5 Tips for Setting Software Engineer Career Goals

Are you a software engineer? Has it come to that time of the year where you need to set some career goals? Read about how you can come up with some goals with the tips in this post.

What Are Career Goals For?

First, let’s have a look at the reasoning behind career goals.

Career goals are basically a statement, a goal, that you have decided that you’d like to achieve for your career. You might have goals for the other areas of your life, such as financial or life goals, but the career goals are just focused on your career.

These career goals can be focused on achieving a specific job title or area of expertise, working for a specific company, or getting a role in a certain industry. We all should have career goals. It provides the direction and motivation that we need to get ahead in our careers.

If we don’t have any goals or targets or any idea of where we want to go in our career, then what should we be doing?

What’s So Special About Career Goals?

The reason I’ve written this post is to highlight some examples and tips of some career goals specific to software engineers.

What’s so different about software engineers? Well, they not only are capable of writing the code for a system, they also know how to design it for other programmers. It’s kind of like a stepping stone towards an architect role. It’s also not just a role that focuses on programming, as there is a design element to it as well. By design, I don’t mean the visual design or UI. I’m referring to the design of the code and modules and how the interactions between the code work.

For these reasons, the goals of software engineers are different. I’ve included a few tips below for coming up with your own career goals. Even if you’re not a software engineer, they can prove useful to you.

1. Get Certified

Getting certified is a great goal to have. It shows that you are dedicated to your career, it shows that you can focus on something with an aim to achieve it, and that you’d like to stand out from other people in the industry.

There are many certifications available to those in the software industry. If you’re focused on a certain language, then you can look at getting a certification from that particular vendor. For example, if you’re a .NET developer, you can look at getting certified by Microsoft, such as getting an MTA or MCSD. If you’re into Java, you can look at Oracle’s Java certifications.

There are also other certifications available that are not vendor focused and are more geared towards a software engineer role. The Software Engineering Institute offers several certifications for software engineers:

  • Computer Security
  • Measurement & Analysis
  • Resilience Management
  • Software Development
  • Service-Oriented Architecture
  • Smart Grid
  • Software Architecture

Alternatively, the IEEE Computer Society offers two certifications for software engineers:

  • Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA)
  • Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP)

Either of these certifications can be helpful to you in your role as a software engineer. Have a read of the requirements of these certification and see if any appeal to you.

Setting a goal to get a certification, by a certain point in time, is a great action for your career as a software engineer. Remember, good career goals means they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

2. Learn a New Language

Software engineering can involve an area of actual development. A good example of a career goal that you might want to set is to learn a new language.

There are so many languages out there that software developers and software engineers can learn. I know a few from my days in university, but there are so many that I don’t know and some I haven’t even heard of!

Setting yourself a goal to learn a new language can be a good way to improve your career. Not only will it make you more versatile, it will help you understand programming and concepts in another language.

I won’t list all of the languages here, but if you’re interested in learning another language, think about what language you want to learn. What is used in your workplace that you don’t know about? What are you curious about?

Do some research online about how you can learn this language. There are many ways to learn a new programming language, which I’ve written an article about, so you can select the method that works best for you.

3. Learn a New Technology

Learning new skills doesn’t have to be restricted to new languages. You can look at setting yourself a career goal to learn a new technology related to a language.

This new technology could be something related to your language, such as a new framework or a complementary language (e.g.. learning Hibernate if you focus on Java, or PL/SQL if you focus on Oracle SQL).

Also, you can look at learning a new tool or software relating to the language. Doing this can help you become more proficient and effective at your job. Is there a tool that is use commonly in your workplace, but you think you could learn more about? It could be a development environment, diagramming or design tool, project or bug tracking tool, or anything else that you’re not quite sure about. Learning the tool and becoming better at your job is a great area for software engineer career goals.

4. Lead a Team of Software Developers

Another common goal for those in the IT industry is to become a team leader. An example of a career goal, or a tip for software engineers, is to become a team leader of software developers.

Becoming a software development team leader is a common step for software professionals. It means you are responsible for the team, the work they provide, and making decisions that affect the team. You will need t use the knowledge and experience that you have to benefit the team and the company overall.

If you’re interested in the extra responsibility, and extra salary that comes with it, think about setting this as a career goal.

You don’t have to set a career goal that is about learning a new language or getting promoted. You might want to look at other skills that complement or are related to your role as a software engineer. Some of these skills are:

  • Communication
  • People skills
  • Management
  • Time management and productivity
  • Software or database design

These skills are used often by software engineers or people in the IT industry. If you feel that you have room for improvement in any of these skills, or any other skills that you use, setting a career goal to improve them is a good idea. The hardest part about setting these goals, I believe, is making them measurable. A good goal is measurable, and it can be hard to “measure” if you’re achieved these goals or not/.

You could put down a goal to attend a course, or to perform an evaluation after a certain period, or to ask those you work with if the skills have improved between when you set the goal and your target date. Ask them to rate your skills before and after. This way, you can compare the numbers from a few people and see how they have improved.