There are few industries that move as fast as technology. Just to keep up with the constant flux that comes with new technologies and commercial models, professionals in the sector must continuously develop their abilities. But it’s not always easy to determine what skills have the most value in today’s market. 

To that end, here are five simple steps you can take to build new skills and advance your tech career. 

 1. Define what success looks like for you and set some goals 

Before you start signing up for tech meetups and coding bootcamps, take some time to consider where you want to be, and how much you want to be earning in a few years’ time. Without clear goals, you’ll find it difficult to draw up a career roadmap and may end up wasting time acquiring skills and qualifications that don’t add value to your CV. 

The exact way you need to upskill will depend on your career path. James Barrett, Managing Director of Michael Page Technology, commented: 

In today’s technology industry, you need to be constantly sharpening your hard skills if you want to work in a technical role such as software engineering. On the other hand, for positions like IT project manager or helpdesk consultant, employers value candidates with highly developed soft skills — communication, time management, and calmness under pressure.

That’s not to say that engineers won’t benefit from improving their listening skills, or that project managers will be wasting their time learning the finer points of cloud architecture. In fact, it’s extremely beneficial to be able to demonstrate that you’ve acquired skills outside your comfort zone. 

Ask your manager, colleagues, and any other contacts for advice on the kind of technology roles that would suit your skill set. Then, research the experience and educational requirements for those roles. If you want to become a data scientist, for example, you may need to spend time obtaining a new qualification.  

When defining goals, focus on things you can measure (salary, for example, or the number of open positions in any given field) and don’t plan too far ahead. Break down your long-term goals into realistic, short-term milestones. This will keep you motivated and make it easier to pivot to a different set of goals if things don’t go to plan. 

 2. Ask for feedback - and act on it 

One of the hallmarks of successful people is that they learn from their mistakes. They also learn from their successes, analysing their performance so that they can do even better in future. This kind of mindset is particularly important in tech, which is a fast-paced, competitive industry where simple errors can have business-critical consequences.  

Even the best software engineers, for instance, benefit from peer code reviews, in which one or more teammates check your work. Not only does this make your work better, but it also helps you with collaboration and relationship building, which are vital soft skills for advancing your tech career. If you work in a non-technical role, on the other hand, the feedback you receive might be more subjective. Either way, by asking managers and peers to assess your communication, leadership, and other soft skills, you will gain valuable insights into the areas you need to improve upon. 

3. Never stop developing your professional skills 

To succeed in technology, you need to be prepared to learn something new every day. The moment you stop learning is the moment you start to lose value as a prospective candidate. We asked Zoe Glennen, Operating Director at Michael Page Technology, what kinds of skills employers are looking for in 2022. She said: 

The most sought-after software development skills include Java and C#, which are particularly popular with large companies, and React (a JavaScript based UI development library). Meanwhile, skillsets relating to desktop application development, such as WPF and WinForms, seem to be declining. AWS and Azure are still in high demand and DevOps is one of the fastest growing areas.

Things will continue to develop in the tech sector over the coming years. Here are three ways you can update your technical skills and stay on top of emerging trends:  

  • Attend a tech bootcamp. Lasting three to six months and taking place both in-person and online, these intensive courses aren’t just for beginners. A focused bootcamp can provide you with job-ready skills to help you transition to a new role. Many camps specialise in popular coding languages such as Python and Java, but if you’re looking to enter a highly specialised field, you’ll also find ones devoted to more niche technologies. Some bootcamps even offer career advice services and coaching. 
  • Take an advanced degree. Maths and statistics-heavy fields like data science have high barriers to entry, usually in the form of a postgraduate degree (either a Master’s or a PhD.) If you’re not sure how you want your career to develop, you could also consider a degree like an MBA, which will strengthen your business knowledge. 
  • Learn by doing. Not everyone has the time and resources to pursue an advanced degree or even attend a bootcamp. A good alternative is to ask your manager to assign you challenging or even experimental assignments in your current role. If your career plan involves moving from a technical to a leadership role, reach out to a project manager and ask if you can shadow them. 

4. Sharpen your soft skills 

Few people are actually “born communicators” or “born leaders.” Those described by such terms have usually spent years honing their skills, learning from their mistakes, and listening carefully to feedback from their managers and peers.  

One tried-and-true way to improve your soft skills is to ask your manager for stretch assignments that take you outside your regular routine and job description. If you’re a software engineer, you might ask for assignments that place a premium on communication skills and empathy, such as delivering a presentation to a client or joining a cross-functional team created to solve a difficult problem.  

 5. Build up your brand 

Networking is another must-have skill for tech professionals - but it’s not simply about making contacts or increasing your follower count. You can have thousands of connections on LinkedIn, but if you never update your CV or engage in discussions, you’re unlikely to catch the eye of a recruiter or potential employer. 

Here’s how you can leverage your digital channels to advance your career:  

  1. Refresh your social media profiles as often as possible, adding skills and qualifications that add value to your brand and removing ones that don’t. 
  2. Seek out and follow industry influencers and experts in the areas that interest you. Share or re-post their content and ask for tips on how to emulate their success. 
  3. Engage in discussions on niche forums. There’s no programming language so obscure that it doesn’t have its own subreddit or Facebook group. These forums attract passionate, highly engaged experts who can pass on valuable insights and insider tips. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to take a risk. Tech talent is scarce right now, which means employers are more willing to take a chance on candidates who lack certain skills and qualifications but have determination and passion to spare. 

At Michael Page Technology, we work with some of the most exciting companies in the industry to source talented professionals. If you are ready for new challenge and a fresh environment, contact us today

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