Manage Your Career

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Recently, I gave a talk to some new college hires about how to manage your career. Here are the main points from that talk:

Set Measurable Goals

Everyone should have goals. I set both long-term and short-term goals in my personal and professional life and I write these down and I look at them often. You will do better if your goals are tangible and can be measured because this allows you to determine how successful you are in meeting those goals and adjust your actions, if necessary.

Track your accomplishments

Most companies have a review process and it’s not uncommon for evaluations to take place once a year. Start thinking about your review early in the year. Every time you do something awesome, write this down. I keep a  spreadsheet with my accomplishment and bring this out during review time. Don’t rely on your manager to remember this for you. He may forget and he may leave the company before your review. And don’t rely on your own flawed memory.

Talk with your counselor

If your company has a mentoring program, take advantage of it. If your mentor is communicating enough, you should drive the conversation. Pick her brain and ask for advice. She was once where you are now.

Know the people in your unit

Get to know who your colleagues are and what their strengths are. You may need to draw on those at some point. Attend social gatherings and company meetings and establish connections in your local office.

Learn the basics of software development

There are some basic skills in this industry that every developer should know – data access; creating an interactive application; role-based security are a few. Know the fundamentals of the language in which you work. You can apply these skill to many types of projects.

Cultivate a specialty

To advance in the technology world, it helps to have deep knowledge of a topic. It’s not reasonable to assume you  can learn everything about everything. But you can dive deep into SharePoint or Windows Azure or Application Lifecycle Management and become the go-to person for this topic. This will increase your demand.

Understand and manage your online identity

Almost every new hire I encounter has a presence in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. What you post there is a reflection of you and your company, so consider this before you hit the SUBMIT button. What is the online image I want to project? Will this post harm that image. Once something is on the Internet, it is very difficult to remove it. The Internet can be a powerful tool for promoting your brand, but it can just as easily damage your career if you are careless.

Learn something new every day

This is a challenge I made to myself years ago and I think of it as I drive home each night. Point to something new that you learned today. Over the months and years, it will add up because you will develop a habit of learning and improving.

Get certified

There is some controversy around the value of certification but for a young person with little practical experience, it can be a difference maker. I have some more thoughts on the topic at /2010/05/18/AreCertificationsWorthwhile.aspx

Get involved in the local community

If you live in a large metropolitan area, you should be able to find user groups and technical conferences nearby. You can search for user groups at and you can find conferences at These events are a great way to learn technology and to network with other developers in the area.

Own your career

Don’t wait for your company to train your or provide you with opportunities. Look for opportunities to contribute and succeed. Learn new skills on your own. This will not go unnoticed. s