Invest in Yourself, Not in a Company

The layoffs of late 2022 and early 2023 in the tech sector remind us that there is no such thing as job security. Even if you are a talented and hardworking tech professional, you are not immune to layoffs or company downsizing. Therefore, it is crucial that you focus on your career development, both to improve your employability and to increase your earning potential.

My great aunt Mildred worked for the same company in Tulsa for 40 years, retiring with a good pension and a nice write-up in the local newspaper. That is a bygone era, where employees stay with one employer for their entire career. In today's job market, it is common for professionals to change jobs multiple times throughout their careers. In fact, a recent study found that the average worker stays at each job for only 4.1 years.* In my own case, the longest I've managed to stay anywhere in the past 10 years was 4 years and 11 months. That's no reflection on me, but on the turbulence that the media technology industry has been going through. 

What this means is that we need to be proactive about our career development. Here are some reasons why:

  1. New Skills: The tech industry is constantly evolving, and new technologies and programming languages are emerging all the time. If you don't keep up with the latest trends and developments, you risk becoming outdated and less valuable to potential employers. I have seen this in the flesh, having met someone early in my career who was a skilled software engineer but wasn't able to find work as such. The problem? He was only really strong with the Cobol programming language, which is antiquated and very niche in our times. 
  2. Networking: Building a strong professional network can be critical to advancing your career. Networking can help you learn about job opportunities, gain referrals, and establish relationships with industry leaders who can offer guidance and mentorship. You can do this by joining meetups after work and, really, just participating in happy hour every so often with your colleagues. Go to conferences if you can, but be sure to mingle. 
  3. Increased Earning Potential: When you invest in your career development, you can increase your earning potential. By gaining new skills and experience, you can position yourself as a more valuable employee and negotiate higher salaries. I'm doing this through graduate study. I have a Master of Arts in Management: Project Management, and am now working on a Master of Science in Computer Information Systems. 
  4. Job Security: By staying up-to-date on the latest technologies and trends, you can make yourself more marketable to potential employers. This can help you weather a layoff or job loss, as you will have more options and opportunities available to you. Read news articles, journals, and blogs. 
  5. Personal Growth: Finally, career development is not just about improving your job prospects. It can also help you grow as a person and achieve your personal goals. By learning new skills, taking on new challenges, and expanding your horizons, you can build a more fulfilling and rewarding career.
In conclusion, tech professionals must focus on their career development to stay competitive in the job market. By staying up-to-date on the latest technologies and trends, building a strong professional network, and investing in their personal growth, they can improve their employability, increase their earning potential, and achieve their career goals. Remember, in today's job market, loyalty to one employer is misguided, and career development is essential for long-term success.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, September 22). Employee Tenure in 2022. Retrieved March 1, 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/tenure.pdf

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