What tech-industry insiders and UW MSTI alumni say are critical strategies that everyone should use in their careers.
Despite a near-historically-low national unemployment rate in the U.S., those paying close attention to headlines will read stories that workers are being laid off, even though their companies are reporting record profits and growth. It seems that constant change has become the norm.
How should recent graduates and new professionals navigate this new reality? GIX sat down with two industry leaders, as well as a recent MS in Technology Innovation alumnus, to get their perspectives. This practical, specific advice will teach you to become more resilient in your career and handle unexpected changes to your advantage.
What does it mean to be resilient? How can that positively impact your career?
“Being career resilient means having the ability to adapt and adjust to changes in the job market and industry trends, as well as navigating unexpected career challenges or setbacks,” said Erin Raney, Sr Director of Network Technology Services and Innovation at T-Mobile (a GIX Consortium company). “This includes being proactive in building skills, knowledge, and relationships that can help you succeed in your career. Self-advocate, take risks, and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone.”
For example, let’s say you are excelling and comfortable with your role, but you receive notice that your team is changing and you’ll be responsible for delivering work that you have no experience in. Facing this challenge with a resilience-first mindset will allow you to identify the key steps to take that will enable you to adapt to these new responsibilities, allowing you to grow and, ultimately, be more skilled and indispensable.
“Adaptability and learning are key to career resilience,” said Joydeep Hazra, GIX Mentor and Head of Technology and Operations at Betacom. “Adapt to your environment, take the lead or stay involved from start to end, be part of the community, be open to learning & building new skills.”
How can you grow your career resiliency?
First, try to get a strong, objective sense of your transferrable skills. For example, when browsing job postings, you’ll notice skills such as communication and teamwork/collaboration required in almost all jobs in most sectors. Hard technology skills, like programming, engineering, and data analysis are highly valued in technology companies, but also are applicable and valued in tech adjacent businesses (those that build technology into their products or employ tech-skilled workers). A strong understanding of your transferrable skills will infuse confidence (and thus, resilience) that you can use your talents in a wide variety of roles for many kinds of companies.
Next, common methods for building resilience skills include practicing mindfulness, journaling, physical activity, and talking with a career coach or counselor-therapist.
“I like to envision the skills a resilient person portrays,” said Chuck Scott, MSTI alumnus (Class of 2019) and Product Owner at 3M Health Information Systems. “They’re calm when faced with adversity, they communicate effectively, and they’re inspiring in challenging situations. I try to emulate what I imagine that behavior to be. It’s like acting, and your role is being the future state of your more resilient self.”
What’s next after facing a challenging situation?
No matter the situation, it’s essential to leverage your personal and professional networks for support, guidance, and opportunities. Despite outside appearances, remember that your experiences, concerns, and stresses are common, and you’re not the first problem to face a given challenge. Seeking out mentors is also an excellent use of your time (for example through the GIX Mentor Program). It’s also great to use your motivation to learn new skills (such as through LinkedIn Learning) while also doing deep-dive research into technology options.
It’s also common to reevaluate your skills and credentials and consider boosting those skills and your potential through courses, training, certificates or advanced degrees. For example, versatile and in-demand degree programs such as GIX’s Master of Science in Technology Innovation can be a unique pathway into technology and into dynamic job roles in software engineering, program/product management and user experience research and design.
“It’s important to explore roles and companies you may have never considered before,” said T-Mobile’s Raney. “Leverage your network and keep all doors open. Be confident; no one ever has all the job qualifications. Hiring managers are looking for the right fit and person. Be authentic, articulate your passion, and showcase your unique personality.”
Breaking into technology or advancing onto teams and into roles that will maximize your talents will require determination, flexibility and career resilience, all of which are within your grasp.
“Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day,” said Scott. “Set clear, achievable goals to help you look toward a future that has meaning to you. Focus on managing the things within your power: Your output, attitude, and reactions. Your journey across your career should be unique to you.”