Wednesday, February 04, 2009

New Year, new fundamentals in IT career

IN life we move from one phase to another. Out goes old, in comes new. New beginnings, new commitments. New season, landing that job, completing the course, getting certified, searching for work experience means new goals. In the New Year, we talk about resolutions. But new is not an end in itself. New thinking, but is there maturity in the fundamentals?

Progress in our career journey entails putting the new in the mix with the fundamentals of career growth. Is this a new time for you? Beginner in Information Technology (IT) scene? Or is it the start of the New Year? In setting fresh targets you should always consider the top five career branding and growth issues.

Don’t joke with Number One!

Whatever new targets you choose, career growth is an inside job. Information Technology is important, rewarding and challenging. Expand your mental bandwidth. Nothing limits education and effort more than a confused mind.

Self development is about puzzle solving – this requires persistence, confidence and enthusiasm. New opportunities may mean new hurdles. Never allow challenges to bully you into submission. Instead think on your feet; expect the unexpected.

So, what if you messed up? Or you’re not getting results. Learn from your experiences; focus on what you can change.

Strong internals are critical. Unfortunately believe in silver bullets, magic keys or 100 per cent guarantees. To get anything of value you must sacrifice.

Believe you can add value and believe in action rather than excuses. If number one is not okay, nobody and no new stuff can do anything for you. New or old, taking this serious is always the difference between ordinary and outstanding.

Know the why and what you are building

It’s a new day filled with activity but for what? Are you in IT just for the ride? I don’t think so. Nothing can stop purpose and action. However, new targets and intentions are not enough.

Purpose is only meaningful when you create yourself through what you do – technical and soft. Getting that software job isn’t the only thing that defines you. How do you treat other members of your team? Do you communicate to score points or to communicate? What do you actually do in the technical arena?

How will your brand new database skills provide business opportunities? New for money or for purpose? New goals that do not connect with your purpose or improve on your ability to contribute make no sense. New should be beyond immediate, tangible reward. Your activity and effort defines you. Contributor, collector or exhibitionist?

Carve Your niche
New doors to opportunity in IT often come with competition. Do you want to stand out? Then be different with a purpose. It’s easy to stay in the crowd, but status quo is for dinosaurs.

We waste energy and time concentrating only on the crowded, noisy and popular areas. Don’t allow yourself to be limited! Going beyond the obvious involves taking risks. Nobody said it would be easy. Creativity is not painless, it involves sweat. Don’t choose only the comfortable and the familiar.

Opportunity comes from meeting needs. Carve a niche in the humble and forgotten areas of value - the unusual, the unexpected and the unconventional. Are you happy being stuck in traffic - doing what everybody is doing? It’s hard to rise above mediocre levels without creativity. The new turning should make you different with a purpose. Use the new to seize the initiative in the wide ICT space.

Communicate and Be Positional
How do people feature in your new dreams? To make headway technical professionals must improve their ability to market and influence others. Communicate and justify your actions. Don’t assume. You must communicate, network and build bridges with colleagues, managers and acquaintances. People are your most important resource. – over 80% of opportunities come from personal networking effort as opposed to media or traditional advertising.

Furthermore, even if there is a need, what’s your positioning like? Looking for fish in the desert? Searching for monkeys in the ocean? Don’t make me laugh! Check your positioning. It isn’t about the perfect qualifications. Are you in the right place - a position of advantage? Although there are opportunities in all areas of IT will the new take you to a place where your strengths can produce results?

As you explore new opportunities don’t neglect professionalism. Professionalism is more than becoming an IT top gun, getting certified, or the “meal ticket” job. For example, can you be trusted? You have the skills but what image do you cultivate? Do you promise heaven only to deliver hell? Are you trustworthy, honest, responsible, supportive, law-abiding, tolerant?

A problem in IT education is that many place more priority on guarantees, grades and certificates without any real consideration for behaviour. Will you stand up for what is right, even if the crowd differs? Or is your tune “Everybody’s doing it”? Beyond knowledge and experience, are you and your interests your only agenda? Professionalism means you must go beyond yourself. New targets will have limited impact if you don’t make professionalism your priority.

I hope you’ve seen the importance of being strong in the fundamentals as you explore fresh directions in IT. To breakaway from the pack, new cannot be for the sake of new. May your new phase lead to fulfillment and fruitfulness.

*Mr. Jide Awe, CEO wrote in from Lagos.

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