How To Achieve Meaningful Career Advancement

When mapping out your next career move, you need to identify and understand two main paths to career advancement: roles, and skills.
How To Achieve Meaningful Career Advancement
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Regional Director at Udacity MENA
6 min read
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Career advancement is a broad term that can encompass a wide array of outcomes. Defining success is often largely subjective, and the results can be as small or as big as you want to make them. With this degree of variation, how does one pursue career advancement in any kind of meaningful way? What does real career advancement look like?

This is a question we’ve thought long and hard about at Udacity. It’s one of the first questions we asked ourselves back in the earliest days of our organization, and it’s a self-query we continue to engage in today. If our goal is to support you in your pursuit of meaningful career advancement, what kind of support must we provide in order to ensure that you realize your learning goals and achieve your career ambitions?

Today’s market is characterized by not only fierce competition, but the talent is also a limited resource. Disruptive technology is taking the workforce by storm, and according to LinkedIn, tech skills are the most in-demand in 2018- these include cloud computing, data mining, web and mobile development. If we take blockchain -and its recent rise to fame- as an example, we can see how the supply demand gap is very wide. For every qualified blockchain developer, there are 14 open job positions.

Comparing that to qualified accountants, for instance, where for every open position, there are hundreds of applicants, sometimes over 1,000 in some markets. Another wide supply-demand gap is seen in cybersecurity jobs, whereby research company Cybersecurity Ventures stated that 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs are likely to go unfilled globally by 2021. The field of artificial intelligence (AI) also faces the same scarcity, with The New York Times reporting that “in the entire world, fewer than 10,000 people have the skills necessary to tackle [AI].”

The data is clear: the global hunger for skilled tech talent is increasing tremendously, and the demand for us all to be lifelong learners will only intensify. And this is what drives us at Udacity. From flying cars and autonomous flight, to blockchain and AI, we selected the programs that would equip our students for the jobs of the future, and this is why we ultimately measure the success of our programs by the extent to which our students achieve their life and career goals.

Related: Move Your Career (And Business) Forward In 2019 With Mentoring

Our recently launched digital freelance Nanodegree in the MENA region is an example of how we try to help our students advance their careers. The MENA has one of the largest and fastest growing populations of young people on the planet, and yet youth unemployment rates are notably high- currently at 30% in some markets. The region also has one of the lowest rates of female economic participation in the world.

Given these challenging statistics, it’s clear dramatic steps must be taken to ensure that this vast generation of young talent can participate economically, and has access to the necessary learning opportunities they’ll need to succeed in the modern hiring landscape. But when it comes to tech talent, how can you decide what skills you want to learn or how to map out your next career move? In order to answer this, we need to identify and understand two main paths to career advancement: roles, and skills.

1. THE “ROLES PATH” TO CAREER ADVANCEMENT This path to career advancement is an explicitly outcome-oriented approach. You begin by establishing your desired outcome, and then you work backwards to square one to determine your path to success. More specifically, you target the role you want to land, and then you map out what you need to do to get hired for it. Establishing this path can often be as simple as earning a credential that affirms your qualifications for a given role.

Other times, it can be a bit more complicated, as when your desired role is in an emerging field, and there is less precedent for what constitutes a qualified candidate. The “roles path” to career advancement is ideal for those who are seeking their first jobs, are re-entering the workforce after an extended period away, or who hope to execute a full career change. Job-seekers at all levels of experience can accelerate their success by adopting a roles-focused path.

2. THE “SKILLS PATH” TO CAREER ADVANCEMENT This path to career advancement is comparatively more nuanced, in that there are not generally any easily identifiable end goals you’re not pursuing a pre-defined outcome, like a specific role or position. Instead, you’re seeking to add new skills to your toolkit, because of what you believe the acquisition of those skills will make possible for you in the way of next career steps. Sometimes this is very straightforwardyour boss tells you that if you learn React (a JavaScript library for building user interfaces), you'll get handed a great new project.

Other times it’s more complicated; you’ve heard that your company is making a move to embrace machine learning, and you believe that with the addition of machine learning experience to your skillset, you could be eligible to join a new team within your company. The “skills path” to career advancement is ideal for those seeking raises, promotions, and opportunities to take on new responsibilities or join different teams. This can especially be an excellent strategy for anyone charting a career development course within an organization; i.e. those who are “career pathing.”

THE SELF-AUDIT PROCESS

A self-audit is a critical component of your career advancement strategy, because it’s how you determine the steps required to reach your goal. In simplest form, a self-audit can be as straightforward as a two-column cross-check: in column A, you detail your current skills and experience, and in column B, you lay out what’s required to meet your new career goal. Cross-check your columns to eliminate the prerequisites you already meet, and what remains defines your learning path. In actual practice, this, of course, isn’t quite so simple. For example, it is often hard to objectively identify the relevance and applicability of the skills you currently possess. It’s especially important to identify what are called “transferable skills.”

A recent article by Forbes about transferable skills includes things like critical thinking, multitasking, and teamwork. Reading behind the lines of job descriptions can also be challenging- you have to know how to really “read” a job listing, in order to understand what a company is actually looking for. It’s ultimately up to you to determine what constitutes meaningful career advancement in your life, but it’s not a decision you have to make alone. Udacity is here to provide you with the support you need, and the resources you require, to identify the right outcome for you, and determine the best way forward to achieve your life and career goals in the tech space.

Related: Taking Charge Of Your Career Success: Start By Defining What Being Successful Means To You

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