Tech executives share their most valuable career advice

For job hunters, it’s important to be creative, trust your gut and always be persistent

Workers in the tech sector huddled around a couple of Mac computers

Making your way in the tech industry will always be tough, whether you’ve just graduated from college or you’re changing your career in later life. 

This process of job searching can be stressful, intense and carries with it buckets of uncertainty, with the IT field, in particular, being quite intimidating. To navigate these murky waters, many among us look for the best possible career advice to cement our motivation and keep us on track for pursuing a career in the industry we’re passionate about.

Thankfully, there’s a fountain of knowledge in the form of experienced professionals just waiting to be tapped.

Be creative in your career pursuits

COVID has unquestionably affected the job market, with job seekers and college graduates now more than ever having to be far more creative in their endeavors. Joblessness is up across the country, meanwhile, so it’s important to remember that the career path you’ve planned out for yourself might not reflect how things turn out.

The CEO and co-founder of graduate recruitment app Debut Careers Michele Trusolino explains, “Often it is not industries that thrive, but companies who redefine how that industry is serviced.”  

For Trusolino, “every industry is now a ‘tech industry’ and they need the highly sought after skills to push the boundaries.”

Her advice is absolutely right when you consider today’s markets and the state of the economy. The operations of almost every business have some overlap with the tech industry, which can only be a good thing for those seeking jobs, as it opens the door to be creative in their pursuits.

Let’s say you have some coding experience, for example. This can be used at so many different organisations with companies of all sizes seeking developers to boost their IT operations. Digital skills will always come in handy, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s at a pizza delivery company or a manufacturing plant. You’ll need to be flexible in your approach, however, and broaden your horizons to find the best opportunities. These are valuable skills, and most companies are more than willing to put them to good use.

Trust your gut and take risks

Looking for a new job can be stressful, and lots of research through the years has proven as much. One 2017 Career Builder study found that 73% of job seekers said job hunting was one of the most stressful things in their life, having surveyed 5,016 candidates from the U.S. and Canada.

Don’t let the stress of finding a new job hold you back, though. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said in the past: “In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks."

There will be times when those stressful feelings point to a larger issue. As Tim Cook put it in his commencement speech to Auburn University graduates: “Intuition is something that occurs in the moment and, if you are open to it, if you listen to it, it has the potential to direct or redirect you in a way that is best for you.”

Be open to change and try something new

When I started college, I studied K-12 education. I dreamed of teaching classic literature to high schoolers. I couldn’t wait until the day I had my college diploma in hand and could share my love of literature with America’s youth. Looking back, I had no idea what I actually wanted. 

After a month of student teaching, I quickly learned that being a teacher wasn’t for me. In the end, I graduated with a degree in professional writing and political science. Since graduating, I’ve worked in tech, health care, manufacturing, human resources and spent some time as a butcher.

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I’m not the only who’s shifted gears in college or worked in various industries either. In fact, people choose to set off on new career paths all the time. According to a 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of baby boomers, individuals born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 12.3 jobs between the ages of 18 and 52. 

As Bill Gates shared in a 2020 commencement speech, “The important thing to remember about career paths is that they don't have to last forever, and when I was in my 20s, I thought I'd always worked in software. I never saw myself working in philanthropy or on global health at all, let alone leaving behind my job at Microsoft to do it full-time. As you get older, your interests and your skills will evolve. My advice is to be open to change. Don't be afraid to try something new.”

Gates’ words serve as a good reminder that being open to new career opportunities can pay off. Gates would know, as he began his career as founder and CEO of Microsoft and now leads the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  

Persistence pays off in the long run

Embarking on a new career path can be an arduous process. No matter where your career takes you, understand that persistence pays off in the long run.

Eva Peris, CMO and co-founder of Wanted tells graduates, "Do not give up. The more you understand your professional journey and personal goals, the more you'll be able to convince a recruiter that you're the right fit for the job. If things take longer than expected, [keep] yourself updated through internships or freelance work…the right job will come soon.”

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt shared his advice with Virginia Tech’s 2015 graduating class, telling them, “Be persistent. When someone says you’re thinking too big, say ‘I don’t think I’m thinking big enough.’ Challenge them. Be smart enough to not listen to people who push you down. When someone says the odds are too small, be dumb enough to give it a shot.” 

Whether you’ve just graduated from college or are considering a career in tech, there is a wealth of advice to take into account. From commencement speeches by tech executives to one-on-one interviews with some of the industry’s most well-known leaders, there’s no reason not to use such words of wisdom to your advantage.

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