SQL Server Career Planning
I am looking for career advice.† I would like to know how to get started with my career and plan for changes over time.† Do you have any suggestions for building my career?† Check out this tip for some valuable career advice for new and experienced SQL Server Professionals.
SolutionIn many respects starting and growing your SQL Server career have a number of the same considerations.† At any point in your career, you need to know the†following:
- What are you looking for in your SQL Server Career?
- Starting Your SQL Server Career
- Growing Your SQL Server Career
- SQL Server Interview Recommendations
What are you looking for in your SQL Server Career?
Knowing what you want in your career is just as important as what you do not want.† Often times, many professionals really do not know what they do and do not want.† In my opinion, it is important to take some time for a self assessment and ask yourself what you want and do not want in your job. As a point of reference, here is a basic list of items I have heard from SQL Server Professionals:
- Challenging technical problems to resolve
- Listened to by management and the recommendations provided are respected and acted upon
- Job security and stable work environment to not have to worry about whether you will have a job next week or not
- Salary and benefits that are commensurate with the job responsibilities and experience
- Flexible schedule and the ability to take vacations without having to respond to emails and phone calls
- Less politics and ability to focus on technology
- Low stress with reasonable deadlines
- Educational benefits and paid training
- Ability to work on the latest and greatest technology
- New and exciting opportunities rather than a routine schedule
Are these the same items you are looking for in your career?† Are there others?† If so, please share your thoughts as a comment for this tip.
Starting Your SQL Server Career
When you are starting your career you need to make the decision to work in the technology field and figure out a few different jobs you would like to try.† Talk with everyone you know to get an understanding of what they do, how they do it, what they like, what they dislike, how to get started, etc.† They might even be able to point you in the right direction to get your first job.† Starting off you need to get your first opportunity and use it as a stepping stone for trying a few different types of jobs.† Most people with years of experience do not know what they want to do, so figuring out exactly what you want to do when you start off is challenging.
As you start your career you need to set some goals for yourself.† Be sure to record your goals and revisit them on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis.† As best as possible, try to quantify your goals and setup a time frame i.e. 1, 3, 5, etc. years.† Items to consider as you build your goals:
- Are you learning something new every day?
- Do you have a test environment setup for you to learn and test items you have learned?
- Is your employer encouraging you to work towards certifications, degrees, etc.?
- Do you have the opportunity to grow?†
- Has your manager established a path for you at the company?
- Are you working with the latest and greatest technologies?
- Do you enjoy what you are doing?
- Can you see yourself growing in your career and advancing in future years?
- Do you want to try other technologies?
- What are the implications on your family?
- Is there a separation between work and family?
- Are you being paid a competitive salary and offered valuable benefits?
Growing Your SQL Server Career
As you progress in your career, some of the items you worked through when you started your career are still applicable, but you also need to include additional items such as:
- Self Assessment
- Determine your "comfort zone".
- Whether this is development, operations, BI, etc., you need to know what you do well and why that is the case.† You also need to think about items such as your comfort in working with one portion of SQL Server or the entire stack.† Also think about your comfort level working on a team versus independently.† Do you have experience working in both scenarios?† Do you have a preference?
- Determine areas of improvement.
- Determine professional interests.
- Determine your "comfort zone".
- Educational Plan
- Determine your opportunities to learn from your employer and your personal resources.
- Grow your test environment to be able to test and learn.
- Review online options to learn as well as local events such as user groups, SQL Saturdays, Code Camps, etc.
- Build a plan to learn each new edition of SQL Server.
- Be sure to make a concerted effort to build your online and offline network.† If you run into an issue, make sure they will be your life line.
- Review your goals to determine the items you have accomplished, what has changed and what you still need to accomplish.
- Revise goals that have changed, remove goals that are no longer applicable and create new goals that align with your current interests.
- Be sure to look forward in order to stay on top of technology changes.
SQL Server Interview Recommendations
As you begin your interview process, be sure you understand the process.† Ask questions to understand how the recruiter, manager, etc. works through the interview process at the company.† Traditionally speaking, the interview process is something like:
- Find job that you are interested in and you meet the qualifications
- Based on the needs, update your resume to best match the requirements
- Contact the company\recruiter\hiring manager and send them your resume
- If selected for the initial round of interviews, prepare for the phone interview which could be with the recruiter or hiring manager
- This could be one or more rounds of interviews depending on the organization
- If selected for the next round of interviews, prepare for an onsite interview with the team
- This could include a peer interview to determine if you would be a good fit for the team
- This could include a technical interview to determine your technical skills
- Depending on the organization, a decision may be reached or there may be multiple onsite interviews\meetings with the team
- Generally, the last step in the process if the employer is interested in your skills is to issue a background check and/or check your references
Over the years, I have seen this process change dramatically.† I have seen a much less rigid process in some organizations with entire interviews held over lunch while others are administering technical and aptitude tests.† I have also seen a much heavier reliance on learning about companies and potential employers based on information found online and networking web sites.† In some circumstances, Google performs your background checks for you.† These are just short term and long term considerations as you prepare for an interview.
As you prepare for the your interview be sure you know the following:
- Understand the employer's needs.
- Who will be involved in the interview and their role.
- Where the interview will be held.
- Everything about the company that you can find out.
- Your commute time.
- Travel requirements.
- Work schedule including off hours work.
- Your "sales pitch" to let the employer know why you can uniquely benefit them.
- As you plan your SQL Server career, refer back to this tip and see how it can help you move in the right direction.
- Add your career tips to the comments section of this tip or see if you can get some advice from members of the community.
- Check out these tips:
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