Who Sailed Through the Recession and Why?

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As the economy improves and corporations begin to expand their IT departments, it’s useful to look at who survived the recession and what made them successful. While no employee is “irreplaceable,” some IT professionals have made themselves extremely valuable to their organizations. So valuable, in fact, that they have become tough to replace, and their employers will do almost anything to keep them. Often it appears as if these people naturally have all the attributes for success, but the truth is that these skills can be developed by anyone willing to take the initiative.

Advance Your Technical Skills
For most IT professionals, working with constantly changing technologies can be an invigorating aspect of the job, but it can also be challenging. It takes a sustained effort to stay current with technical advances, yet it’s essential to your career.

To stay current with your industry’s innovations, consider becoming certified in a specific technology. In fact, in a Robert Half Technology survey of 470 consultants, an overwhelming 83 percent said that technical certification was essential for career advancement. Another choice might be to learn a new technology on your own. For instance, if you’d like to program in Java or XML, download a developer’s kit or borrow one from the library, then teach yourself. Frequently, user groups or industry organizations also offer resources to keep you up to date on the latest programs, languages and software. Another option might be to enroll in an online course. Check in with your employer to see if educational reimbursements are available.

Enhance Your Soft Skills
The most successful IT professionals possess more than technical aptitude. Their interpersonal skills play an integral role in their ability to advance their careers and take on new responsibilities.

In another survey from our firm, 1,400 CIOs from companies with more than 100 employees said the most important soft skills for an IT candidate to possess were: interpersonal skills (35 percent); ability to work under pressure (26 percent); written or verbal communication skills (20 percent); business acumen (12 percent); and professional image (4 percent).

And don’t forget to maintain a sense of humor. Peak workloads can put interpersonal skills to the test, but a little laughter can break the tension. This can improve your relationships with other team members and play a role in gaining advancements.

Develop a ‘Can-Do’ Attitude
To advance your career, you need to be focused, motivated and productive. Not only does this kind of professional grace under pressure help you persevere in any economic climate, it also enhances your value to your company. Employers place a premium on individuals who perform at consistently high levels, regardless of the ups and downs of business.

Establish yourself as a reliable source of insightful, educated suggestions. One way to develop this skill is to propose solutions to problems, even if they’re outside your scope of duties. Volunteering to lead or participate in a committee or work group can also increase your visibility and create a favorable impression on your manager. Another way is to stay abreast of IT developments that might help the company cut costs or operate more efficiently and then share this information with team members.

Improve Your Organizational Skills
Technology professionals will always be strapped for time. However, if you develop sound time-management and productivity-boosting strategies, you’ll be better equipped to take charge of your day.

Conduct a time-management audit. Keep a daily log over the course of five working days, carefully tracking how long it takes to accomplish each task. Then, analyze your time-usage patterns. Next, draw up a daily plan by mapping your priorities at the beginning of the day. Try to cluster work duties that require similar efforts or resources into the same time frame. For example, it may be more productive to perform Internet research for three software projects during a single block of time. Another way to improve organization is to control distractions. During busy periods, use your voice-mail to screen calls and close your door to improve your focus.

Enhance Your Effectiveness
There are no guarantees of job security in today’s work environment. Enhancing your effectiveness through improved soft and technical skills is the best preventive measure you can take. In the process, you’ll also open the door to more responsibility and greater job satisfaction, making you the valued employee your organization wouldn’t want to be without.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology (www.roberthalftechnology.com), a leading provider of IT professionals for various initiatives with more than 100 locations in North America and Europe.


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