Staying on Top of the Heap
In this age of downsizing, merging and acquiring, IT professionals are expected to do more and more work for the same amount of pay with a frequently dwindling line of support personnel and resources. In the ever-expanding scope of global business, this is not an unfamiliar situation for many professions, but IT seems to bear a considerable brunt of the stress of these increased work loads, because nearly all business transactions and operations taking place today depend heavily on technology.
Mastering our busy schedules with their myriad tasks and responsibilities requires a certain level of organization, and so does staying on top of the career ladder. Staying on top is a continuous task not unlike pursuing various forms of higher education. IT professionals must continually educate themselves in order to stay abreast of the latest technology changes and advances.
This is one reason that certifications have value. Essentially, they prove that you are capable of operating in a specific technology area at a beginning, intermediate or advanced level, and because most certifications require renewal, which entails refresher or additional course work, skills continually evolve.
Working to stay on top of the career heap means devoting yourself to continuous education in the form of certification and other academic pursuits as well as learning and applying a host of tricks and tips with regard to professionalism, relationship management, interpersonal skill development, life/work balance and potential leadership skills. I discuss different aspects of these things in this blog, but along with vigilantly monitoring and analyzing your current state of work affairs, there is a need to forecast where you will be or would like to be career-wise in the future. This means looking up and out across the IT landscape to see what areas of technology offer growth opportunities, evaluating whether or not those areas have any appeal for you, and then determining how best to meet your new goals once they’ve been established.
What will the new position look like day-to-day? What new skills and tools will it require? How will you acquire them? What sacrifices in time and money are necessary to achieve certification? Is certification necessary? How long will it take you to achieve your goals, and in that time how might things change? If things do change, how will you adapt? What professional organizations, certifications will aid your mission? (The cover story in June CertMag offers a few hints on job-role certifications that may impact your future.) What mentors or professional resources can you count on for support?
I often work ahead and plan for non-immediate deadlines. This is relatively easy since I have an extremely organized editor who provides me with a detailed assignment sheet complete with topics, deadlines and other pertinent information so that I can focus on gathering sources, writing, interviewing etc. Not everyone is blessed with this type of boss, but not many supervisors mind you stopping in or scheduling time to speak with them about your future with the company.
If you’re a hard worker in good standing, meaning you’ve made significant contributions or at least have not made significant and/or costly mistakes, come in on time and all that other good stuff, talking about your future prospects within your current organization is usually encouraged. Doing so serves a two-fold mission. One, that type of conversation can clearly outline your options, potentially illuminating whether you do indeed have a future at the company, and what direction that future could take. Two, a conversation with a senior leader can provide you with advice and direction on your options. You may even learn some things about your boss that will empower the relationship or shed light on any dark spots that you’re experiencing. Later on this week, I’ll give you a few hints on how to initiate conversations with the boss while not sweating profusely from nervousness and/or falling dumb with fright.