I could use some career guidance. I’m a recent college graduate with a degree in computer science. I’ve been searching for jobs for a few weeks now and even have a few offers, but I haven’t found anything that’s compelling enough to accept.
Most of the jobs that I’m applying to have decent starting salaries but demand at least sixty hours of work each week. Most claim employees should also expect to absorb extra hours because of important deadlines.
I’m not trying to work nonstop right out of college. Balancing work and leisure time is important to me. As a result, I’m now reconsidering my path. There’s no shortage of jobs for computer programmers, which is great, but at the same time, that also makes it more challenging to find the right fit.
I appreciate any tips that might help me make an informed decision.
Achieving balance when it comes to your career and the rest of life’s pursuits is no small feat. The first step, however, is recognizing that balance is possible. Balance should be your goal. Shawn Burn, Ph.D., emphasized the importance of work-life balance in Psychology Today. She explains that people need time “outside of work for rejuvenation, and to develop and nurture friendships.” There’s even a whole academic sub-discipline called organizational psychology, which is dedicated to (among other things) helping companies find ways to encourage work-life balance and, therefore, avoid employee burnout.
However, it doesn’t sound like the companies you’ve interacted with so far have work-life balance in mind. The good news is that work-life balance isn’t dependent on your employer. Much of it has to do with deliberate choices made every day. Editors at The Muse have done you the favor of highlighting 37 tips for a better work-life balance, many of which can be implemented. Take time to consider which takeaways speak to you. It’s possible that you’re already doing some of the things they’ve suggested. It couldn’t hurt to try the things you haven’t yet.
Those with a computer science degree most often use their coding skills as opposed to the other aptitudes cultivated within their STEM education. Clear academic and industry preferences exist. The biggest challenge, is figuring out how to specialize your skill set even further. Anyone familiar with coding knows that the first big dilemma is figuring out if you want to focus on front-end or back-end development. Those with technical chops go full-stack.
You should consider the blog article published Bradley Nice, the content manager at ClickHelp. He not only explains the debate in accessible terms, he also categorizes some of the most popular programming languages for his readers. Those more comfortable with manipulating raw data and lack of recognition from end-users might choose back-end or “server-side” development. If that sounds like you, investigate SQL server training. Why? Klint Finley at Wired Magazine explains that Microsoft’s proprietary database was the surprise hit of the year. In other words, there’s a significant amount of career opportunities and a very competitive earning potential. More important, those things may continue trending upwards.
Programming languages aside, you should also know that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Peter Welch at Gizmodo published a heartfelt piece itemizing all the reasons why coding sucks. One could argue that his jaded perspective is the result of poor decisions and prolonged exposure to terrible employment settings. Those things might be true, but it also means you could fall victim to similar circumstances. There’s no reason to suspect otherwise. That might be enough to entertain less conventional career paths.
For someone who only just graduated, it’s easy to see how and why you feel so compelled to use your computer programming skills. Lydia Dishman at Fast Company published an article last year explaining why coding is still the most important skill of the future. While it’s difficult to argue with the statistics she cites or the trends in a more general sense, the reality is that soft skills are becoming just as valuable to employers, fast. JM Olejarz disputes Lydia’s perspective in his Harvard Business Review piece, which declares the liberal arts essential in the data age. The world he describes is a technological one in which we cannot ignore the human context. In other words, people need to be asking whether they should do something well before they ask whether they can.
This is all to say that you shouldn’t pigeon-hole yourself into a position just because it’s expected. There’s a host of options available to you. Staff writers at Prospects already put together a comprehensive list of viable career paths with a computer science degree. Examples include everything from a systems analyst and database administrator to a social media manager and technical writer. All those examples could draw from your existing knowledge base. Whether or not you’d find it as rewarding is something only you can answer.
“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill