As a mobile developer, you hope that your job is stable and your career will always follow an upward trajectory. As we’ve seen in the massive tech layoffs in 2022, that’s not always the case. Learn how to use career resilience to recession-proof your career and improve your chances of staying in a job you love, while also giving you the best odds of landing in a good role if you need to make a change.
Before you begin to develop your strategy, take a moment to understand what career resilience is and why it’s a necessary skill for success throughout your career.
What Career Resilience Is — and Why You Need It!
Career resilience is the ability to navigate adversity in your career journey by building mental strength and preparing for challenging times ahead.
Most professionals optimistically expect that their career will always follow an upward trajectory. Unfortunately, that’s not always the reality. The economy might change, a global pandemic might hit or the team dynamic might not turn out as you hoped. You will experience different challenges in your career journey, and the more aware and prepared you are, the better your coping abilities will be.
Since challenges and uncertainty will always be a part of your career journey, it makes sense to build your ability to navigate difficult career experiences.
In an uncertain economy, career resilience helps you navigate layoffs and other speed bumps in your career without letting them throw you for a loop.
Even if you aren’t at risk of losing your job, challenging experiences in your job can cause chronic stress and anxiety. Whether it’s the pressure of cramming to meet short deadlines or the stress of worrying whether a code release will work as intended, your job can impact your mental health and overall happiness.
Building a career resilience strategy improves the quality of your life by minimizing how much the pressures of your job impact you. When you’ve already prepared an exit strategy for yourself, you don’t feel trapped in your current situation — and that alone can reduce the stress of a difficult situation.
How to Develop Career Resilience
“At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.” Paulo Coehlo
To develop career resilience, you need to build the mental strength to navigate difficult experiences in your career journey. You also need to take a strategic approach to your career so you are ready to make a leap when you need to — to a new company, a new industry or even a new role.
Here are eight steps to take to build career resilience by preparing yourself mentally for change and by taking steps to ensure that career opportunities will be available for you, if and when you need them.
1. Accept Uncertainty as Part of the Journey
It’s vital to accept from the beginning that difficult experiences will always be part of your career journey. You’re nearly certain to face layoffs, demotions, micro-managing bosses, a toxic working environment, a recession or other unexpected circumstances — like a global pandemic, as we saw with COVID-19. A company you love can go out of business, get new management or be sold to a conglomerate with a different corporate culture.
It’s difficult to accept this mindset because you often don’t associate your career with negative experiences from the get-go. You’re optimistic that you will succeed because, after all, aren’t you talented enough to get the job done? Didn’t you just get the master’s, Ph.D. and extra training to be excellent? What could possibly be the problem?
You expect to be accepted and deemed capable of what you’ve been hired to do. Except sometimes, things don’t turn out the way you hoped.
This isn’t a failure on your part; there’s simply no way to anticipate all of the things that might go wrong. So having the mindset that nothing is certain insulates you from the blow if things start to go off the rails.
Cultivating this position of uncertainty is vital. Once you accept that even the best things can fall apart at any moment, you become ready to rise to the occasion if it happens by taking steps to cushion your career.
2. Make Yourself Stand Out From the Very Beginning
Once you’ve settled into your job, there’s a natural tendency to start feeling comfortable… and maybe even slack off a little. However, it’s a good idea to work on continuously demonstrate your value to the company.
Here are some things you can do to stand out as a stellar team member:
- Identify areas where you can put yourself forward as the go-to person on the team who has the expertise to solve a particular problem.
- Do more than what your job asks you to do.
- Learn new skills that fit with the vision you have for your career.
- Create a personal development agenda for yourself, with or without company support.
You don’t want to think about your exit strategy from day one, but it’s smart to be prepared. By taking these steps, you’ll not only make yourself less likely to be laid off, but you’ll be adding value to yourself as a team member so you’re more likely to land on your feet if you need to find a new job.
3. Build Your Professional Network
Do you have at least five people in your career network that you can call and chat with about what you’re going through? A strong professional network can help you find your path through difficult times, unlock new career opportunities and help you evaluate what to do next. However, you have to work to build a network you can count on.
You might feel like you don’t have time to network except for the few times you attend tech conferences. But you can start building your network by improving your connections with people inside your own company
Get to know the people in your team well enough and stay connected. Experiment with meeting colleagues in other teams as well. Pursue collaboration that brings a cross-functional experience.
Keep in mind that not only should you be able to rely upon your network, but that your network should also be able to rely upon you. People remember the experiences they had with you — and positive experiences can unlock unexpected opportunities for your career.
4. Be Flexible With Your Career Path
To grow your career resilience, you need to avoid the mindset that only one type of company or one job role is right for you. When you are industry- and job-agnostic, you have the most opportunities.
To do this, be clear about your multiple skills and talents and how they bring value to different functions inside a company or industry.
You’ve probably met product managers who were engineers, recruiters who became engineers and architects who became product designers. Your talents extend past a single role; give yourself the space to experiment with each of your abilities.
