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We discuss career paths with candidates every day in an effort to better understand what it is that they need to do to grow their careers. It is a complex, multifaceted topic which sends even the most talented, experienced and influential developers into confusion. Just because you can code, doesn’t mean you know what your next move is or how to plan your career. The technological landscape is continually changing and so are you, and this is how you should plan your career.

Which Job Should You Take?

You may not have the luxury of turning down a job offer straight out of university but you still need to weigh up the pros and cons. Before you accept the first job offer; remember what your ultimate goals are and find ways to get a closer to them with each step. What department would you like to work in? What company would you like to work at? What do you need to learn and do in order to get there? When you take your first job keep this all of this in mind. You are unlikely to walk straight into your dream job but you will be happier knowing that you’re working towards it.

Hit the Ground Running

As you first enter the job market as a grad, you may well have to claw your way up to find something juicy or even remotely interesting. Of course, not all entry-level jobs are dull, it’s a matter of proving yourself though. Beyond your degree and certifications, you need to figure out what it is that you are good at, what you enjoy and you need to get better at it, all of these things are very different in the field as opposed to in University. Your first job is likely to include mundane and menial tasks but that’s life. Just keep your head down because there is always something to be learnt – in fact there is a lot to be learnt. If you walk into your first job, already a working on great projects, you’re lucky but don’t take it for granted because you still have to prove yourself.

Maintain Your Momentum

While you’re learning as much as you can, your world will begin to open up, where once you saw closed doors you will see open ones. At this point if you don’t already have a mentor, it would be wise to find one. The mentor/mentee topic is a vast and important one not to be glossed over. Before you leap face first into a great new business or working relationship; consider what it is that you are hoping to learn and what is it that will help you grow your career. From here you will likely find it easier to pinpoint a person who may be able to help support your career path or even just advise you accordingly.

Goals, Goals, Goals

If you’ve never had goals you are unlikely to be reading this article to begin with. The trick to reaching your goals however is:
• have both short term and long term goals
• have attainable goals
• have clear and definable goals
• make sure your goals are realistic
• attach a time frame to your goals

As cliché as the tips above sound, we can lose sight of our goals very quickly. Before you know it you have become demotivated and even make counterproductive choices.

Don’t Stagnate

If all goes as planned, before you know it, your career will take the place where once your job rested. Your career however is both immutable and subject to change. It’s far more interesting than just a nine to five too. The leap from job to career requires a fierce nose for opportunity, keeping up with global trends and continually questioning everything you think you know about your field of expertise.

Have Standards

This is the hardest part yet – ensuring you maintain your high standard. You’ve grown your skills and expertise, and the only way is up… unless your standards slip. If you lose your focus and become blasé you will stop growing, learning and potentially even lose your foothold in an industry you worked so hard to make strides in. Whether it’s a matter of making a lateral move (which isn’t necessarily as bad as it sounds), taking a job at your dream company or opening your own business; if you are unable to maintain your previous standards, your growth will be stunted. This all begs the question, have you achieved what matters most to you. Working late at night because you have standards may not mean all that much to your family. Know when its time for your standards to shift

It’s easy enough to sum up your entire career plan in one brief blog post, but the truth is that sometimes you change your mind and that’s when things really get tricky. Career paths are not linear, which is even more reason to have a plan. When things change, we can change the plan. If we never had a plan, we definitely struggle to get back on any track.