There’s one thing that matters in any career, it's whether or not you're going to be happy doing your job. If you are, you'll be productive, and it'll show in the enthusiasm and passion you put into your work. For this reason, any discussion on career advancement needs to start by asking:
• What interests you the most?
• What are your strengths?
• What do you want from your career?
• When do you want it by?
The more truthfully you can answer these questions, the faster you'll be able to identify the steps you need to move ahead. IT is a diverse industry, and provided that you know what interests you and you have the motivation, the opportunities can be tremendous.
Setting goals will allow you to plan. Get a pen and write down what you want from your career, when you want it by, and what you’ll realistically have to do to achieve it (a little research into job requirements will help here). It may sound simplistic, but spelling this out for yourself will let you understand what you’re worth now, and what it will take to get moving.
Certification programs are the most obvious way to give your IT career a boost. A highly skilled expert with no certification is unlikely to be employed in a good company over anyone with the right certificates, simply because it gives the company peace of mind and confidence. The more current and comprehensive your certifications, the more likely you are to be in demand.
In choosing certification and specialist technical qualifications, give some consideration to where the industry is heading in the long-term. More general ‘industry-standard’ certifications will hold their relevance over a period of time, and help ensure that you don’t end up with a resume full of impressive-but-redundant qualifications.
In addition to traditional training you might also want to consider working abroad. Not only will this be a lot of fun, but it will look excellent on your CV and expose you to new opportunities and ways of thinking.
Know the business
Regardless of whether or not you aspire to overthrow the CIO, a strong understanding of basic business imperatives is important. The more you understand about the forces that affect the direction and fate of the company you work for, the more valuable your input is as a whole. If you aspire to a managerial position, training in business English, leadership or other management-related disciplines (golf probably counts) could also give you an edge.
Meet the right people
Confidence is the strongest weapon in anyone’s career arsenal, and is especially important if you want to be considered for roles where you’re responsible for the performance of others. For this reason it’s a good idea to be doing something you’re good at, and to be social.
To reinforce this point, consider the age-old jobseeker’s mantra: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. In most industries, the best jobs are traded between colleagues, friends and associates – meeting the right people is a very effective way of speeding up your IT career.
Take a chance on something big
If you have a great IT idea that hasn’t yet been capitalized upon, go and do it. Life is short, and provided that you keep a level head and listen to the right people, you’ll only lose as much as you’re willing to. And we’re all familiar with how lucrative IT start-ups can be.
The secret to fast-tracking your IT career ultimately boils down to creating the right opportunities for yourself. With a bit of careful planning, you’ll be where you want to be in no time.