As an engineer in the tech industry, you have a wealth of opportunities. For example, you can consider:
- Building your own start-up.
- Joining early-stage startups that are struggling to hire tech talent.
- Joining the non-profit or public sector industry, both of which need to innovate and digitize.
- Consider related roles outside your field.
To do this, it helps to keep a list of your skills and accomplishments, then browse job boards and keep an eye open for roles that require skills that overlap with yours. This will give you a better idea of what your options are, should you ever need to make a switch.
Keep Your Skills Up-to-Date With a Kodeco Subscription
5. Think Ahead When Negotiating Each Job
Your salary is important not only for your current role but also for the next job you apply for. Many companies will base their job offers on the salary you are currently receiving.
You might believe that it’s a good strategy to accept a job offer, then negotiate your way into promotions and salary increases once you are inside the company. However, that’s doing things the hard way. Most companies have performance reviews at most once per year, and then you’re lucky to get a 10% increase in your salary.
Instead, keep in mind that most companies expect you to counter a job offer. Negotiate a better compensation package that will ensure you’re comfortable with the reward you’re getting for the work you are doing. Also, place a premium on roles that give you plenty of opportunity to learn through mentorship, challenging problems or a generous learning benefit. The more you can grow in a role, the easier your next step will be.
Remember that you can also negotiate for a better job title. Your goal should be to ensure that the role you’re taking will lead you to your next best career stage, whenever (or however) the role ends.
6. Shine a Light on Your Experience
People tend to feel more positive toward people they know, even virtually. You can create opportunities by making a name for yourself as an expert in your field.
Spread the word about your expertise within your career circle by staying visible and engaged online. Some ways you can do this include:
- Creating or completing your LinkedIn profile, then optimizing it with your specific programming language skills and experiences.
- Creating a simple website about who you are, what you do and how can people get in touch with you.
- Registering as a mentor at a web or mobile development startup. You can get paid for this while demonstrating your expertise.
- Writing for a blog, Medium, or a tech publisher like Kodeco.
- Working on open-source projects.
7. Prioritize Your Mental Well-Being
In a society where people often ask, “What do you do?” as a way of getting to know you, it can be hard to remember that you are not your job. Career setbacks are not a reflection of your value as a person. To improve your career resilience, set healthy boundaries and prioritize what’s best for you as a person.
Disconnect from the computer and get some time to yourself. Go outside, go to the gym and have a meal with friends and family. Leave work on time, and don’t bring it home with you — either literally or by thinking about it in your free time.
You can spend years working on a project, and in a blink of an eye, it can be wiped out. What will you fall back on? What will keep you motivated and inspired? How will you ensure that you are not depleted mentally by that experience?
If you are a highly motivated go-getter, this might sound impossible. But remember, when you are mentally strong, you’re much more likely to bring your best performance to your work. Ten cups of coffee aren’t going to help you deal with a micro-managing boss or solve a tricky problem. Being well-rested and well-grounded will make those challenges easier to cope with.
8. Always Put Work in Perspective
A perspective is a lens through which you interpret life and experiences in general. In a work environment, your perspective can affect how you approach a difficult situation or help your team face challenges.
To build career resilience, figure out what you can control and what you can’t. You can control your mindset and awareness, how you communicate and how you respond to difficult conversations. You can also control if you stay in a toxic work environment or not.
What you can’t control are the actions of others and their expectations. You cant control the decisions that the C-levels make about the business’s direction… and that’s okay.
By keeping your perspective on the things you can influence, you reduce your stress and see your options more clearly. And remember, even if your project is shut down or the company you love goes under, this isn’t the end of your career. It’s the beginning of another exciting journey toward a fulfilling work life.
Where to Go From Here?
Experiencing adversity in your career is a given, so you need to build the mental strength to navigate these experiences. The key ingredient is to strategically build your career with resilience in mind. A well-thought-out career plan can bring you more job satisfaction, regardless of adversity.
It’s daunting to think about navigating career adversity when you have been laid off or when there is great stress and anxiety around you. By creating a strategic plan as soon as possible — even when things are going well! — can help you land on your feet.
As an engineer, you are probably used to working in sprints. Why don’t you try the same model in terms of future-proofing your career? Track what you need to do, what you’ve already done and what you need to revamp.
Know that resilience is a muscle to exercise, a skill to be trained and learned. Different strategies will work for different personalities and different experiences — but the outcome is that you are strong and healthy in the face of adversity.
You can do this.
These articles can help you build your mental strength in the face of career adversity:
Have any questions? Join the discussion below to ask them — and share the career resilience tips you’ve tried so far!
About the Author
Kave Bulambo is an experienced Talent Acquisition and Brand expert who has worked in the tech industry for several years. She helped build teams from the ground up and scaled them to new markets with a particular focus on engineering. She has worked alongside founders, CTOs, and other executives in the engineering department, helping her understand what they look for in candidates at different levels.