At our last event, we talked about the obstacles faced by people looking to move into a career in tech. And my were they extensive (you can read about them here)! But that’s the great thing about the Women’s Tech Focus (WTF) community: we were able to put our collective heads together to come up with some fantastic solutions!
Although some of these tips apply to career progression generally, they matter even more when you’re trying to re-establish yourself in a new industry (or division). So have a read and start putting them into action:
1- Network, network, network – We know it’s a dirty word and, for many, the mere mention of ‘networking’ instills a feeling of dread and a unparalleled desire to hide under a rock until it’s all over. But it really is the best way to meet people and make ‘useful’ connections. And we’re not talking useful by way of going and talking to the CEO of a tech company and asking them to give you a job (we wouldn’t recommend that). But by conquering your fear and going to events where you can learn more about working in tech or a specific company, and meet new people who may be in the same boat. As Sandy Jones-Kaminski, author of ‘I’m at a Networking Event–Now What?’ put’s it:
“Networking… is a farmer event, not a hunter event. You’re there to plant seeds and cultivate your garden, not bag prey.”
2- Trust yourself – Quite simply, if you trust that you can do a role, other people will too. Believing in yourself is sometimes half the battle; nobody knows what you can do better than you, so you’re in the best position to wax lyrical about it.
3- Think about your soft skill set – As technology changes and companies expand internationally to appeal to a global audience, soft skills like adaptability, problem-solving and team-playing are crucial and an asset to a tech company as they inevitably grow and evolve.
4- Demonstrate passion – Even if the closest you’ve been to the tech industry is buying an iPhone, it doesn’t matter. Show curiosity and get involved where you can. Go to events like Silicon Milkroundabout or London Tech Week and explore your options, ask questions and find out what you want to know about roles and companies. The events are there to help those new to the industry so do your homework, invest time in research and show people why you want to be there.
5- ‘Tap’ your contacts – Evaluate your contact list and see who you could reach out to and ask to meet for a catch-up chat; even a 20 minute coffee could be lucrative. Be complimentary and indicate why you wish to meet up: are you interested in their career journey? Want to find out more about the company they work for? Then say so! People’s time is precious, but remember most people want to help others, not hinder them, as long as they’re treated with respect. Be willing to give as well as take (maybe offer something back now or in the future) and don’t waste their time by coming unprepared.
6- Find a mentor – Mentors are worth their weight in gold and yet 85 percent of people don’t have one. Having broad( and often senior) experience allows a mentor to confront your career challenges by assessing your strengths and weaknesses. With a focus on development rather than performance, they’re there to teach and help you develop new skills and get used to planning and implementing short and long-term goals. Don’t just take our word for it; Claudine Adeyemi, an Associate at a top city firm believes:
“Having someone in your corner [who] . . . is prepared to give you that guidance to get there can have a huge impact on your career.”
7- Seek out opportunities to learn – Taking responsibility for your own learning is crucial. If your company offers a training budget, maximise it. Got the opportunity to shadow someone senior? Take it. And if nothing is available, do your research and make the most of free courses such as those taught by Codecademy or Dash General Assembly to improve your current skill set.
8- Share your struggles (as well as your successes) – Climbing the career ladder is not often straightforward; sometimes you have to take a couple of side steps before going up, or jump between ladders.
The internet creates a false sense that everyone around you is doing brilliantly, all of the time, but it isn’t real. People think that you only need to talk about the good stuff, but solidarity and connection is created by shared experience and it takes courage to open up when something isn’t going quite right. By sharing your struggles, you’ll undoubtedly connect with someone who has either been there, done that or is feeling the same way and you can then navigate the tricky bits together.
9- Get tactical – Visualise your goal and work backwards through the steps you need to take to get you there, using techniques such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to help you with personal development. Consider where you want to be – broadly if you’re not clear on specific roles – and then think about what needs to be done to get you closer. Whether it’s identifying a need and showing how you can fix it, considering who in your contacts can help you or boosting your CV by volunteering or undertaking courses to fill gaps, your career is like a game of chess. Good things come to those who plan.
10- Wing it – You have nothing to lose by trying. See a job you’d love to have but only match 30 percent of the skill set? Apply anyway. When it comes to advancing their careers, women often wait for permission before going for a promotion or make an application only when they are a perfect match. Don’t fall into this trap – as Richard Branson once said:
“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”
Bingo. Your turn now, and remember: you got this. And you’re definitely not alone.