As the New Year rapidly approaches, now is a good time to reflect on where you’ve been in your professional IT career and, more importantly, where you want to go. As has been well documented throughout the year, the demand for qualified IT workers has never been greater. The demand, in fact, far outpaces the supply – which has resulted in an IT skills gap (a topic we’ve previously addressed). Due to this, the opportunities for IT professionals to advance their careers have never been more abundant. However, just because employers have a need doesn’t mean they’ll hire just anyone – they’re still looking for qualified professionals. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the different ways IT professionals can advance their IT careers.
In order to advance your IT career, you’ll first need to secure a job in IT. And that’s where education comes into play. Most employers who are looking to make an IT hire are looking for candidates who have been formally trained in the discipline – even for entry-level positions. So, if an employer is looking to hire either a Developer or Programmer, for example, then they’re seeking candidates who possess degrees in either Computer Science or Computer Engineering. These degrees prove to the employer that the candidate has a background in basic IT concepts, such as algorithms and data structures.
Of course, it has been argued – and there is a growing sentiment – that possessing a degree in Computer Science should no longer be a prerequisite for a career in IT. But, whether you went to an accredited institution, or are self-trained, employers are still looking for educated and well-informed employees.
So you’ve landed a career in IT. Now what? One way to advance your professional career is by becoming professionally certified in your field. Certifications are official credentials designed to help professionals enhance their job performance and marketability in their respective fields. Becoming certified helps validate your skills and proves to employers that you’re up-to-date on all the latest trends as they relate to your specialty. For those just starting out in IT, CompTIA certifications are a great way to start and grow your IT career. You can find other, more specialized certifications by performing a simple Google search.
When all else is equal – education, certifications, years of experience, etc. – it’s the soft skills that’ll set you apart from the competition and help you advance your IT career. We find soft skills so important, in fact, that we’ve written two previous blog posts on the matter (“The Skills for IT Career Success” – Part 1 and Part 2). So, what exactly are they?
Soft skills, to put it quite simply, are interpersonal (people) skills. And in order to advance your professional IT career they are quite essential. Some examples of the more important soft skills include:
- Communication – The written and verbal ability to effectively communicate ideas with colleagues, upper management, and clients.
- Team Skills – Your ability to work well with others – whether by giving or taking instruction – and by doing so, proving your value to the team.
- Work Ethic – Possessing a strong motivation to get the job done in a timely and efficient manner.
- Enthusiasm – Displaying optimism, energy, and a passion for your work.
- Self Confidence – Having belief in your own ability and being able to ask for help when help is needed.
They key to career advancement, many times, is not what you know but who you know. And this is not unique to IT. This is true for just about every career in every industry. That’s why developing a comprehensive and robust business network is so important. Business networking is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people (or IT people) to form relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for joint ventures. Not only does networking allow you to expand your own knowledge base but it also presents a great opportunity for you to meet and network with those in your industry who can aid in furthering your career.
Tech conferences and events present an excellent opportunity for you to network with those in the IT industry. For more information, consult our previous blog post, “How to Get the Most Out of Tech Conferences and Events.”
Last but certainly not least, the best way to advance your career in IT is simply by putting in the time because there is no substitute for job experience. In fact, career advancement possibilities improve dramatically for those with over 2 years of experience in a given area. The most sought after candidates are those with 5-10 years of professional experience. If you can put in your time, and stay the course, career advancement opportunities are sure to arise.
However, your breadth of experience can enhance your career as well. While becoming a subject matter expert in your field will keep employers calling, acquiring skills and experiences that complement your specialty can also improve your long-term career advancement prospects. If you can gain a general understanding of the other roles and related technologies involved in the projects you work on, you’ll prime yourself for promotions and other career opportunities.
If you’re able to make all of the above points work together in tandem, there will be no shortage of career advancement opportunities available to you in the future.