As IT becomes deeply embedded in all aspects of life, opportunities abound for IT professionals.
How can you lift yourself above the herd to maximize your career development potential?
Here is our 6 step plan:
Step 1. Understand your own motivations
When Alice asks the Cheshire Cat for directions, in C.S. Lewis's story Alice in Wonderland, he tells her that she is sure to end up somewhere, providing she walks for long enough.
That may have not been the answer she was looking for, but it was the correct answer given that Alice, at that point, didn't care where she was going.
It's the same with developing your career. You need to have a strong and clear idea of where you want to end up. Otherwise you will just end up wandering aimlessly like Alice. Your destination (your 'where') is closely related to your motivation (your 'why').
Therefore, Step 1 has to be clarifying your reason for pursuing an IT career in the first place.
Without passion and purpose, even the most skilled and experienced candidate will fall short. Not only will a sense of purpose carry you through the tough times, it will also give you added charisma in job interviews. Employers know that someone who is engaged with their work and passionate about their career development will go the extra mile in the workplace.
Step 2. Be proactive in your career development efforts
Now that you know what you want - and why - it's time for action. Being proactive in your career development will immediately lift you above those other IT professionals who are waiting for opportunities to come along. Maximizing your potential means creating your own opportunities.
Writing down a Career Development Action Plan is a powerful way to transform dreams and hopes into specific goals and actions (1). Even then, you need to ensure that your Action Plan includes timelines and milestones. Otherwise, it could become just another glorified ‘To Do' list.
If you already have a job, you should take advantage of any development programmes on offer, providing they are moving you forward along your chosen career path. If you are currently looking for work, or your employer doesn't offer these opportunities, you will need to be more creative.
One way to boost your activity levels is to form or join a group of fellow IT professionals. By meeting up regularly to support and motivate one another, you will continue to move forwards. You can also share ideas and learn new skills, which is the focus of Step 3.
Step 3. Identify the skills you need
Of course, as an aspiring IT professional you will likely be aware of the technical skills and certifications you need in order to progress along your path (although you might want to read our blog listing the top 15 programming certifications, if you are unsure) (2).
However, as Sanjiv Yajnik, President of Financial Services at Capital One, makes clear, you will need more than technical skills to rise to the top of your profession. You are the product, not just your skill set (3).
Personal skills you will need to hone include:
- Discipline, which will help you to maintain focus on those long-term goals you wrote down in Step 2.
- Optimism and a growth mindset. This will give you resilience when you encounter rejections or obstacles.
- Agility, creativity and problem-solving.
- Clear communication.
- Interview technique, including how to match your skills and experience to your employer's business needs.
You should also develop soft skills such as active listening, empathy and kindness. This is not just a nice thing to do, it will also help you to network more effectively. If you struggle with this, try imagining that everyone you meet is your future boss's best friend!
Picking up new skills (and brushing up on old ones) is an important part of your continuing professional (and personal) development, which brings us on to the next step...
Step 4: Seek out opportunities for growth and learning
To maximize your IT career development potential, you always need to be moving forward. If you think you have all the skills you need for any IT role, you're not working hard enough.
Always be on the lookout for opportunities to learn and grow. Listen to motivational podcasts or audiobooks on the commute. Sign up for evening webinars. Attend IT and industry expos.
According to Prism Global, professionals should spend 10% of their time on continuous professional development (CPD) (4). Of course, you don't have to be on a formal CPD pathway to book yourself on to a training course, log on to an online seminar or learn a new programming language.
Be aware, not all opportunities announce themselves with neon lights. A project you dismiss for 'not being worth your effort' could fill a hole in your resume. Or it could introduce you to an important connection who will open doors for you. This brings us on to Step 5.
Step 5. Network with other professionals in your field
No one is an island, and you will struggle to realise your IT career potential without leveraging the knowledge, skills, connections and experience of others. Connecting with fellow IT professionals can help you to solve problems, stay motivated, collaborate on resume-enhancing projects and even land your next job.
Look for industry or business networks in your area or set up your own (remember Step 2?). Some IT professionals really struggle with this aspect of personal development. If you are one of them, build developing your people and networking skills into your Action Plan.
LinkedIn is a powerful way of making career connections, so make sure you have a professional profile, even if it means dedicating a few hours to setting up or refining yours. Need some help? We have written a blog post dedicated to perfecting your LinkedIn profile (5).
Step 6. Stay current on industry trends and developments
You don't need us to tell you that the world of IT is constantly changing. Staying up to date with industry trends and developments will help you to spot opportunities that others might miss.
If you're a developer, being up to date with trending languages and frameworks could put you top of the pile for your dream job. A network architect who is aware that a huge corporate is about to switch from AWS to Azure or GCP (or vice versa) can jump in early and offer their skills before a job has even been advertised.
It is also important to stay abreast of world events which can open and close doors, especially in these tumultuous times.
Good luck with your exciting career development plans.
The team at Myticas hopes to help you with your next career jump in the IT sector.