Step 4: Define a specific career goal

So far in this chapter, we have been gathering what is essentially the extensive list of requirements you would need to get almost any job within your chosen area of interest. The problem is, there is almost certainly more items on that list than time you have, or are even willing to spend preparing only for your career to get started. We need to filter this list down to a few key characteristics that clearly define the specific career goal you’re aiming for. As we will soon see, some of these “requirements” may not even be requirements at all.

During this process, I have been intentionally steering your focus away from seeking out the specific job you’d want to apply for, and encouraging that you instead focus on the types of companies and jobs you find interesting. This is because opportunities come and go, and unfortunately you can not guarantee that an opportunity will still be there when you’re ready to take it. However, jobs for a particular specialisation are, for the most part, cut from the same mould. By analysing a few related listings, you should be able to filter down and assemble a common set of traits that define the core requirements needed for any variation of that job. The good news is, you’ve already done the hardest part of this analysis by assembling your combined list of requirements. It’s time now to start filtering it.

Up front, you can be fairly confident that the entries on your list marked with asterisks will be the items you should keep. These are the requirements that appeared multiple times during your research, and are pretty certain to keep appearing on these sorts of listings. Still, it’s worth running through them now and filtering out any items that you feel are either too specific to a subdivision of the job you’re not interested in, or are already covered by other items on the list.

Now split the rest of the non-asterisked items into technologies and subdomains. As you run through the list of technologies, decide whether it is really necessary that you focus on learning these specific tools, languages, libraries, etc. or whether it is actually more important that you study the subdomains they belong to. Considering that these technologies showed up only once during your research, it’s likely that most of them can be filtered out, and that the subdomains under which they fall are really what you should be focusing on. Of course, any technologies on this list that you are particularly interested in learning, and contribute sufficiently towards demonstrating your understanding of the subdomain, should be kept.

All that is left to do now is to clean up the list of remaining subdomains. Again, try to filter out as many of these as possible. If a subdomain relates to any technologies you still have on the list, you should keep it, but other than that, because these requirements appear so infrequently, they are very unlikely to be important.

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