It’s Raining Work—Hallelujah!
You know the type: the IT consultant who talks about having so much work that she’s had to turn projects down, even in this market. You wonder how she does it. You tell yourself she’s probably greatly exaggerating or has an IQ of Einstein-like proportions.
However, it’s more likely this consultant knows the secret to career success: To maintain a competitive edge—and regular work—in today’s market, you have to actively develop your skills, add to your network and increase your industry knowledge.
Those consultants who are surviving and thriving are taking a proactive approach to managing their careers in both good and bad economic times. Here are a few pages from their rule book:
- Increase your marketability. The more skills and industry knowledge you have to offer potential clients, the better your chance of landing new assignments. Hardware, software and programming languages are upgraded frequently, so take advantage of training programs to enhance your expertise. You’ll want to target in-demand skills, such as Web security, Windows 2000 networking and Java programming.
- Establish a network. Developing a broad base of professional contacts is one of the most effective ways to advance your career. Consider joining university alumni groups, local business organizations, trade associations and user groups. You’ll increase your network and have more venues to market your services. Former clients are especially important as well. If you impressed them with your performance once before, they could consider you for upcoming assignments.
- Promote yourself. Showcase your talents by creating a business Web site with customized resumes that not only outline your skills, certifications and past employers, but also the business objectives you achieved. Have you helped clients reduce costs or generate new revenue streams? With increased scrutiny on return on investment, quantifiable business results can catch the attention of prospective clients. Tailor your resume to highlight the skills and achievements most relevant to a particular company and, even more specifically, a particular opportunity.
- Become business- and industry-savvy. Technical aptitude alone no longer secures back-to-back engagements. You need to be well versed on business trends, industry developments and the overall economy. You’ll learn more about how products and systems are developing by reviewing industry publications each week. Find out about national and international economic trends by reading newspapers and magazines, such as The Wall Street Journal and Forbes.
- Research potential clients. You’ll have an edge over other candidates if you understand the objectives, the challenges and the competitive landscape of potential clients. How can you contribute to the business? Do you know if and why a company’s competitor recently gained market share? Research each client company through annual reports, its corporate Web sites and any current or former employees you may know. Demonstrating your knowledge in these areas will show those in the organization that you’re specifically interested in working for them—not just any company.
- Adopt a customer-service mindset. In each assignment, be professional. Seek out opportunities not only to learn new technical skills but also to improve your interpersonal skills, management expertise and customer service abilities. By establishing yourself as a valuable worker, clients may think of you first when sourcing upcoming projects or be willing to provide references for you to other potential employers.
Aside from promoting yourself and developing your skills and network, you’ll also want to keep in mind your ultimate career goals as you accept or pursue opportunities. That way, each new project you take on supports your ultimate objectives. By securing challenging and meaningful work today, you’ll be better positioned for future projects.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in the North America and Europe, and offers online job search services at www.roberthalftechnology.com.