A career in tech can be enormously rewarding and exciting — there are few other professions that not only provide spectacular breadth of opportunity and projects, but also offer the potential for tangible impact on both an organization and the world at large. You could build an app that helps millions of people stay healthy; join a cybersecurity team to keep vital infrastructure safe from cyberattack; or analyze data for insights that allow a company to open a billion-dollar market. The possibilities are truly endless.
That said, with so many education, job and career pathways available to you, the sheer number of decisions to make (and how to make them) can become overwhelming, even for those who’ve been working in tech for quite some time. Fortunately, with a little bit of thought and planning, and a commitment to reviewing, refining and adjusting your goals, you can settle on a near- and long-term career plan that combines incredible opportunities, satisfying compensation and a sense of purpose in your work. Ready? Let’s jump right in!
Dice VP of Product Pam Portman discusses career progression and how to optimize your tech career.
Current State of the Tech Industry
When making any career decision, it’s always important to understand the state of the hiring market. That can affect everything from the compensation and benefits you can receive to recruiting and hiring timelines and the number and types of roles available.
We are in the midst of an unprecedented market for technology professionals, and that goes for all organizations hiring tech talent (which certainly includes traditional tech firms, as well as companies in nearly every industry and vertical).
The tech unemployment rate was at 1.8 percent in July 2023. Despite some fears of an economic recession, it’s clear that demand for tech professionals is widespread in every industry, and it’s also making their compensation rise accordingly. The average tech salary now stands at $111,348, according to the most recent Dice Tech Salary Report, having risen 2.3 percent between 2021 and 2022. For specialized occupations like those related to data science, salaries are even higher — especially at larger companies with the budgets to pay for highly specialized talent.
Whether or not organizations can compete on salary in hiring tech professionals, many are offering more and different perks and benefits as an enticement to sign a contract. These benefits include flexible schedules, work-from-home stipends, child and elder care, creative vacation policies and much more. In the wake of the pandemic, there’s more emphasis than ever on work-life balance, and both technology professionals and employers are taking a hard look at the responsibility of organizations in promoting and supporting balance and wellness in general.
While it’s a great market for tech professionals, job candidates still need to demonstrate they’ve mastered the most in-demand skills, and that they can utilize “soft skills” such as communication and empathy to effectively lead teams and negotiate with stakeholders. As you’ll see on the following pages, optimizing your career will allow you to put your experience and skills in the best possible light for current and future employers, and figure out how to capture the best opportunities as you progress through your career.
First, it makes sense to take a look at your goals.
What’s Important to You?
At every stage of your tech career, you’ll face choices. Should you pursue a four-year degree, or spend the money on a coding bootcamp and/or training courses? Do you want to specialize in a career track that takes a lot of time to master, such as data science or AI? In fact, the choices never stop — they just change based on your situation. For example, tech professionals later in their career must often debate whether to pursue a senior management track, become a “master specialist” of sorts, or even to shift tracks or focus if they’ve lost interest in their work.
While choice is good, it can also create stress, especially when it comes to important and impactful decisions around your career. These decisions ultimately come down to you, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. As a supplement to this guide, we’ve included handy goal-setting worksheets at the beginning of each section that you can add to your toolkit as you work toward making the best possible decision for you.
These worksheets aren’t meant to be prescriptive (because every individual is different, and every career is different); they’re designed to help you set or reset your sights on what you want, and to consider some things that could set you on an ideal path.
Remember, a “successful” tech career is not a set-in-stone path, no matter how much others may try to convince you otherwise. Success is in the eye of the beholder, and there’s no rule that says you can’t choose to pursue happiness and what makes you comfortable and fulfilled (in fact, there’s quite a bit of data to support this approach). So, use these tools to find what’s right for you, and to reset if and when necessary.
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