I’ve been in tech long enough to know what’s worked for me as far as growing my career as a network engineer. So looking at the networking industry today in early 2021 and looking back at what’s worked for me, I’d like to share five things I believe can help you take your career in tech to the next level.
Number one. Start reading blogs.
Almost every day make the time to read good tech blogs. I don’t mean clickbait blog posts or an article on something you already know. Instead, find some good tech blogs relevant to your specific field that go into areas you’re not familiar with. Whether you specialize in networking, programming, cloud, virtualization, security, and so on, find the best blogs in that space and subscribe.
I believe textbooks are valuable, but good technical blogs will have very up-to-date content. You may even find yourself reading about a technical solution someone found literally that day, and that’s content you can’t find anywhere else. You’ll get an incredible education which will help you get better at your job, get you more in touch with the industry, and will make you more competitive on the job market.
Number 2 . Improve your web presence.
Many hiring managers, human resources people, and small business owners are now working from home screening resumes from their basement office. All they have for you – everything they know about you – is a black and white pdf of bullet points on their computer screen.
In my experience, one of the first things I did when looking at an applicant’s resume was look them up online. I searched for their LinkedIn page, Facebook, Twitter, GitHub, YouTube channel, and maybe even a personal website. In 2021, having a strong and polished web presence is vital that the only opportunity you’ll have to wow anyone in an interview is likely over Zoom. Having a strong web presence establishes you as someone to take seriously – even if you’re entry-level. It’s going to help make you someone people want to hire and make you more valuable to your current employer.
Polish your LinkedIn profile, get a better profile picture, delete questionable tweets and Instagram posts, and then start posting some interesting technical content instead. And to make sure you address the SEO component, include a picture or very short video when you can.
In 2021, your online presence is your resume probably more than your actual resume.
Number 3. Get familiar with public cloud.
If you’re already working on a Cisco cert, python training, or anything else, don’t necessarily abandon that to go learn AWS. Stay on track with your professional development. But now in 2021, public cloud is not an upcoming new technology. It’s the way we do IT, and it’s just another part of being an engineer.
So try to take some time to get familiar with the public cloud providers like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and Oracle Cloud. This may simply mean sneaking in some YouTube videos here and there. However, if you’re not working on anything else right now, go get some training in AWS and Azure.
Number 4. Start a blog.
Now that you’re reading blogs and seeing what other people are saying about our industry, start your own blog and share your own experiences and ideas. This is where you can expand your ideas and showcase some of your personality. In my opinion, this is a big deal if you’re trying to jump start your tech career this year. More than once I’ve had someone mention my blog in the interview process.
Also, a great side effect of writing a blog is that you’ll learn more just because you end up researching the topic you’re writing about. Before I hit the publish button, I second guess myself like crazy which means I’m researching a a lot just to make sure I’m not way off. And writing about your experiences ingrains into your mind the lessons you’ve learned in your own networking journey.
Don’t worry about writing a masterpiece – just get your thoughts out there. Be yourself, keep blog posts somewhat short (like less than 1000 words), and have someone read it once through before you publish.
Number 5. Stop being afraid of risk and new things.
I’ve turned down a several great opportunities in the last 15 years because I was scared that I wasn’t skilled enough for the job. Basically, I just assumed I was going to fail, so I didn’t go for it.
For example, one time I was in the middle of a relatively long interview process and getting close to the end. The feedback I received up that point was very positive, and all I had left was a call with the post-sales manager. That call went great, too. In fact, he told me the call was mainly to get to know me because he already decided to recommend me for the position.
A few minutes after hanging up the phone, I called their human resources office and politely informed them I wouldn’t be continuing in the interview process. I was convinced I wasn’t actually skilled enough for the job.
I truly regret that decision. Many other opportunities have come my way since then, so it’s not something that ruined my life. But the fact that I walked away out of pure fear still bothers me today.
Somehow, find a way to deal with that fear when you’re faced with an opportunity that you think you’re not ready for. Maybe it’s not a job but it’s an invitation to speak at a conference, or be the point person on your company’s most high profile project. If you get an opportunity like that – say yes – jump in with both feet – and work your butt off.
I understand that everyone’s different, and I get that everyone’s path is different, too. However, for what they’re worth, I hope these few nuggets I’ve learned over the years help you take your career in tech to the next level.