Four Trends Affecting Your Networking Career

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Whether you’re just starting out as a networking professional or have many years of experience, you probably have aspirations of taking your career to the next level. But to move up, you need to have a good sense of developments in your field. The following are four key trends that could affect your networking career.

Soft Skills are Essential
Mastering the latest technologies always will be critical, but that knowledge alone is no longer enough to get ahead. Hiring managers consistently say they seek networking talent with strong soft skills. Communication, interpersonal and analytical abilities aren’t just desired in candidates — they’re expected.

Additionally, networking professionals must show they can wear many hats and play strategic roles within their organizations. In a recent survey conducted by Robert Half Technology, 41 percent of chief information officers (CIOs) polled said they place greater emphasis today than five years ago on candidates’ knowledge of business fundamentals when considering them for IT jobs.

That doesn’t mean networking professionals should enroll in an MBA program, but they should be aware of issues affecting the firm, such as competitive challenges and marketing strategies, so they can determine ways in which IT can affect those issues.

Security Stays in the Spotlight
Network security continues to be a hot specialty, as organizations strive to halt the spread of viruses and denial-of-service attacks. Individuals are needed for everything from administering and maintaining firewalls to developing and implementing network security guidelines and procedures. To be successful, IT professionals must understand how government regulations and human resources concerns affect security strategies.

The heightened emphasis on network security has made specialized certifications all the more beneficial. Employers value certifications such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) designations because they verify a professional’s expertise.

Wireless Technologies Gain Attention
The use of wireless technologies is becoming common, adding to the list of security concerns and creating professional challenges for networking staff. Firms need individuals who can develop comprehensive security strategies for wireless technology use and then monitor those policies to ensure compliance.

On a broader scale, networking professionals are devising plans for the use of wireless technology, managing implementation and troubleshooting problems. As technological advances improve the speed, convenience and security of wireless products, wireless network managers will be expected to assume more-strategic responsibilities in determining how these technologies can contribute to productivity gains.

Career Outlook Grows Positive
The growth of wireless technologies and security concerns, combined with an overall need for network management, has made networking a hot profession. Employment of network and systems administrators is expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Individuals seeking new jobs or promotions might find favorable conditions as firms expand their networking teams.

Salaries are also trending upward, according to Robert Half’s 2007 Salary Guide. Network security administrators can expect base compensation in the range of $69,750 to $98,500 this year — up 3.7 percent from 2006. Network managers also will see strong gains, with starting salaries between $68,750 and $93,000.

Although this is a good time to be a networking professional, employers still have high expectations — they want well-rounded staff members who can relate to others and help their firms stay on top of technological trends. If you demonstrate that you have what it takes to thrive in this environment, you’ll be seen as an indispensable resource for any company.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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