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This post was updated in November 2017 with new information.

Most organizations stress the importance of career development in their company mission statements, on their job listings, or as part of their performance review process. The notion that a career “is just a career” has vanished as more and more companies are rolling out career development programs to help meet employees’ needs.

According to our results from our annual surveys, developers have revealed to us which aspects of a job are most important to them. For example, 52% of respondents stated that room for growth of skills and knowledge was classified as “very important” to them. Similarly, 38% of programmers said they will only work at companies that give them an opportunity to learn and grow.

Continuously learning new things and growing in your field has a variety of benefits. For starters, you’ll never get bored. Developers enjoy working with new technologies and choosing their own projects, which in return increases career satisfaction. As an employer, it's important to structure your engineering team in a way that allows them to continuously learn new things. Offering continuous learning and training opportunities can be a powerful recruitment tool for employees. 

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Brian Geisel, a developer of 20+ years, stresses the importance of career development for technology-heavy roles, saying "Career development is important in all aspects of software, but especially when you're working in modern technologies such as web and mobile development. Modern technologies are still evolving, so you're always going to have to put a lot of effort into your craft if you want to lead the pack." 

Another example of a developer who feels passionate about career growth is Bill Sterzenbach, who started his career as a developer and now owns a 45-person marketing agency, Upward Brand Interactions. "At the agency, we have a professional development program to help grow developers from entry-level to experienced, well-rounded professionals. We believe that there are nuances to professional development for coders that are being missed (either accidentally or intentionally) by many employers and it really limits a developer's ability to grow professionally and inhibits their potential in their later earning years." 

How Employers Can Encourage Career Growth

So how can you as an organization work on your career development plan for your employees? First of all, allow your employees to try something new, something that interests them outside of their typical work day. This not only gets their creative juices flowing, but it empowers them as well.

Another way to encourage career growth among your employees is to offer them tangible learning assets. Hold training sessions or lectures led by experts in their field so employees can learn a new skill. Let your employees attend niche conferences, where they can not only learn, but also network. Books and subscriptions to magazines or journals are also an easy, and cost-effective, way for employees to learn. Ask your current employees what they want to learn in the next six months to a year, then work with them to improve and build upon those skills. 

After implementing these tactics within your organization, follow up with your developers to see how they feel about their career development path. If you still have questions about what developers really want in a job, download our guide below. 

joel spolsky ebook


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