Professional Development

Tech pros, ask these questions to suss out if an employer will support your career growth

On the job hunt? Consider the stages you want to get to beyond this one, too — and how your next company can get you there — with this guidance.

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(Photo by Pexels user Mikael Blomkvist, used under a Creative Commons license)

This is a guest post by Harry Stavridis, director of professional services at Reston, Virginia-based Macedon Technologies.
If you’re a tech professional looking for a job, strongly consider how the companies you’re interviewing with will support your career growth.

My career — spanning several different roles, teams, clients and technologies — was fueled by managers and leaders that cared about me, as well as companies that invested in my career.

To make sure you get the support that you need for your career, I recommend asking some questions during your research and interviews:

In what areas and disciplines do I want to grow and potentially further explore?

Don’t forget to take into consideration both hard and soft skills. I graduated college with a computer science degree, and while I knew that I loved coding, I was also curious about how to work with other people effectively. That curiosity translated to many different IT project roles, including programmer, architect, tester, technical writer, project lead, and help desk operator.

Does it sound like the people I’m interviewing with will take an active interest in my career if I were on their team?

Don’t be afraid to ask for examples or even related (anonymized) anecdotes that they’d be willing to share. Throughout my career, the vast majority of managers and leaders showed that they cared about me by getting to know me, spending dedicated time with me, and figuring out what drove me. They generously shared the lessons they learned. They were open to my ideas and willing to meritocratically debate me on them. They matched my interests to whatever the company needed, many times resulting in stretch assignments that gave me meaningful growth.

For those companies that I’m considering, what is their approach to investing in people?

In my experience, there are different ways a company can invest in staff career growth. Some pay for the time and expense associated with formal training and certifications. Others organize internal training programs, focusing on topics like company culture and how to meaningfully apply the company’s values to client work. Others take a relationship-centric approach, such as fostering communities with common interests or setting up a formal mentorship program. One of the most effective forms of staff investment I’ve seen assigns specific leaders — call them “career managers” — to staff members. They empower them with career-guiding tools such as a checkpoint framework, internal and external training, promotion paths, and associated competency lists.

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What is their culture around giving feedback?

Confident and caring organizations don’t shy away from tough conversations. They provide timely and honest feedback for areas that need improvement; more importantly, they take the time to catch people — and acknowledge them — for doing things the right way. They respect peoples’ communication preferences for receiving feedback. While companies have traditionally given annual performance reviews, many have made these assessments more frequent, giving their employees many more chances to learn and adapt throughout the year.

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You can take charge of your career by choosing a company that will support your growth along the way. Looking back, the support and guidance I’ve received has made all the difference in my development, advancement, and career fulfillment. Your career is yours to own; you should remain in the driver’s seat because no one will look out for your career as well as you do.

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