Technology is constantly evolving and shifting. It can feel like tools and strategies are always changing. The temptation can be to see change as daunting. We prefer to see it as an ever growing field of new opportunities. Every new tool and strategy is a fresh opportunity to show yourself, your employer, and potential employers just how valuable you are. Here are some ways you can leverage change to move your career horizontally and vertically.
The path to a better salary and more responsibility in a company is not always up. Horizontal job growth can be both productive and rewarding. This track emphasizes expanding your current skill set. It is about looking at ways to supplement your existing knowledge with related skills. The Forbes article entitled The Benefits Of Horizontal Vs. Vertical Career Growth by William Craig paints an excellent picture of the difference between vertical and horizontal growth:
Vertical growth is like taking the elevator straight to your destination. Horizontal growth is like opening a bunch of new doors on the floor you’re already on.
It’s about finding other opportunities that are adjacent to your current position. Picking up related skills expands your role and makes you eligible to enhance your salary and increase career satisfaction.
Enhance Existing Skills
The types of skills to focus on will largely depend on your field. Paysa’s position data can be an excellent way to learn what skills are valuable for situations similar to your own. This data can be used to guide you towards technologies you should consider learning:
- Web Developers would be well served to expand their knowledge of PHP and more advanced CSS.
- Data scientists are probably well versed in Python, but could improve their job qualifications if they picked up more skills in machine learning tools or R
Expand to Adjacent Skills
Expanding your skill set inside your field as described above is one path, and expanding your skill set to include adjacent technologies is another. Adjacent technologies are those that you connect to in your daily work, that you don’t directly program, that are important to your company’s technology stack. An adjacent technology for a front end developer might be a Rails server or a Node.js proxy. Another example is a back-end developer enhancing their understanding of cloud technologies like AWS and Google Cloud.
Paysa can also assist in this regard by connecting your role to open opportunities. Search through job listings that include your skills set to see what other skills employers would like applicants to have. If those skills would also be useful in your company, then consider learning them.
Moving in this direction also means expanding your reach across the business. Quoting the Forbes article again,
Moving “across” the company, rather than in an upward trajectory, means you get to see and experience different departments and teams. You get to meet new people, try out different roles and get a hands-on look at everything that goes on at the company.
Gaining a better understanding of how the company works, also referred to as “institutional knowledge,” makes you more valuable than just your job title. It can give you the opportunity to move around inside the company for better, or more lucrative, opportunities.
Vertical movement is the more traditional option. Moving in a vertical direction means getting a better title and more salary for enhanced responsibilities. This route usually means adding descriptors to the role you do that represent that increased responsibility. Typically, it means adding words like “senior,” “lead,” or “manager” to your title. Vertical movement for a software developer could look like:
Software Developer –> Senior Software Developer –> Software Developer Lead/Architect –> Software Development Manager
Improve Non-Technical Skills
Moving vertically typically means developing non-technical as well as your technical expertise. Non-technical skills are sometimes referred to as soft skills and can represent:
- Leadership skills
- Greater domain knowledge
- Conflict management
- Collaboration skills
The higher up the chain you move, the more critical theory and domain knowledge are. Understanding how to implement something in a particular tool is less important than understanding the positives and negatives of several tools and how they apply. For example, the Paysa job skills breakdown for a Sr Product Manager specifies broader knowledge for product marketing, development, strategy, and cross functional team team leadership.
Find a Mentor
Vertical movement can require learning skills not connected to your daily work. Traditional methods to learn these skills revolve around studies such as certificate courses, college extension courses, or even advanced degrees. A less traditional but no less effective approach is to find a mentor.
Finding a mentor inside your current company can be the best way to both learn new skills and expand your reach inside your employer. Some companies have formal mentorship programs to assist their employees in their career growth.
Even if your firm does not offer an official program, it is still possible to find someone to mentor your growth. Find someone in your organization with the skill set and responsibility you would like to emulate and discuss a mentorship with them. For several reasons, it is best to avoid doing with this anyone directly in your particular chain of command. Find a resource in a parallel or similar group that would be willing to work with you.
You can also build mentorships with individuals outside your company. Attending networking opportunities and technical meetups can introduce you to potential mentors. Depending on your current employer’s environment, an external mentor may be less stressful and more productive than an internal mentor.
Learn and Grow
Change is a constant in the field of technology, which means every day brings new opportunities for growth and learning. If you are looking to expand the boundaries of your current role, or improve your likelihood of a significant raise, but without moving into management, then consider a horizontal shift. Enhance your skills in ways that are adjacent or complementary to your current position. If you prefer an increase of responsibility and an opportunity for high-level decision making, then look for a vertical shift to a higher position with your current employer or a new company. Resources, like Paysa.com, can provide the research into jobs, employer expectations, and salary expectations to help you develop your path to growth.