SQL Server Career Planning

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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.

In 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:

  • Education
    • 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.?
  • Career
    • 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?
  • Family
    • What are the implications on your family?
    • Is there a separation between work and family?
  • Financial
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Network
    • 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.
  • Goals
    • 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.
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About the author
MSSQLTips author Jeremy Kadlec Jeremy Kadlec is a Co-Founder, Editor and Author at MSSQLTips.com with more than 300 contributions. He is also the CTO @ Edgewood Solutions and a six-time SQL Server MVP. Jeremy brings 20+ years of SQL Server DBA and Developer experience to the community after earning a bachelor's degree from SSU and master's from UMBC.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Comments For This Article

Friday, October 6, 2017 - 7:16:09 AM - Neha Back To Top (66969)


I have about 2.5 years experience in IT.But my experience is not on specfic role.But all work i have done in database platform.But i want to change my career to sql server or BI to get good jobb.Also i know concepts like: SQL query,stored procedure,Basics of unix and linux,dba konwledge in oracle.Can you please guide me to start with what and how.Also in database procedure funtion and making script i want develop my that kills also to make things easy but how i can practice and how should i develop my self to write a good code.


Thank you 



Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 8:38:25 AM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top (19191)


In terms of certifications, I would check out the following URL - http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/cert-sql-server-data-platform.aspx.

In terms of preparation for a career change, I would do the following:

  • Find out all that you can about 1 or more of the companies you are interested in
  • Make sure you are up to speed on the development methodology they use
  • Conduct a self-assessment to understand your skills and gaps
  • Improve your skills as needed
  • Practice for your interview
  • Be on the lookout for an opportunity


Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - 7:37:31 AM - Suraj Back To Top (19188)



I need to find a carrer in Database development for projects. I have an 1.5 years of experience and now i want to change my company as a SQL Server DB developer. Can you please tell any certifications that I should do in order to make my resume much heavier.


Also please suggest the areas I should improve before i try to enter in a Product based company.




Saturday, April 28, 2012 - 7:30:27 AM - arul Back To Top (17173)



HI sir,...                                                                                      



I have 1.6 experience in dot net .When i am fresher i joined a MNC company as programmer analyst.they put into to application support.most works related to DB and tools in .net.so no way to improve my knowledge.They didn't change into development team.so try another job.


I got a job in a medium level company as a software engg .it is financial domain .here also jobs related to DB.but able to gain knowledge in SQL server.In side by side doing asp.net applications.


i need to change my carrier after 6 months .because got 2 years experience .can you please tell how to improve my skills in both SQL and Dot net.


I know the below concepts.




1.Basic Query


3.Stored procedure

4.SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio

5.views and triggers


Dot Net.


basic knowledge in oops


grid view





can you please tell , which area i need to improve.for 2 years exp for other comp. what knowledge except from me by any other comp.


Thanks and please do needful.

Friday, April 20, 2012 - 7:07:04 AM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top (17015)


Thank you for the post and URL issue.

The URL has been corrected and sometimes it is good to be lucky.

Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec

Friday, April 20, 2012 - 5:08:51 AM - migro Back To Top (17014)

In general I agree with article. It could be add one more - You should have some lucky to be in right place in right time. 

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