Figuring out your career path as a software engineer is not as easy as learning new technologies.
I should know, I was a self-taught software engineer. And I always struggled with where to invest my time and energy for career growth. But when I stopped following the conventional advice, it became clear what I should do.
Here are three unconventional strategies that helped me chart a career path for myself:
Idea #1 – Make friends with and talk to recruiters in the industry
Most engineers hate talking to recruiters.
But I’ve never declined a LinkedIn invite from a recruiter. And it’s paid off. Every few months I would reach out to a hand-full of my recruiter buddies and ask what they were seeing in the market.
Talking to recruiters helps you understand which trends are catching on and which skills are in demand.
Idea #2 – Talk to hiring managers about experience that matters
A lot of people say they have five years of experience doing something.
But most people have one year of experience five times. And the managers making the hiring decisions can tell the difference. How you attain your experience and especially how you convey it matter a lot.
Talking to hiring managers helped me learn what type of experience mattered and what just looked good on a resume.
Idea #3 – Interview with non-tech companies
I learned – too late – in my career that there’s a big difference between tech-first companies and regular old companies that use tech.
If you only interviewed with tech companies, you’d be mistaken that you need to be a deep expert in the latest technology trends. But by interviewing with companies that aren’t primarily technology companies, you learn a lot about what it takes to be a well-rounded generalist. And beyond the practice you get from interviewing, you get to meet more recruiters and hiring managers.
Interviewing with successful companies that aren’t all about technology will help you expand your skillset beyond software.