Subscribe to the Hired Download: our newsletter for top talent like you!


Five Tips to Level Up Your Programming Career

As programmers, we’re heads down coding so much it’s easy to forget about career growth. Feeling unmotivated at work is a sign you’ve put off your career development for too long. Here are five tips to level up your dev career.

Set a career goal

Decide where you want to be in the future and what role you want. Do you want a new title with more responsibilities? How about mastering a new framework or learning that new JavaScript pattern? Do you want a higher salary? Start by using Facebook’s engineering levels to find which level you currently fit. These levels are meant to segment engineers by the expected skills and abilities they should have gained after a certain number of professional years working as a programmer. After you’ve found your level, look one level above yours to find skills you should be improving. These levels are great for self improvement, and they’re also the criteria companies use when deciding what level to place you during the hiring process, and what your pay range will be set to when you join a company. They’re also commonly used for raises and peer reviews.

Work late, but not on “work”

Technology changes quickly, and keeping up with changes takes time and effort. As you become comfortable with the technology at your day job, you might not be pressured to learn new technology very often. Usually learning plateaus after working for a year or two at the same company. One way to make up for this is working on personal projects outside of work. This keeps your skills sharp, and shouldn’t feel like work but more exploratory and fun. You might even make some money.

Ask your managers and mentors for advice

Your mentors and managers are invested in your success and they are great career resources. Show them you’re interested in growing when you meet with them. Ask for specific things you could do or improve on at work to get to that next level. If you’re feeling burned out or you’ve hit a learning plateau, find out if switching teams within your company is an option. Good companies will work with you to keep you motivated and growing. Don’t wait until you’re already burnt out, then some of these opportunities may have already passed.

Measure your progress

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Use tools like WakaTime to measure your programming activity. The “Goals” feature will motivate you to program more in new languages. It also motivates you to spend time wisely by programming on the right projects. WakaTime is a good example of “working late, but not on work”. That’s because I built WakaTime back in 2013 in my spare time after my day job, and it continues to be an invaluable part of my growth as a developer.

Practice interviewing to avoid career stagnation

Practice coding challenges often. Being able to solve programming challenges isn’t always useful, but the habit of solving new problems is very useful. Practicing coding challenges helps you build that skill, and keeps you prepared for new opportunities. If you’re ready to move on, sometimes the fastest way to grow your career is by changing jobs. Changing jobs usually also comes with a significant pay raise, typically by at least 20% in salary. Don’t be too loyal to your current employer at the expense of your learning or career development. You deserve a job that challenges you and takes you to the next level!

With a goal in mind, personal projects to keep your skills sharp, help from mentors, measuring your progress, and keeping your interview skills sharp, you’ll be on the path to that next level in your programming career.