Sometimes it seems like you barely have time to think when you’re in the office. If you’re like many technology professionals, you’re still feeling the effects of the recession on your job. Whether your team is smaller, resources are harder to come by or you’re doing the work of several people, the point is you’re busier than ever, and the day-to-day responsibilities of your role are just about all you can focus on.
Although it’s easy to do, falling into this type of situation can be extremely dangerous for your career. Why? Because you’re ignoring your need to continually update your skill set and continue moving forward professionally. Changes in technology and the IT industry happen quickly, so you need to make ongoing training part of your IT regiment in order to keep up to date with new trends and developments as they emerge. Ongoing training is vital if you hope to remain at the forefront of the field.
Pursuing training on an ongoing basis also can help your job security. The employment market is not the only place where companies look for individuals with the most advanced abilities — your current employer also appreciates workers who make the effort to keep their skills sharp and can help the firm remain competitive.
Perhaps most important, training helps ensure you are always prepared for the next step in your career. Learning new skills can allow you to take on additional projects and more demanding — and rewarding — assignments with your current organization. If you decide to explore job opportunities outside your firm, possessing up-do-date skills will increase your marketability.
Here’s how you can secure the training you seek:
Be proactive. Above all, it’s important to remember that you must take an active role when it comes to pursuing training opportunities. Rarely will others tell you exactly what type of professional development to pursue and how to go about doing it. Before exploring potential avenues for professional development, determine in which areas you need to strengthen your skill set. Are you struggling with .NET? Are you hoping to transition to a management position and want to develop your leadership abilities? Keep in mind that the type of training you seek should align with your current job or future career goals.
Explore internal resources. Next, find out what resources are available within your firm that would allow you to pursue your professional development goals. Even though many firms have cut back on training budgets during the downturn, don’t assume you have to go outside your company to find the support you need to engage in ongoing training. In fact, 21 percent of CIOs polled by Robert Half Technology said they plan to offer more training and professional development for their staff this year. Are there seminars, training presentations or courses available through the organization’s intranet site, for example? Also remember that many businesses provide assistance to employees by offering tuition reimbursement, subsidized membership to professional organizations or the opportunity to attend industry conferences. Speak to your manager about the internal options.
Build your case. To improve your chances of securing the support you seek, explain to your manager how training in a certain area could help you perform your job better or benefit the company. You might also note that you can share what you learned with others in the department. After attending a conference on information security, for instance, offer to host an informal brown bag lunch for colleagues who could also benefit from the information. If your manager is still not convinced, consider a compromise. For instance, you could volunteer to stay late or work through lunch to make up for time you’ll spend in training classes.
Strike out on your own. If your company is not able to support your professional development efforts, you need to do some digging to identify avenues for skill building that you can pursue on your own. Local colleges, learning centers or even the public library may offer classes in your area of interest. Professional associations also frequently host seminars by industry experts or offer training classes and certificate programs for members. And, of course, don’t forget: Should you run out of options in your neck of the woods, you’re just a few mouse clicks away from a wealth of online classes.
Remain committed. Once you enroll in a training program, don’t let the opportunity go to waste. Take things seriously and maintain your focus. If you’ve chosen to enroll in a certificate program, for instance, complete all the required steps to earn it. If you signed up for classes or workshops, attend them all. And afterward, try to identify immediate opportunities to put the new skills you’ve acquired into practice to further develop them.
Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.