The large tech companies that are fueling the digital revolution in Silicon Valley have helped make a career in app development one of the fastest growing jobs on the planet. With a 10-year growth rate of 19% and the median salary of over $97,000, – a job in this field is not only lucrative but offers the opportunity to work on the cutting-edge of social media and digital technology. There are more ways to make money from your phone than ever before, and the demand for creative people to design and develop new, faster apps that make our virtual world go round continues to skyrocket by the day. Prestigious tech giants like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Windows are all searching for the best and brightest developers out there, making competition fierce. The process behind getting a job in tech goes well beyond sending in a resume and hoping for the best. As an app developer, you need to do significant legwork just to be noticed in this field. That’s why it is vital to understand how to position yourself after college to have a greater chance of being hired by these highly sought after companies.
Think Business Since digital technology is moving at such a breakneck pace, it’s almost impossible to determine what the hot new app or device is going to be. As someone who’s trying to get a job as a developer, this unpredictable market makes it even more difficult to know where to focus your efforts. Luckily, the key to figuring out what will be popular is already readily available to you. Millennials between the ages of 18-24 are biggest market for mobile app downloads, and as a postgrad, you should have endless access to your friends and family in this age range that frequently use mobile apps. Find out what they use most, and what they wish they had. This easy first step to getting a gauge on what young people are looking for in an app will provide you valuable insight into what types of content that app development companies are looking to produce in the near future. You may not have access to advanced market research algorithms, but some old-fashioned face-to-face communication can still yield surprisingly helpful results. Keeping in mind that the largest customer base for apps is young people in their twenties – make sure that the app ideas you want to work on don’t require a significant financial obligation. Young people today are committed to student finance, pay high rent prices, and have the challenges of a dwindling job market. The last thing they can afford is an expensive app, especially when most of the options are completely free to download. Companies like Google are on record that they aren’t just looking to hire creative developers, but savvy ones as well. Having a portfolio of app designs that are original and cost-effective for the consumer will be valuable no matter how volatile the market may be.
Showcase Your Abilities The best way to get tech companies to notice you is to make your work readily available. There are a number of creative ways to showcase your work, but one must-have staple is a well designed personal website. Use this to provide interested parties with an easy way to see the work that you create. The best part about having a website is, you have complete creative control over it – which means potential employers can see exactly what you want them to see. And with almost 75% of companies struggling to find relevant talent, this will give you a leg up on the competition’s work that isn’t as accessible. Another creative way to show off your app development skills is to design an app that’s noticed on the major app stores. Independent app developers are growing increasingly popular among mainstream download platforms – and large companies are noticing which ones do particularly well. Use tools like App Store Optimization (ASO) to bump your product towards the top of search lists. This is a tricky game to play, as the data on which methods bump apps to the top of the list are kept secret by companies like Google and Apple, but simple common sense such as using the same keywords as already popular apps, and having high-quality icons and screenshots to give your app a professional polish are surefire ways to climb the app store rankings. One more, slightly obvious way to get noticed is to network. And no, not just on social media (although that’s encouraged as well). Silicon Valley is constantly setting up networking events where you can go and meet the very people that you hope to work within the near future. Also, keep in mind that while getting to know the CEO of a development company is great, knowing his/her assistant is just as valuable. The people at the bottom rungs of the industry aren’t going to be at the bottom forever, and neither will you. Build a network of young, entry-level employees like yourself, and use those friendships to ensure that you will have close business relationships for the long term. You’ll be happy to know the assistant from years back when she becomes the founder of the hottest new tech startup and calls you up with a job offer.
Work Harder, Work Faster The average employee in Silicon Valley works well over 40-hours per week, so if you don’t absolutely love what you do, you may want to look at other career options. Burnout is extremely common in this industry, and expectations are sky high – even for entry-level developers. To meet the exceedingly high-demand for apps, developers work these long hours in order to produce their products with quick turnaround times without sacrificing quality. Keep in mind that most companies produce “simple” apps in just 2-3 weeks, while more complex designs can take up to 10 weeks. In order to “make it” in this industry, you must be able to keep up with the pace of work, which will be extremely fast. If you don’t yet have a job in this field, use your spare to time practice, practice, and practice. The more you hone in your development skills, the faster you will be able to produce a final product. Stay up to date on the latest industry news as well. You may see a story that sparks an idea, or presents an unexpected opportunity. The more you know about what’s happening at the moment, the more immersed into the work you will feel.
Stay Happy, Stay Healthy While this topic can apply to virtually anything in life, it should be especially stressed in the app development field. Because people work such long, arduous hours on their technology, it often comes at the price of poor physical and mental health. Silicon Valley has a growing, serious problem with mental illness, and it’s important that you never sacrifice your general well-being in order to be successful in this field. Creative-minded, innovative people have been linked to higher rates of depression for decades, and coupled with high-stress jobs and long hours – it makes for a deadly concoction of mental illness. Tech companies are trying to battle this increasing trend, but the balancing act of happy, healthy employees, and meeting a high demand for new technology grows more difficult by the day. In order to assure that you don’t fall victim to the darker side of the industry, make sure that you take time every day to focus on your own health. It’s easy to get lost in your work day in and day out, especially if you’re truly enjoying the content of what you do – but even if you like your job, it can still negatively affect your health. Stay mentally fit by taking a walk outside to clear your head, practice yoga, meditation, and read for leisure. Research shows that spending hours on end staring at a screen is bad for mental health, so be sure to take frequent breaks and “unplug” from the digital world regularly. You may find it easy at first to work straight through lunch, dinner, and late into the night, but it will catch up to you over time. Maintaining a healthy mind is just as important to your long-term success as an app developer as the actual work of creating an app. Working in the app development field is a challenging, yet exciting career that allows you to be on the forefront of the digital frontier. There are countless “unknowns” for you to discover, and the financial opportunities are endless. In order to manage a successful career in this field, you need to do a significant amount of homework. Know the business you’re getting into inside and out. Understand that while there are tremendously positive aspects to this lifestyle, there are serious risks to your mental health, and make sure you avoid them at all costs. One of the best parts of getting into the app development world at such an early stage is that tradition, rules, and the culture aren’t yet established. The entire industry is malleable and waiting for ambitious young professionals like yourself to come in and mold the digital world into something that can benefit all of humanity for years to come.