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Early stage tech career? Start like you mean to continue.

Early career tech candidates are inundated with advice on everything from what to wear to the interview to the best programming languages to learn, tools to use and areas to specialise in.

As we’re fond of pointing out on this blog, tech career success is built on a combination of technical ability and softer, people skills. In a recent conversation with the HR manager at a software development company in Cork, I heard that early-career candidates are often sorely lacking in the basic social skills that are vital to a successful tech career. Maybe you came top of your class, but the hiring manager wasn’t impressed with your inability to articulate how you nailed that last project.

Opinions vary on the tech skills front, but here are some basic ground rules for soft skills that should help ensure your tech career grows with you.

Take a look around

Check out your peers. You might all be far down the company food chain today, but five years from now, that quiet person you were rude to or ignored because you didn’t think they were of use to you could well be the manager hiring for that really amazing job you want. Never forget this.

Networks are human, too

You’ve got your head down, trying to work as hard as possible and make the best impression you can. But technical skills alone won’t smooth your progress up the career ladder. You have to make your own luck, and the best way to keep up to speed with opportunities is to put yourself out there, get to know people working in your industry and build networks. We know, it’s hard to just turn up at specialist meet-ups or other gatherings, but those are the places the “Right place, right person, right time” things happen. The worst thing that can happen is you’ll learn something. Not a bad return for pushing through a little shyness.

Take the long view

It’s a good time to be in tech. But that doesn’t mean job-hopping for a little extra money or fußball makes sense. Be strategic, think in terms of your career – that often means taking the slightly lower-paid job because it offers the most training, responsibility or other opportunities. And while everyone wants to work for the big name companies, be aware that it’s often far easier to shine in a smaller, less anonymous organisation than a massive global one where you’ll have to join the queue for the opportunities.

Read/write well

Whether you’re a software developer, network engineer or budding UX designer, your ability to write, speak and communicate ideas clearly and comfortably could be one of the most valuable skills you develop. If you’re not confident, adopt the same approach as you would to learning a new tech skill: take a course. Practice speaking in front of a mirror or friends capable of offering constructive advice. When you feel more confident, dip a toe into speaking at tech meet up groups – everyone starts somewhere and you’ll find most groups are extremely supportive and encouraging of newbies.

Keep an open mind

Maybe they “Didn’t do it that way” at your last company or on the course you took. Successful tech specialists will tell you they never stop learning. Keep an open mind, listen and learn that your way isn’t necessarily the best way. Question your assumptions and you’ll become a much better problem solver. You’ll also gain a deeper understanding of the areas you work in – while understanding a little more about what your co-workers do.

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