IT pros may wonder what they can do to advance their careers. One of the first things to understand, is that your career is in your own hands. The future of your career will be based on the preparations and actions you take as a working professional. Some of these opportunities will be easier than others, but the key is you own your future.
1. Find Your Path
I am a strong believer that managers and leaders don’t advance careers. There may be some that disagree, but I believe managers and leaders should provide a path with the resources, opportunities, guidance, support and catered development for personal and professional growth to get you to the next level. That said, it’s your responsibility to take that path.
There are opportunities for career advancement everywhere. To foster growth, you need to take on new challenges and experiences. These opportunities may be found within your current organization or with a new one.
2. Capitalize on Your Best Characteristics
As a hiring manager for IT pros, there is a mix of contextual skills I look for when I hire. Of course, I’m looking for the hard skills; the technical skills required for a particular position and the aptitude to grow those skills and cultivate new ones.
I’m also looking for professional skills: communication, organization analytical abilities and creativity. However, what really drives career growth is certain character traits.
I find candidates who have the following character traits tend to have better success at career advancement:
- Curiosity: Being curious means you open your mind to the discovery of new things. A curious mind lends to understanding things at a deeper level, hopefully leading to continuous learning.
- Passion: Quite simply, passion is a love for what you do and the drive to want to learn more and to improve. With passion, I’d hope to see dedication and discipline to your area of concentration.
- Initiative: Taking initiative is big for managers to gauge your abilities and help the team and organization to keep moving.
- Self-Motivation: Being self-motivated and driven is its own reward system. When you’re motivated by your passion, dedication and curiosity you become an effective and valuable asset.
- Anticipation/Prediction: It’s never good enough to know where things currently stand. You have to know where you need to be. Having the foresight and intuition to build upon knowledge and research will allow you to understand this.
- Critical Thinking/Judgement: Being able to ask the right questions, making wise decisions and filling in gaps with incomplete data or ambiguity is extremely valuable to technology employers.
- Collaboration: Some people work better individually, and others work better in a team setting. Either way, being able to collaborate effectively ensures everyone is on the same page and has the information they need to attain goals to be successful.
- Continuous Learning/Development: The skills gap is one of the biggest issues I see.In my experience, the IT pros that tend to advance the most are those who continuously improve their skill sets to stay up to date on current skills and to learn new and emerging technologies, frameworks and processes.
In my experience, people exhibiting these traits are the ones that get where they want to be in their careers. If you’re ambitious, these traits likely feed into your ambition, allowing for continued progress and success.
3. Fight the Urge to Be Complacent
But there are other things to consider. One inhibitor to career advancement I’ve often seen are individuals who seem to think that career growth in based on tenure. Or people that believe status quo is the way to go. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Regardless of the role or position you hold in your organization, there isn’t any reason to forego growth and development. At the very least, you should be maintaining current skills – if not adding new skills – to your arsenal. Even if you’re satisfied with your current role, you still need professional development. Technology and innovation change in a blink of an eye. Being complacent can breed laziness. Once you hit that mindset, your value to the organization plummets.
Taking a self-inventory can prevent that from happening. Ask yourself these questions periodically throughout your career:
- Am I only performing adequately for my role, or am I performing at a higher level?
- Am I being proactive in continuously improving myself and what I do in my role?
- Am I taking initiative, or am I waiting to be told what to do or how to do it?
- Am I proactively learning new skills that are directly or indirectly related to my role?
- Am I striving to be the best at my current role?
- Am I adding value beyond my scope of work? Do I bring added value to my organization? My colleagues? My team?
4. Look for (and Accept) Feedback
Being proactive means understanding what your role entails, and how you interact with those around you, from your peers on up to management. It’s essential to learn how your management and organization work to anticipate and provide information and necessary actions.
A great way to start this process is by looking for a mentor. Your mentor can be someone inside or outside of your organization. Not everyone can find a mentor that meets their needs, but don’t let that be a barrier. There are other ways to get feedback.
Seek guidance, leadership or just sanity-check your abilities and thought process by joining associations, attending conferences and webinars, and joining groups to meet and engage with a network of fellow IT professionals. This can help you gain some of the information and feedback you were looking for from a mentor.
5. Make Yourself an Asset
Businesses and IT often need to recalibrate to true north, as we have seen in the past year. It’s this continuous recalibration that will now be needed moving forward. If you’re open to change, you will be an asset to any organization.
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