it-career

3 Tactics for Advancing your IT Career

Since the turn of the century there has been a growing demand for information technology services. This presents exciting opportunities for IT professionals looking to develop their careers.

Despite the industry’s inevitable progression and the fact that IT is now ingrained in every aspect of our working lives, individual advancements cannot be guaranteed, but can be fast tracked and ensured with a good plan.

Forward thinking IT managers should have a clear vision of which path they’d like their career to take, accompanied by the tactics and incremental goals that will take them there.

Read on to learn how you can:

  • Keep up to date with the latest trends and developments
  • Develop your professional network to share insights
  • Make yourself an industry leading authority in your sector

Earn new certifications:

Trends set in IT can change overnight; tech is evolving rapidly and the progression is only accelerating over time. You only need consider that the smartphone you may be reading this article on has more computational power than the Apollo Guidance Computer that landed man on the moon back in the 1969, and ENIAC, the first computer, was invented just a quarter century before that.

Even the traditional seats of learning are having to run to keep up; colleges and universities all across the country are continuing to develop a vast array of long and short courses, full-time and part-time, led by industry practitioners. These courses cover everything from cyber security and office systems to advanced coding and programming.

Online platform based learning has also seen a spike in popularity, allowing access to training and resources for those that wish to learn in their own time in a remote location. Treehouse is a popular choice, with “over 1000 videos created by expert teachers on web design, coding, business and much more”. US based not-for-profit Codecademy boasts over 25 million users from around the globe, and their resources are entirely free to access. Resources vary from coding languages like advanced HTML and Ruby on Rails to business tutorials on corporate structure, finances and marketing, all of which will be valuable skills to develop and showcase when attempting to elevate your position within a company.

A study conducted by Brainbench in Chantilly, VA, revealed that certifications are a bankable asset for IT professionals; those with certifications are significantly more likely to receive salary increases above the industry average of up to 3 percent. Further, according to the 2012 Learning Survey by Niace, the adult learning organisation, there's a strong correlation between learning and sustained employment. Staff who undertake learning activities are better able to adapt to the changing requirements of an organisation and gain a competitive edge in the job market. With such a wide variety of IT specific certification and qualifications available, it is worth taking the time to research and consider further training to improve your career prospects.

Expand your Network

Networking can be an essential weapon in your arsenal. Putting yourself on the radar as a representative of your company is a fantastic way to interact with people that you might not otherwise speak to and can open up a lot of new opportunities that many people, regardless of industry, ignore due to the constraints of their job. Don’t be a prisoner of your office and find yourself shackled to your desk. Networking will give you an invaluable chance to practice your social and professional interaction. Many people lose touch of these skills and networking is a very effective way to stay sharp.

Networking events can expose you to new ideas and new thinking and exist in both traditional and untraditional formats. We are all aware of the giants, like Infosecurity Europe who brought together 15,614 information security professionals from over 80 different countries for their 2015 event but there are a number of other options. Signing up to resources like Tech London Advocates will keep you in the loop on some of the country’s biggest and best networking events, keeping you informed with regular news. However, there are also more informal meet ups held which can be found through resources like meetup.com.

It’s worth investigating networking in your area to develop your professional contacts locally.  If there is little available in terms of quality and substance near to you, perhaps consider taking the reins by organising your own event. Invite your social media contacts and others within your professional circle, line up expert speakers, and practice public speaking yourself, positioning yourself as an authoritative voice in your local area.

^^ I’d like to rework this section to ‘Attend events’, where we delete the paragraphs in yellow and create new paragraphs related to the new header. On reflection, having purely networking (in the ‘connecting to new people’ sense rather than the ‘technology sense’) doesn’t feel like the commercially sensible point to try and push home on our first blog, especially when we’re talking about an IT Manager organising their own event (traditionally, more of a marketing remit on IT’s behalf and corporation’s budget wouldn’t go on this). I think if we hone this section in to events in general, and speak about the IT Manager attending events to hear about new technologies, get case studies, think about how to adopt those for their own organisations, understand new topics of research, and speak to other like-minded tech professionals, this section should cover more ‘weight’ with our community.

Attend Events:

Networking events can expose you to new ideas and new thinking and exist in both traditional and untraditional formats. We are all aware of the giants, like Infosecurity Europe who brought together 15,614 information security professionals from over 80 different countries for their 2015 event but there are a number of other options. Signing up to resources like Tech London Advocates will keep you in the loop on some of the country’s biggest and best networking events, keeping you informed with regular news. However, there are also more informal meet ups held which can be found through resources like meetup.com.

Events offer an engaging and interactive forum for product and innovation discovery. Many keynote speakers will engineer their presentations around their own offering or businesses expertise. Some brands also use events for product launches. Very often, product launches will present a unique opportunity to explore and sample the latest innovations, platforms, technologies and products set to affect either business in general or specific industry verticals. With this in mind, events can present an interesting opportunity for you to learn from and ask questions of those at the forefront of emerging technology. This information can help you to develop a robust business case for the adoption of a product or service once you return to the office.

One of the core teaching methods that further education programmes often harness is the use of case studies. Event speakers also regularly use successful and historical examples within their organisation to demonstrate their key presentation takeaways. While general technology/IT events are likely to present some interesting food for thought, actionable tips and advice relevant to your career are most likely to stem from a more focussed event around your industry vertical. Niche events will also allow you to have detailed and concentrated conversations with those who not only understand IT challenges and opportunities, but also industry specific news and pain points.

Become an Authority

By positioning yourself within the right networks, and keeping ahead of developing trends, you can place yourself as an authoritative voice within your sector. There are a great number of ways you can set yourself apart from the crowd as an industry expert.

Mentoring, whether inside or outside the workplace, on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting, is an effective way to share your wisdom, gain exposure and earn professional credibility. Public speaking is an excellent way to deliver mentorship to a wider demographic and become a recognised face.

While very little can trump the impact of physically being in a room face to face with an audience, having an online presence is also essential to widening your reach. Maintaining a regularly updated blog to positively associate yourself with great content is an effective and time efficient tactic.  

Online networking platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are further useful tools for gaining exposure. Posting useful content and information will ensure that you will quickly gain recognition and a reputation for being an engaging and valuable contact, positioning you as a thought leader in your sector.

The key point to remember is that patience is a virtue. Improving and furthering your career is a lifelong endeavour and things won’t happen overnight. However, remember that adding to your existing expertise, putting yourself on the map and taking the opportunities available to you to make a lasting impression on your company and in your sector will all contribute towards furthering your career.

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