How to fast-track your IT career

As a graduate no one gives you a guide on how to navigate your career, this is especially true in the rapidly evolving field of technology. The technologies, the players, and the skills that are needed change fast, it’s therefore down to you and you only to constantly explore, learn, and succeed – a process that will help you discover the career path that works best for you.

Take charge of your IT career, no one else will - harsh – yes, but it’s the truth. Having a good manager to learn from, and having a relevant network to call upon, will help you develop and hone your IT skills, but at the end of the day it’s up to you to explore, learn and succeed. Make it meaningful and make it challenging!

Most of the time there is no true career ladder to climb as we are all individuals that need to find our own career path. By adapting the explore, learn and succeed approach you will grow and develop your own initiative as well as your career goals because if you aren’t growing within IT you will very soon become obsolete.

The career fast-track equation: [Experience + Learn = Grow]

When we start our careers, we all have zero expertise. In this early career phase, we all make mistakes, fail, and even let our employers and co-workers down. Unfortunately, as adults, we hate to fail. As a result, some of us start to avoid new experiences. We play it safe, only doing things that will guarantee approval and success. This is exactly the point in which a person's career growth can slow down.

The tech industry – a journey of constant discovery

This industry is exciting, doesn’t stand still and is a journey of constant discovery. Whether you choose to up-skill or top-up your certifications, employers will see that you have paid attention to industry trends and taken the initiative to continuously develop. So, if you work in infrastructure, try and get exposure to cloud technology. If you are a Developer, use online resources such as Stack Overflow and Github to build your profile, personal brand and network.

IT demands you regularly update your skill set

IT is fast-paced, so avoid becoming obsolete and keep developing your skill set. As new coding languages and frameworks regularly come into play, create time to personally review and ask yourself if you are keeping up with industry trends.

Make sure you have a personal development plan

Always looks ahead to get a picture of the skills you need now and those that you will need in the near future. this could be based on work projects, industry predictions, advances in technology. Most importantly, be self-sufficient in getting the training you need to continuously evolve your IT skill set.

Network your tech career

Networking is key to advancing your tech career. Attending hackathon's and meetup's to get together with like-minded people and showcasing your skills can by a real eye opener in checking where others are at, where your unique selling points lie, and getting to know more about people’s specialist skills. Combining this makes for cultivating a strong professional network that you can stay in touch with and learn from, as well as enabling you to put yourself forward for work that excites you.

Experience counts

As technology continues to rapidly evolve, jobs in IT can make for a seriously exciting career. Jeremy Kurt, now President of HDI worked on an IT Helpdesk for 7 years, followed by a stint as an Information Systems Manager. The experience he gained as a technician gave him enough insights into common tech problems and call centre trends to move into a managerial role. Similarly, gaining enough trust and having multiple areas of experience was a fast-track to becoming a director (source: Monster). 

A checklist to fast-track your IT career to achieve C-suite status:

  • Know what you want from your IT career – do you want a career, money, high-level position, training and development – consider each of these points to create stepping stones towards your career goals.
  • Set specific IT career goals – a list will do. This will help determine the steps that need to be taken for you to achieve both long-term career objectives and milestones along the way.
  • Pace yourself - in addition to setting clear goals, make sure the timelines are realistic. You don’t want to end up feeling overwhelmed, which is very easy within tech. Make sure you can continue to work efficiently and accurately. It makes no sense to overwork yourself and produce poor outputs.
  • Learn from other IT specialists – network, managers, colleagues - observe and take notes from those in positions you admire, so you can see how much effort and time will be required from you in the future. Find a mentor, a sponsor or someone in a senior level IT position you can learn from and develop a relationship with.
  • Learn what new tools you will need - research education, certifications or experience required to achieve success and keep pace with the ever-changing world of tech. Knowledge is power.
  • Gain an industry perspective - know where your organisation/industry is going and understand what you can contribute to make your team more successful. Make sure your manager sees you as an asset — someone necessary to the success of the business.
  • Take on more IT leadership roles - don’t be afraid to ask for more. Being assertive and proactive will show that you are able to lean in and take on more. In addition, a more challenging workload will teach you how to manage your time efficiently.
  • Contribute to solving your manager’s or the company’s IT problems - a great way to get noticed. Step up to the mark, go above and beyond what’s expected of you. Get to know your manager’s style, help them achieve their goals and ensure they have your best interests at heart too.
  • Own your mistakes and learn from them - admitting you’re wrong can be difficult, but the first step to both personal and professional growth within IT is taking responsibility for your mistakes. Once you’re able to admit your mistakes out loud, it can take courage to actively consider how you can improve the next time a similar event takes place.
  • Find an executive sponsor who believes in you - seek out a senior leader in the business you sincerely resonate with, reach out and start a relationship with them, let them know your IT career aspirations and how you feel they will be able to assist. Being direct about what it is you’re hoping to gain is often the best way to finding out whether it will be a worthwhile relationship.
  • Network - no one wants to hear networking is a part of the plan, but we all know it can’t be ignored. It’s like brushing your teeth. The beauty of a good network is that these people are usually objective and often have your best interests at heart. Tap into this resource early and often, and you’ll have a perpetual career counsellor at your fingertips.
  • Maintain confidence and accountability - remain confident in your IT abilities and believe in yourself. Don’t give up. Perform monthly accountability checks to make sure you are completing your goals and are still on the right path to career success

A final thought…

Finally, when looking at successful people you will realise that their success wasn’t achieved overnight. Many of those that have built thriving businesses or achieved C-suite positions will tell you that it takes years of hard work and long hours to achieve your career targets. So, whether it’s a specific role, company or promotion you’re after, if you set yourself goals and are eager to achieve them as swiftly as possible you will – believe in yourself!

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