Software development is a challenging career with fantastic prospects, but that doesn’t mean that software developers can’t find themselves in a professional rut just like anyone else. To reach the highest salaries and the most rewarding work, you need to invest time, effort, and sometimes money to keep yourself ahead of the competition. The field of software development is constantly evolving. There are always new programming languages or frameworks to get to grips with, so it’s essential that you are ready to learn at all times. This leads us into our first of 13 tips to boost your software development career…
It’s essential that you continue learning throughout your career. This could be through reading articles and blog posts, listening to audio books, or even taking your education to the next level with a master of computer science degree.
This point applies to anyone in just about every profession, but your physical and mental health has to be a priority. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of sleep will put ensure you have the energy to give your very best performance. Greater energy levels and a clearer head will give you more confidence, so focus on building a healthy lifestyle for the long term.
Interviews are a real obstacle for lots of people, but the good news is that it is absolutely possible to improve. There are plenty of questions that crop up again and again in interviews that you can prepare for. Even if you get a question you’re not expecting, enough preparation will ensure you have somewhere to start at least. Practice answering questions out loud and in front of a mirror so you can observe your body language. Or, even better, find a friend who can carry out a mock interview for you.
A mentor can be hugely beneficial, especially if you are just starting out on your career. Find someone who you admire and who has some years of experience under their belt, and ask if you can pick their brain from time to time. Whether it’s general career advice or specific to a project, having guidance can help give you the confidence to push yourself that bit further.
If your current position isn’t challenging you or you’re between jobs, why not start your own side project? You will have the chance to flex your creative muscles, learn new skills, and try new technology. And, at the end of it, you’ll have evidence of your work that you can show a potential employer.
Take a close look at how you use your time and where you could make better use of it by keeping a diary. Avoid getting sucked into TV shows in the evenings when you could be furthering your career either by learning a new skill or reading. Alternatively, try waking up an hour or so earlier to read, catch up on emails from your professional network, write a blog, or make progress on your side project. You might be surprised how much you can get done.
While technical skills are obviously essential, too many software developers forget about the importance of soft skills. Communication, team work, and conflict resolution are just some of the skills that can turn a good software developer into an indispensable member of a team or even a project leader.
There is a great community of software developers who are sharing professional expertise and experiences in programming forumsand at meet ups and events, so try to get involved. Gradually you will be able to expand your network and will have access to more opportunities. While you should always be expanding your network, once you have a good network in place, it’s important that you don’t simply forget about people until you need something from them. Keep in touch from time to time, share their social media posts, comment on their blogs, and catch up over coffee now and again. If you wait until you are looking for a new job before you contact them again, it will be clear that you’re using them for your own gain, and they may be less inclined to help you.
While it’s natural to get comfortable with certain programming languages, technologies, or frameworks, resting on your laurels will not help you move your career forward. If you can, try to learn something new every year. You’ll not only gain skills that will make you a more rounded developer, but the challenge of learning will bring out other skills, such as perseverance and problem solving. Stepping outside of your comfort zone will really shift your perspective and improve your professional prospects significantly.
Some people might regard getting someone else to write your resume as being underhanded or cheating in some way, but it’s absolutely acceptable. Your potential employer is not hiring you as a writer, so why not get someone else to convey your skills in the best possible way?
Investing in new equipment can not only improve your productivity and efficiency, but it may also boost your motivation levels. A new piece of hardware with top-of-the-range features may not be as costly as you think and could even be a selling point when pitching your services.
Start thinking of yourself as more than a professional – you are a brand, and if you market your brand correctly, you can increase your impact on the marketplace. You can either use your own name or choose something a bit different (but ideally still conveys what you do), but your website, social media, public appearances, and your conduct at networking events should all convey a message about the type of service you provide.
In order to charge more for your work, you may need to specialize in a specific area of web software development. It’s great to be multi-skilled, but positioning yourself as an authority in a particular niche will make your expertise much more highly sought after.