Be Proactive About Your Career Growth
In one of my favorite Billie Holiday tunes, Lady Day sings, “God helps the child whose got his own.” Whether you believe in God is irrelevant to the point of today’s blog, so don’t turn away in disgust if you don’t believe. The message is what’s important today. That message is: Be proactive about your career development and growth.
When you’re younger it’s easier to make milestones happen because your path is more directed and structured. Parents guide your footsteps, as do teachers and, to a lesser degree, your peers. Your education follows a fairly predictable path up through high school, where upon graduation you receive a diploma. Then we go to college and it becomes necessary to make some personal decisions about career choice, life, etc. We choose a specialty, job or a career path to follow that will hopefully gain us a toehold in the real world.
Then things get interesting. Armed with a degree and hopefully a great attitude, you set off into the world of entry-level employment, searching for your first career-related position, and you realize there is a catch-22: You need experience to get the jobs you want because the jobs that you’re qualified for don’t pay as well and usually aren’t as interesting. Since potential employers probably won’t take the time to point out avenues that will engage your mind and/or pocket, it’s up to you. You have to gain experience somehow, since no one wants to give you a job without one, so you read and study and sweat until you get your first certification. You join associations, volunteer to work for free on someone’s IT project in a community center, etc. Essentially, you do what you need to in order to gain the experience that employers demand. Great! But things aren’t going to go back to the orderly path you followed as a child, so don’t pat yourself on the back just yet.
Once you are employed, you must continue your proactive approach to career development. You should approach your first performance review with this in mind, soliciting feedback on your progress, identifying new goals and growth opportunities and fashioning some kind of long-term development scheme or plan for advancement. The same goes for IT pros who have been in the game awhile. If no raise is forthcoming after a suitable time has passed and you feel that your performance merits an increase in pay, you have to defend that belief with a prepared summary of your contributions that have positively influenced the company’s operations and team activities or had a noticeable impact on your organization’s bottom line.
The game never ends. It’s not impossible that an employer will recognize your genius, congratulate you effusively on your wonderful contributions and pad your pay accordingly, but what if that doesn’t happen? You must always be prepared to take steps to improve or enhance your own career. If no one is standing there with hand outstretched, a solution wrapped in a pretty red bow held aloft, we have to help ourselves.