One thing is certain in the economy: uncertainty. A change in world economics, disruptive technology, or a presidential election can make the difference between plenty of jobs or thousands of layoffs. I personally experienced the collapse of the mortgage industry in 2008 and saw a complete disruption in publishing, forcing thousands of experienced writers to completely change their approach to make a living.
Today, there are plenty of experts predicting that the need for people with STEM backgrounds and engineers who code will disappear in five to 10 years due to machine learning and the advancement of artificial intelligence. So where does that leave you?
I recently spoke to Kush Patel, founder and CEO of App Academy, a top-ranked software development school with locations across the United States. Patel's business model is tied to placement since students don't pay until they find a job after the course. Patel's reputation is dependent upon providing students the skills needed to continue evolving and growing over the long haul.
"Our success-based tuition model forces us to be extremely thoughtful when developing our programs," says Patel, a member of YPO. "It's played a key role in our ability to place 98% of our graduates in software development jobs at an average salary of $105,000 in San Francisco and $89,000 in New York City."
Patel is highly aware of how the unpredictability of a changing job market can make the difference between success and struggle for his students. Here are Patel's tips for always remaining employable in a fast-changing environment.
1. Master theory.
Most people prefer to focus solely on hands-on practical application. When the practical aspects change, those with deeper understanding survive better. "If you understand the fundamentals of theory, applying it to practical applications allows you to achieve better results more efficiently," proclaimed Patel. " If you lack this understanding, it becomes difficult to be adaptive and oftentimes confines your abilities to a narrow scope. This is why at App Academy, we teach more CS theory than any other school. Although this has only a marginal effect when interviewing for your first job, it makes a significant impact on your ability to succeed when you progress to senior and VP levels. Once you understand the theoretical underpinnings of your field, your ability to go from worker to thought leader becomes that much more attainable. "
2. Find mentors.
Studying hard and developing your skills individually will only take you so far. " Surround yourself with people who have achieved what you want to achieve and engage them," he recommended. "This could be as small as wanting to know what it takes to level up from your current position, to as big as selling a company. Mentors can help you make major strides at an accelerated rate, whether it's helping you avoid common pitfalls or opening doors by introducing you to other people in their network. Mentors, however, are only as valuable as the questions you ask, so make sure to invest time in thinking about what questions are going to give you the practical answers you need to develop."
3. Learn how to learn.
Only learning from others makes you dependent on others. "To keep mobility and to ensure growth for years to come, you need to learn how to learn. When it comes to web development, people can learn a language and use it effectively in their current role, but to be adaptive to the demands of the job market, you need to be able to pick up new tools/languages/workflows quickly." Patel points out. If you create your own process for learning and exploration, you will rarely be left behind regardless of an industry shift.
"Our data shows that warm intros to a company convert to a phone screen up to 10 times more often than cold applications," revealed Patel. " Invest in your connections and be proactive about networking. If you treat your professional relationships as investments and make a genuine effort to help them grow, you'll have a diversified set of relationships that will be the catalyst to your growth and mobility in the job market for years to come. "
5. Deepen your expertise.
"To truly be a master of your toolkit, you need to understand how your tools work under the hood. Just as it helps a coder to understand how a web framework is built, it helps an SEO expert to understand how Google's search algorithm works," added Patel. "If you lack this understanding, it becomes increasingly difficult to either troubleshoot when things aren't going the way you expect, or to adapt when new tools come to market. If you know your tools on a deeper level than what you use day to day, you will make better decisions, be more effective in your role, and be adaptive to the future - helping both you and your team excel. "
6. Drive your own leadership development.
Don't just be a subject matter expert. Use your learning capabilities to understand the business world you live in. "There is no speed limit to education. If you're dedicated and put yourself in an environment suitable for learning, you can set the pace to be as fast as you want it to be, no matter how foreign the concept," said Patel. "Once you build a foundation for learning, adding new concepts to your repertoire becomes simpler and simpler. The key is to not be intimidated. Break down concepts to their fundamental values and build off them. "
7. Engage others in your growth.
Companies don't want to hire people who freeze due to ignorance and ego. "People have a natural reticence to asking questions. They don't want to be perceived as if they don't know something or that they're having difficulty understanding it. In my experience at App Academy, the students who fail to complete the course typically asked far too few questions," noted Patel. "If you feel lost, ask for help. The time you spend trying to teach yourself a concept you don't understand multiplies the amount of hours required to complete the task and typically results in a worse overall product. Instead, if you ask for help, assistance is immediate and the benefit you gain far surmounts the 10 seconds of discomfort when asking the question in the first place."
8. Become a strategic thinker.
To be an attractive hire, you need to be accountable and get things done. But people won't really know that about you until you are hired. In a tough job environment, companies want to hire the people with great ideas that will help a company grow during disruptive change. Before an important interview, Patel suggests taking the time to brainstorm ideas that may help the company grow its product offerings or cut unnecessary expenses.
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