Busting Tech Career Development Myths

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The greatest detriment to career development and growth is our mindset on what it means to grow and progress deeper into a career. Stigmas around career development tell people to wait another year, stay in stagnant environments, or even pursue more forms of knowledge before taking any action. Here are 4 myths around software engineering career development and what you can do to debunk them for yourself.

Myth #1: Career advancements means X role.

Many people come into the software development industry thinking that the natural progression of roles and levels is the only form of career advancement available to them. The progression from entry-level to mid and to senior and beyond is what many people aspire towards, but it’s not the only form of growth or progress. There are many ways to integrate your values and skillsets. For example, you could be a developer or a leader in a team, product, or community setting. Every role focuses on different areas of mastery, and each one is unique in what it offers. Be open to taking a path that isn’t what’s laid out at the start of any career journey you take.

Myth #2: I just need the right mentor/manager/leader.

Expecting a perfect mentor or manager to satisfy every career or personal development need is dangerous. There is more associated with career development than who is mentoring or managing you. An abundant career also includes how and who you interact with across, below, and above you in an organization. You are responsible for your career progression and growth.

Leadership and mentorship offer us insight, guidance, and knowledge in the context of a person’s mindset and experiences. Your career development is a function of who you are and how you spend your time. The right work for one person is not always the right work for you. You know what’s best for you, and the danger of someone else owning your career is following someone else’s path and not your own.

Myth #3: If I want to advance, I need to…

This myth that we should be taking action or not taking action stops people from setting goals that matter in the scope of personal career development. I’ve seen many people stay another year unhappy at a company and the cost of that decision is time, energy, and growth. Many people also set goals that don’t matter to them in the hopes of making progress that others can see and understand instead of finding ways to meaningfully tie them back to both the business and their own personal goals.

You have to be brave and not default on your unique values, strengths, and skills. In the workplace and even the celebrity world, we adore those who are talented, those who have poured hours and years into their craft. Setting goals around what you should be doing is wasting time. Those responsibilities will be things we deal with regardless. It’s easy to see yourself as just a cog or role at the workplace and think this is all there is to career development and goal setting. Evaluate what you want and set goals around those outcomes.

Myth #4: When I’m ready, I’ll step into my next role.

This myth is a limiting mindset that we’ll always feel ready for the next milestone, job, or accomplishment in our careers. I see so many accomplished people think they have to go back to school, learn another thing, and let another month go by before they are ready to try something new. It’s not true. We’ll never feel ready to take the next step. Our minds work to keep us used to what we know. It keeps us comfortable. We can prepare, should prepare, but if we’re waiting for proof that we’re ready, we won’t get it until we’re doing it.

This was true for me when I was considering moving into management. I had led projects and done manager training, but I didn’t know what it would look like until I saw it. I could have spent forever looking into management styles and studying the ins and outs of how other people lead. If you’re making a reversible decision, give yourself a time frame to experiment and take some action and if it stirs something even greater in you, go and chase it.

My final takeaway

These were some career development myths that I wanted to bust for you by talking about being true to yourself. The path of a personal journey to lean into your strengths and values is really about being you. There will be many stigmas to break in this industry and parallel ones about leadership and the modern workplace. I hope this post encourages this evolution of personal strengths and discovery in this tech industry that’s ever-growing.

P.S. I stream this content on my Twitch every Wednesday at 10pm ET at twitch.tv/tiffitffanny if you’d like to join in the conversation.

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Tiffany Jachja

Tiffany Jachja

Software Engineering Manager covering topics on software, personal development, and career.