term gains, put this off as BS. It's because it isn't a quick life hack that will help you benefit. It is a lifestyle, or mindset if you will, that needs consistency and requires you to put in the effort - providing value - in the long term.
It doesn't matter if you're providing value by sharing knowledge, by actively helping or by building products that provide value. As long as your intention is to help others.
✌🏻take care and keep providing value like you did in this article 👌🏻
Thank you Edwin! What a great comment! Providing value is a great principle to live by.
You nailed it in the head.
Caring about your work is a big element of whether you find your work meaningful or not.
I like to think of this as related to Cal Newport's idea that being good at what you do is more important than having passion for it.
It's also a common cause for career frustration: when you want to do great work, but your work environment doesn't allow it or doesn't prioritize it. When pressures and deadlines mean that you have to produce work that isn't the best, but it has to be shipped.
One of the challenges of being a developer is learning how to deal with these kinds of tradeoffs and sacrifices: how to find the middle ground when you're limited by factors outside of your control
Interesting read. What I would add to the subject is a paragraph about stagnation, about how advancing your career could break that vicous circle where you feel you are not making any progress or that your work doesn't matter.
Advancing a career might not necessary mean something better, but something different that allows you to further develop as a human and as a professional
Find what you love and live for it.
Whether you achieve what capitalism describes as successful or not is irrelevant.
The biggest success is that you are passionate about what you do with your life.
I respect that not everyone has this choice, but imho it is a goal worth chasing.
One of the best definitions of leadership I've heard 😀
Thank you! :D Glad that you liked it :)
Thank you for your great post.
Thank you! :D
Great post and thanks for sharing Jaime! I've always been thinking about what's next for my career, and this does really helps me to sit down and start thinking about these questions.
Thank you Eric!! :D Glad that you found it helpful!
I'm lucky to read this great post just before my first job. I'll keep the things you suggested in mind.
Awesome! Good luck! :)
Thank you for your great post.. You opened our horizon..
Thank you for leaving a comment! I'm glad to hear that! :D
It's really a awesome post :) especially the part in defining your success especially it might differ from person to person.
Thank you!! :)
My wife said the same thing when she read your comment. And then she said that I should add more meat to the second part with more specific advice and personal stories :D
Might need to do a follow up :)
Any excellent article Jaime; all very excellent points. Your engineering mindset is showing. :)
Thank you!! :D
as always it's a pleasure to read what you write :)
Thank you Chris! 😊