There are few things worse than feeling stuck, burnt out or otherwise unhappy in a job. After all, we spend a significant chunk of our waking hours working, and when you’re not fulfilled by your work or employer, the unhappiness can permeate into other aspects of your life. Over time, just gathering the energy to walk through the door in the morning can feel like a herculean task.
If you’re ready for a career change, there’s good news: the tech industry is one of the fastest growing in the world, and the need for top IT talent continues to grow by the day. In other words, the only thing standing between you and a fantastic new job is finding the right opportunity and winning over a new employer with your brilliance, or gaining the freedom to launch your own endeavor.
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1. Tap Into Your Network
The old saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” may not be 100 percent true in the tech industry where skills are crucial to earning a new opportunity. However, sometimes it takes knowing the right person to even gain the attention of a potential new employer in the first place. That’s why, whether you’re looking for a new job or you’re ready to start your own business, your network is the first place you should look.
From former coworkers and old pals from school to previous bosses or acquaintances you’ve made along the way, there are plenty of people you can turn to for references, recommendations or general advice.
If you need to grow your network, there’s no time like the present. And if attending happy hours and mixers isn’t your thing, you can always leverage online communities like Spiceworks or professional networking sites like LinkedIn to find local peers or reconnect with old contacts.
2. Get a Foot in the Right Door
Sometimes all it takes to send your career soaring is getting in with the right company. But don’t despair if you have to consider a small pay cut or demotion to get a foot in the door — especially if you know you’ll enjoy other benefits, like a better work-life balance or the ability to work on projects you’re passionate about.
Plus, once you’ve started at a new company, you’ll be able to prove your skills and expertise and begin working your way further up the ladder. Given more than half of IT pros expect a raise from their employer this year, and 21% expect a promotion, according to data from Spiceworks, upward mobility is always available in the IT world — particularly if you’re with the right organization.
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3. Improve Your Communication Skills
Did you know the two most sought-after skills are written and verbal communication skills? More than two-thirds of employers prioritize these abilities, according to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Of course, this doesn’t mean every IT pro needs to be able to deliver a captivating speech or write the next great literary masterpiece. But improving your ability to communicate verbally or via email can set you apart from your competitors.
Consider taking a toastmaster’s class or an online communications course to help refine your skills and add an appealing element to your resume.
4. Look for Opportunities to Lead
No matter your next career move, having leadership experience will help you succeed. In addition to landing more senior positions, knowing how to manage people and projects can also help also you excel as an independent contractor or business owner.
Plus, a whopping 84% of organizations anticipate a shortage of leaders over the next five years, according to data published by Infopro Learning. Having a combination of tech skills and leadership experience will make you more attractive to employers and give you an edge over candidates.
Whenever possible, look for ways to step into a leadership role — even if it’s just leading meetings.
5. Always Be Learning
The worst thing a tech professional can ever do is assume they know everything they need to know. This is one of the fastest evolving industries in the world, and the best way to stay nimble is to always be seeking opportunities to expand your knowledge. If you don’t, there’s a chance you could be left behind.
Stay abreast of trends and best practices by reading books and industry publications, taking courses online through platforms like Udemy, Coursera or Skillshare, or enroll in a class at a local college. You may also want to join professional networks or communities where you can join discussions with other IT professionals.
6. Find a Mentor
If you asked the top five most successful tech CEOs in the world how they became so successful, chances are they’d tell you they owe it all to two things: hard work and good mentors.
Whether it’s a colleague who has more experience in the field, a former boss or professor, or even an acquaintance whose work you admire, find someone who has some knowledge to share and ask them out for coffee.
Often, when you surround yourself with brilliant and accomplished people, their success starts to rub off. Not only is it motivating to spend time with people who have accomplished things you want to do, but you can also pick up helpful tips and even be introduced to future bosses or business partners.
7. Pick Up a Side Gig
A “side hustle” is a great way to bring in extra income. But if you choose the right side gig, it can also help boost your career.
Consider providing your skills to a company in a different industry so you can diversify your experience, lend your expertise to help an organization with a mission you’re passionate about, or begin doing contract work to lay the foundation for launching your own business.
If you’re going to put in the time and effort to work after-hours, you may as well spend that energy doing something that will help advance your career, too.
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It can be frustrating to feel like you’re just treading water in your career, especially if your current role isn’t challenging or fulfilling. The good news is, there are plenty of opportunities to boost yourself to new heights. By adopting these seven practices, you can get closer to your dream job and finally do the satisfying, enriching work you’ve been seeking.