How Thinking Out of the Box Can Advance Your Tech Career

Career Advice
minute read

Driving your tech career forward can—and should—include a creative approach. So don’t be afraid to get innovative and proactive. Here are our favorite tips to help you as you level up your career in tech.

Developing your career is a bit of an art form. And yes, being in the right place at the right time always helps. But there are many proactive moves you can make to take charge of where your career path takes you—especially if you push yourself to “think differently,” as Steve Jobs might say. 

Here’s how to do that.

First, recognize it matters to think beyond the usual career ideas.

Often, people can feel stuck at many stages in their career—from frustrations in a current role, to long job searches, to uncertainty about what to do next. Thinking out of the box shakes up that stuck feeling and moves you beyond what you usually do and believe. And that’s how career break-throughs can come about. 

Question what you assume to be true.

Remember that old psychology experiment about the man in the gorilla suit? Studies show that 50% of people don’t notice what’s right in front of them—yes, including a man in a gorilla suit—simply because they’re not looking for the unusual. (You can read more about that experiment here.)

To break out of a career rut, ask yourself what assumptions you may be making, which could potentially be holding you back from growing your career. As you do, it becomes easier to recognize new opportunities (those invisible gorillas!) and discover innovative solutions to growing your career in the tech industry.

Here are more great ways to get creative and think unconventionally as you build a successful, satisfying career in tech.

Before you begin, develop a broad perspective.

 Mindset matters when you’re carving out your career path. To shake up assumptions in your mindset, do the following:

Define career success clearly—and on your terms.

It’s tempting to describe a successful career based on what other people think it is. But your work in the tech industry (or any career, honestly) is about more than a salary or a title.

Your career path should align with what fulfills you and uses your skills and passions to their best results. These things can be different for everyone. The clearer you can be about what you want most out of your tech career, the easier it’ll be to notice roles that lead you in the right direction. 

 Think beyond just a job.

When you hear the word “career,” you may think of a specific role you’ve held or one you desire to have. But a career is much more than a job. It touches so many areas of your life beyond your actual workday, and it pays to take that into account. To do so, get specific about what you want to achieve. 

Is there a certain company you want to work for? Do you dream about creating a patented product? Managing a team? Teaching your skills to others? Becoming a speaker who talks about tech? These answers will help you find the next place that gets you closer to that achievement.

During your job search, think differently.

As you start a search for a new tech role, continue to challenge your assumptions and broaden your horizons, so that you stay open to exciting and unexpected possibilities. 

Lean into remote and hybrid roles.

These days, working from home at least a few days a week is common. And many companies are willing to employ people in a different city or state entirely—you don’t have to live locally to land many jobs. 

This is especially true in tech, a field that invites flexibility. So if there’s a dream role or dream company in your heart, don’t give up on it. A remote position is probably out there that would fit you. 

Look beyond the coasts.

Gone are the days that you have to live in New York or Silicon Valley to build your tech career. Creative, innovative tech companies are increasingly looking for unexpected places to launch new locations, such as in the Heartland.

Tulsa, Oklahoma—which aims to be America’s Heartland tech hub—is a perfect example of a city that offers more tech jobs than you might realize. Tulsa has many incentives that attract tech companies to hire here. 

Plus, non-coastal cities like Tulsa are more affordable for workers and offer a rich, laid-back lifestyle. Consider these features as you do your job search so you land in a place that satisfies all of you—not just “work you.” 

Choose your niche.

It’s fun to know a little bit about everything, but in tech, it can be advantageous to build a strong, impressive specialty where you can excel. One way to do this is to consider what you like most about your current role, and look for new roles where you can do more of that. 

Do you like the design work you do in your entry level role? Perhaps your next role could be one that involves more intentional design, such as website building and user experience. Tip: If you need to learn more or get certification to move into that career, do it now—and ask around. Your existing company may cover your coursework in their training budget!

On the job, look for creative synergies.

Moving beyond your assumptions and thinking differently can create great value to an employer. This can help you stand out, gain more chances to prove yourself, and open up a promotion. 

Aim to have greater influence.

Finding ways that you can have an impact is not only fulfilling in itself, but also can create excellent career paths. Inventing a new product, mentoring others, discovering a better way to solve a problem—all these help you enjoy your work as well as provide tangible achievements that can help you land future roles. 

Set achievable on-the-job goals. 

Performance reviews and goal-setting activities give you a great way to set yourself up for career growth. So, don’t let those opportunities pass you by.

Think about what you truly want in your career. Is it important to you to manage a team? Can you boost your production metrics to help you get a raise or promotion? Choose 3-5 things that are most important to you right now, and look for ways to build job-related performance goals around them. 

If those opportunities don’t exist in your current job description, ask for them! Many employers are happy to provide additional work responsibilities to those who are willing to take on new tasks and roles. 

Create your own new role at your existing company.

Achieving career growth sometimes requires switching companies—but not always! Why not ask your existing employer to create or tailor a role to suit your career goals and allow you to level up a notch? 

Many companies appreciate the value of holding on to someone who knows their culture already. If you have tangible results that prove your worth, even better—as those accomplishments and metrics will help you sell yourself for the customized role you want to move into.

Summing it up

Growing your career in the tech field (or any field!) is a matter of planning and intentional decisions. Wherever you aim to go with your career, remember that there are many ways to get there! Let go of assumptions, stay open to the unexpected, and get creative—and you’ll find that thinking out of the box can help you stand out to employers and grow in your tech career.