The Case for Self-Study
Here’s why you should consider self-study for tech — because what you really need to do to get hired in tech is — prove you can do the work. That is the main component of tech. Show. Demonstrate. Have assets that you create showing you can do the work. Now if you’re just starting out that can sound really daunting. Like, wow, how can I show what I don’t even know. Where do I even start?
I’ll go into more detail below about how to get started and the path to move you through self-study, but first, it’s important to know is that self-study is an option. And by self-study I don’t mean, you don’t purchase any course and you do it all alone. Those are not advisable. What I mean is that you don’t necessarily need a program or certificate to be “qualified”. There are other ways to do this. In fact, most people get “certified” in tech after then have spent some time in the job.
Bootcamps and degrees are great ways to learn and build your skills. You should absolutely consider if they are the right move for you. BUT they are not the only answer. So, evaluate whether self-study makes sense for you.
The major benefit of self-study is not what you might think. You can, of course, save a lot of money by purchasing courses and getting a client to work on to demonstrate your skills, but that is not the biggest pay off to self-study. The biggest pay off is that you will be able to replicate this process again and again to level-up in your career for even greater gains. It might be hard to see that now, but the more willing you are to decide on a destination and take action to achieve towards that goal, the more value you will add to your organization. More value = greater income. So that will be an even bigger pay off than what you can save on self-study, but I largest gain is the value you will have in yourself knowing that you can always level up, change the game, contribute more!
What It Means to Self-study
What does it actually mean to self-study? It means that you decide your destination and then build the components that help you reach that goal. I know you are thinking, but I don’t know how to do this job, so what if the steps that I pick are wrong. They likely will be the first time. That’s a hard pill to swallow, I know, but if you can live with that and understand that you will make some misstep along the way, you will (a) know what it’s like to be in tech because we are constantly learning and iterating and (b) now have learned from those missteps and know one way not to do it. Que Thomas Edison, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Now, you won’t need 10,000 ways because there are mentors, experts and people who have been there before that you can tap to get you where you want to go. You do have to be willing to put in the time and effort without judging yourself for the progress (or lack of progress) you’re making.
By now you are thinking, self-study might just be just for me, but what are the steps to get me to that dream tech job?
How to Successfully Self-Study Your Way into Tech
- Decide what job you want
If you are thinking, I have no idea what job I want. That’s okay. Do your research. Investigate different opportunities. Most importantly, TALK to people in that field. You absolutely want to hear about what people do on a daily basis. Keep in mind that many organizations are vastly different so talk to people at large companies and small companies and some in between. Get variety so that you know a little bit about what you will be doing. This is a very important step and deciding is really hard. I heard the question, what tech job is right for me? so many times I created a course and workbook with that same title. I get it. I know it’s challenging. Take whatever amount of time you need. Just don’t dive into too much learning before you make that decision because you’ll end up going down the rabbithole of tech learning that is sure to slow you down.
Plus, let me tell you a little secret. Let’s say you decide that you want to be a scrum master and you finally achieve your goal. You get hired as a scrum master on a tech team. You do the work and interact with other team members on a daily basis where you then change your mind and decide, hey, you know what, I think I want to be a developer! What do you think happens then? Have you wasted all that time? No, of course not! You’ve just built your career a little broader. You may never have known how much you would like to be a developer unless you were on that team. So don’t worry too much about picking the wrong “job”. Your life is a career and the focus you have to do one path and then another will carry you so much further than the constant waffling back and forth of what job should I pick!
2. Create a Learning Plan for that job
Next up you’ll want to create a plan for that job you want. Remember to focus on your getting-hired skills. Avoid learning everything and focus on the skills employers most value. There will always be learning and growing throughout your career so you focus your learning on building assets that you can compile into a portfolio and communicate on your resume. I recommend breaking your plan down into 8–12-week segments. After that time-frame, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate where you are. If you have a job by that point — sweet! Create a new learning plan so that you can add even more value to your organization! If not, you have a ton more knowledge from which to base the next learning plan on.
3. Create a networking plan to get hired
This is one that I get a lot of feedback on because I recommend you do learning and networking simultaneously. Knowing what events to go to, who to reach out to and where your time is best spent is tricky but worth the time and effort. It also takes a lot of guts. If you go out there and say — hey, I’m learning to be a UX designer, there are all sorts of comments you are exposing yourself to. The reality, most people will support you. Most people will want to know how they can help. But those aren’t the people we are afraid of. We’re afraid of the ones who say, “who are you to do that?” I know a few of those people. Here’s my best advice on that — they don’t matter in YOUR goals. Choose to actively silence doubt and get on with that tech dream job.
4. Execute that learning plan
Executing the learning plans sounds so simple. What does that even mean? It means that every day you get up, you build the habits of someone who does the work. If you are a stay-at-home mom, that means doing 2 tasks on your learning plan first thing in the morning after the kids go to school, before the laundry!!! If you are working, that means getting up early (yes even earlier than 6 AM) or spending 1–2 hours every evening getting your 2 tasks done. The goal is to create an asset for your portfolio each week. It’s not going to be easy, but if you keep going and make progress, you will be surprised how much you can accomplish with focused work, even just an hour or two a day. If you are laid-off or looking to go a little faster, you’ll have more time, but that can be hard too. There is more time to waste. You avoid that by deciding what you will do each day and then actually do it. You will be amazed how much can be done if you just continue to move forward, not letting indecision or confusion slow you down.
5. Simultaneously execute the networking plan
But in between all that work on the computer, it’s best to step away, talk to people. Get away from the work and talk to people who are on the same path as you, have been there before or just want to help you. Just as with the learning plan, look at the progress you have made and learn from it. There are people there who want to help you. Jump in and let them! It’s fun and exciting AND it might just shorten your time ’til you ‘get hired’.
6. Purchase books, courses & learning materials that support YOUR path
This sounds obvious but with an unfathomable amount of learning content out there, you need to be strategic when you make your purchases. Don’t just buy something that looks cool or fun or would be good to know. Is it on your learning plan? No. Don’t buy it. Is it on the learning? Yes. Make a few select purchases that move your career forward and are from voices you want to listen to. You get to spend time with the voices and learning that you want! You deserve it!
7. Build a community of support around you
You’ll want to have a place to go when you get stuck or have a hard day. You need both emotional support and technical support. We all do, but when you’re learning tech, it’s just a bit of a journey that most around you will not understand and you will be tempted (maybe even encouraged to quit) if you do not surround yourself with people who have their eye on a similar prize. The prize is what makes us move forward and keep going. Not just the financial incentive of the prize (though that can be a big help) but the part of the prize where you are doing meaningful work that we know deep down inside we are capable of doing.
Want to find out what tech job is right for you? Take our quiz at youaretechy.com