It’s Your Career, Take Control


It’s pretty easy to get stuck in a rut. It’s even easier to coast when you find yourself in a job with decent pay that doesn’t take much effort. I’ve been there. Heck, we’ve all been there. You’re punching a clock, working a job for some random company, collecting a paycheck. Sure, you’re compensated, but there’s not much satisfaction there.

I was recently contacted by a friend and former coworker looking for some advice. He found himself a little behind, having spent too much time in a position that didn’t provide room for growth. As a result he didn’t have much opportunity to learn and utilize newer technologies or exercise his skills. Of course, I pointed him to my post on avoiding the mid-career doldrums, but thought I might expand on taking charge of your own career.

 

Manage Your Career

Once I decided to take control of my career I noticed something. I began to feel a great deal more satisfaction with the work I was doing. We spend the bulk of our waking hours at work. It’s best to spend it doing something you enjoy. To ensure you enjoy your work, you need to take charge of your career.

So, how do you do that?

 

Choose a Direction

First and foremost, choose a direction. Figure out what is most interesting to you and find a way to move in that direction. If you enjoy server-side technologies, seek out a position or role that allows you to pursue work on the server. If you’re a web-guy looking to play with the newest JavaScript framework, seek that out. Maybe you’re into DevOps. Whatever the case may be, pick something to focus on that will hold your interest.

Don’t worry, you needn’t be stuck with this decision for the rest of your career.Things change. You’ll have ample opportunity to pivot in the future.

 

Set Goals

Once you’ve decided on a direction to focus on, it’s time to establish a goal. Think big and broad at first. No need to get stuck in the weeds trying to get too detailed at this stage. We’re just looking for a direction before deciding on next steps.

When I decided to start taking my career seriously I dove head first into learning. I wanted to be a great full-stack web developer. I wanted to learn how to code the “right” way, and make my web applications highly scalable and performant.

With that, I also wanted to teach others how they might improve their code, their skills, and ultimately their end products. As a result, I was promoted into position of Senior Developer, Team Lead, and Mentor.

 

Be Deliberate

With a focus decided on you can start to layout a plan to achieve your goals. With any luck you’ll find ample opportunities within your current organization. If you’ve proven yourself to be a valuable employee most companies will be more than willing to provide you a path to ensure success for you both. A happy employee is a productive employee, after all.

Find opportunities that will lead you down the path you wish to travel. Learn all that you can about the technologies you’re most interested in. Join a User Group and attend conferences that will help further your goals.

Whatever you do, make sure you continue to make progress, no matter how small those steps may be.

 

Track Your Progress

It’s important that you track your progress on achieving your goals. Set milestones, and make sure you’re making the progress you expect to be making. You don’t want to find yourself drifting, only to find yourself back to where you started.

Set touch points for yourself. Once a month, or once a quarter evaluate your progress. Have you made sufficient progress on achieving your goals? Is it time to make any course corrections? The earlier you can make these decisions the better off you will be.

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But, I want to hear from you, dear reader. What advice do you have to share?

 

 

A Microsoft MVP, John has been a professional developer since 1999. He has focused primarily on web technologies and has experience with everything from PHP to C# to AngularJS to SignalR. Clean code and professionalism are particularly important to him, as well as mentoring and teaching others what he has learned along the way.

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