Developing the Developer – What Are Your Career Goals?

  • August 12, 2020

The tech industry is, by nature, in a constant state of flux. Developers must keep up with an ever-evolving set of expectations and skills requirements, which means committing to lifelong learning and development in order to keep on top of your game.

For many of you, this very fact could be your raison d’etre for becoming a technologist in the first place – a passion for technology and endless possibilities and opportunities we can create through its development. But those endless possibilities and the agile nature of your role can make it difficult to hone in on areas to specialise in to map out your future.

As the IT recruitment landscape continues to become increasingly competitive and diverse, your destiny will be determined by your early decisions and the opportunities you create for yourself.

So where do you want to go and, more importantly, how do you get there?

The vastness of technologies and the number of programming languages that are used these days can be overwhelming. We often have conversations with relatively junior technologists about their concerns about the number of skills required for developer positions, all too aware of the time it takes to acquire them, but in most cases learning all of these skills is unrealistic, and unnecessary.

With so many variables when it comes to professional development opportunities, there are so many pathways you could follow to take you the end goal of your dream career. All you need to do is decide where it is you want to be, whether that’s working for a specific company, achieving a certain job title, achieving additional qualifications like your Masters or an MBA or getting any role in a certain area of expertise or industry.

We recommend that you consider creating a personal development plan to set out a structured pathway towards achieving your ultimate goal, broken down into a stream of smaller, bitesize chunks of success.

Why is it so important to set professional development goals?

It’s all about vision and insight. It’s a commonly held understanding that successful people, no matter their field, have one thing in common – drive. Blind hard work isn’t enough to guarantee anyone success, it is required in conjunction with future-based thinking and the ability to set goals and define the steps required to reach them. In short, you need to work smart and hard.

Visualise the future you want

Betterment techniques like those used by psychotherapists, life coaches or NLP practitioners are employed by people in all walks of life to help train the brain to figure out what our goals are, the challenges and obstacles that stand in our way and the techniques and strategies we can use to overcome them.

Rather than some form of psychological voodoo, what these techniques really do is help people to set aside pragmatic and logical thinking to look inward to find their goals and define them.

Having clearly defined objectives and measuring progress makes it possible to achieve greater goals by creating a path of smaller, incremental achievements. A long process cut into smaller portions helps you to realise your plans by making them seem less daunting. Confidence is built through chalking up a succession of triumphs and building awareness about your individual strengths and strong points help you tweak your goals to suit your unique professional fingerprint.

How to build a Personal Development Plan

The first step, as above, is to define your goals. You need to identify the skills you need to work on in order to achieve the career path you aspire to. There is no way you can include very programming language in your PDP – being unrealistic in your expectations is a recipe for failure.

The best way to start is to look at a range of roles within your desired industry, field or employer and take a look at the skills requirements to spot the common themes and get a good feel for what will be expected of you. Set your goals based on achieving basic knowledge and experience in these areas, then build up to intermediate and advanced where appropriate.

As with all goal setting, your personal development plan should include SMART goals, meaning specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. There are many tools available for assisting you in building your PDP, including this free template from the Chartered Management Institute.

Remember that there’s more to professional development than acquiring technical skills – your commercial acumen and soft skills will mean more as you progress up the ladder. While one of the priorities on your list may be improved architecture skills or advanced JavaScript, another of your goals may be to gain leadership experience, which could mean working closely with experienced lead developers and being put forward for a lead developer role for a small project. Another may be to gain people management skills, which could start with mentoring junior members of the team in lieu of a formal management opportunity.

Success can be measured in many ways

Through SMART objective-setting, you will be able to identify what you need to do to level-up your career and track your progress. Progress is not always measured in a promotion, new role or salary increase. Training and development opportunities, leadership challenges, expanding your professional network and building your commercial acumen are all areas that can have a huge long-term impact on your career progression. Changing how you measure your success can make all the difference.

To talk over your personal development goals, and how we can help you achieve them, contact our experienced team for an informal discussion.

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