Optimise Your Career In Coding: 10 Handy Career Planning Resources

11 October 2016 By Alastair Cleland

1518 Original

​Coding and tech development are the 21st Century’s killer skills. Mastering code will help you secure the job of your dreams… or so people say. Perhaps that’s why “introduction to Programming” is Harvard University’s most popular course – people around the world a keen to get a slice of the action.

Getting a career in development is, apparently, simple:

  1. Decide to become a developer

  2. Learn some code and get started

  3. Secure work in the job ‘of your dreams’

Step 1 is easy enough.

By Step 2 things have become a little more complex. Which languages do you learn? Who’s going to teach you? And how do you get started on live projects, often working on your own?

When it comes to Step 3, you’ve already invested in so many crucial decisions – not least the coding language you chose to study – that only limited options are available to you. You might already be pigeon-holed to certain types of employer, perhaps working on tasks you don’t particularly enjoy.

Code may be a lucrative skill to learn... but coding careers are difficult beasts – and planning for work is a serious challenge! Yes, there are incredible opportunities out there. But plotting a career path as a developer can be complex, confusing, even intimidating.

Utilising your development skills in work

In the last 10 years, digital businesses have changed enormously. Employers have been keen on: migrating to cloud services; transitioning to mobile; utilising complex new technologies to improve their business.

Staying ahead of the curve of all this change, learning the right skills ahead of time and gaining experience that’s relevant to employers can, then, be a serious challenge.

To land that ‘dream job’, your career plan will need to address many questions:

  • What languages do I need to master?

  • Do I need any particular specialist industry knowledge or experience?

  • How will my investment in education be rewarded?

  • Who’s paying the most for my valuable skills?

  • What kind of working environment actually is my ‘dream’, anyway?!

Any developer who’s worked in industry for more than a week will understand that dream jobs don’t grow on trees. They take a serious amount of planning, dedication and hard graft.

Whether your dream is working remotely, being part of a ‘disruptive start-up’ or creating something you’re genuinely proud of – you’re going to need a plan.

So you’ll probably need a bit of help with that…

10 Career-Planning Resources (Summarised)

1 – Deciding which language to learn

Start simple. Using CodeMentor’s fun (and useful!) language-picker tool, you’ll match your ambitions to the best coding language for you. Want to run a mobile development start-up on iOS? Learn SWIFT. Keen to analyse big data? That’ll be Python. Getting deeper, the tool’s creator CodeMentor is a great resource in itself.

Interactive Tool: BestProgrammingLanguageFor.me

2 – Learn the skills you need online

Traditional educational institutions – schools, universities, colleges – provide the full package. But many are turning to quick, easy-access online courses to learn code. Hongkiat lists and compares the best, but here’s a summary of the top schools: Code Academy; Code Avengers; Code School; Treehouse; Udacity… there’s ample choice.

Comparison: Hongkiat profiles online code schools

3 – Map the career implications of learning your first language

​Carl Cheo’s mega infographic has certainly done the rounds online. If you’ve never seen it – enjoy this cleverly-crafted overview of what programming languages are, what they do, and the uses they can be put to. You might not know, though, that the infographic is backed up by even further detail on each path: carlcheo.com/startcoding

Infographic: Which Programming Language Should I Learn First?

4 – Match your coding skills to industry needs

​The most in-demand coding skills in 2016 are SQL, Java and Javascript. If you’ve mastered any of those – there’s plenty of work out there to keep you busy. But learning niche languages and tools can be lucrative too: you could become the ‘go-to’ expert programmer in your sector.

Compiled Data: 2016’s Most In-Demand Programming Languages

5 – Find a boot camp to upgrade your potential

Lifehacker’s compiled lots of insightful first-hand testimonials from would-be-coders who’ve used boot camps to get them on the right track. Their advice: make sure you check the graduate placement stats before you enrol on an expensive course. But with many boasting 90%+ placement rates, you stand a good chance.

Lifehacker Investigates: Programming Boot Camps

6 – Get busy proving your potential

Another great resource from CodeMentor – How To Land Your First Dev Job – covers all the bases on how to get your foot in the door. Building a portfolio in the form of blogs, personal sites, GitHub profile etc. is just the start. You’ll also want to try some of your own projects, starting from scratch.

In-Depth Guide: How To Land Your First Dev Job

7 – Understand the career ladder of development

​As with any career – experience really counts. New technology may favour recent graduates with up-to-date skills, but coding mastery comes from solving problem after problem. Then there’s organisational management to consider: from building teams to leading projects. If you’re impatient to jump ahead, this reality-check might put things in perspective.

In Profile: Programmers’ Career Ladder

8 – Overcome stress, ‘the imposter syndrome’

Are you a ‘real programmer’? If not, when will you be? And do you have to love every moment of what you do? Buried in a laptop all day every day, many coders experience ‘the imposter syndrome’, feeling like they’re an imposter in a profession where everyone else is more skilled than them. Sharing, taking breaks and knowing your limits is crucial.

Guide: A Programmer’s Guide to Managing Stress

9 – Enjoying what you do? Stick with it

Once in work, people are always asking what you plan to do next. Maybe a promotion? A management position? More responsibility? Inevitably, lots of these paths involve doing less coding. If you like coding, maybe these new paths simply aren’t right for you. And that’s fine.

Article: Programmer IS A Career Path, Thank You

10 – Find related roles to escape your least-favourite tasks

Coding isn’t for everyone. Even experienced developers who’ve done it for years’ experience burn-out, lacking the drive to keep on doing what they’re doing. And some of those who learned code were never particularly well-suited to the profession. Luckily there are all sorts of professions that are ideal for ex-coders: Project Managers; QA Testers; System Administrators; Business Analysts – many of which you’ll find on our Jobs listing.

Blog: So You Don’t Want To Be A Programmer After All