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Guide to Technology Career Development

The business world keeps changing even more rapidly today than at any point in the past. Not surprisingly, these changes and the associated uncertainties and impacts are felt directly in the workplace. There's a demand for greater productivity and adaptability, and the ability to keep up skilling and re-skilling oneself in response to changes in technology. You may work with a great team and you may love your job, but it's also important that technology professionals like yourself understand and act on your career progression so that you are able to keep pace with the demands of these changes.

What is Career Development?

Guide to Technology Career Development

A lot of people get so immersed in the daily bustle of their work lives that they sometimes neglect to step back every now and then, and look at the bigger picture of their careers and where they are heading.

Thomas G. Gutteridge, the author of Organizational Career Development, defines career development as

"outcomes of actions on career plans as viewed from both individual and organizational perspectives".

From an employer’s perspective, it is important to build and retain a workforce that collectively maintains the capabilities and competence that are required to survive in an increasingly turbulent business environment. A good career development system gives the organization a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining the best talent.

From the individual’s perspective, a career development plan acts as a tool to achieve his or her career objectives, such as higher pay, job growth, meeting certain work targets etc. And it doesn’t end there. Career development is a continuous process that forms the individual’s professional identity.

Career development is a significant component of human development and can span an entire lifetime. The process often starts right from childhood when one aspires to adopt a vocation or a profession, pursues studies towards it and progresses towards exploring career opportunities upon graduation. Once the individual begins working regular training and mentoring are required to perform effectively and to keep growing and advancing his or her career.

Why is career development important for technology professionals?

In this 21st century, employers are increasingly offering less formal training for many reasons. One is the inability to afford the time and costs of imparting training, and another is the fear that the investment in training may be wasted because of employees leaving more frequently. What was once considered to be an important and necessary part of workforce management is not always given as high a priority any more.

With the explosion of online learning and self-development opportunities available, many organizations are leaving it to employees to fill the gaps in their skills themselves. Managers, who would earlier be expected to help their teams with their career development may be totally focused only on achieving business results, and in maintaining their own job security.. They may not have either the time or the energy to focus on others. According to a survey conducted by Korn Ferry on managerial skills, “developing others” came last in the skills rating.

Ideally, organizations should help foster their employees’ career development as a part of a professional performance management system that includes communicating clear performance criteria, providing continuous feedback on the job, identifying skill improvement opportunities and providing resources and incentives for employee career development. In reality, though, this does not always happen, and so it’s up to the employee to think beyond his or her current job and to the next promotion they could be aiming at. For this reason, it falls on the employee to learn how to identify his or her professional strengths and weaknesses, uncover gaps, and strengthen his or her skills. One needs to be able to periodically look ahead at the longer term. Even as one keeps moving up the organization ladder, building a richness of experience and acquiring new skills should continue to be be on the priority list in order to add value to one’s career.

Factors that influence career development

Several factors and the interactions between them can influence your career growth and development. Here are few of them which are relevant in the current time.

  • Organizational and personal skills: Tech professionals often tend to work alone, doing things by themselves. They may lack the social skills and soft skills that are important to moving up the ladder. While maintaining core vocational skills, one also needs to develop and demonstrate additional traits along the way, such as diplomacy and negotiating skills, taking ownership, delegating effectively, and leading teams. Those who don’t develop such skills, may be great specialists, but can be very bad bosses or managers.
  • Career Growth prospects in current job/role: You may be doing a job that pays well, but doesn’t offer opportunities to progress. The dotcom boom gave birth to many roles such as HTML developers in the early 2000s. These developers had expertise in only HTML and CSS and carried on with just those skills for at least 10 years. . Due to significant changes in the programming landscape since then, many other programmers started to include HTML and CSS as additional skills, and this led to a decline in demand for pure HTML developers. This is an example of why one needs to continuously evaluate one’s own skills and consider progressing as the market changes.
  • Short of skills required for progression: Technology keeps evolving every day and so all tech professionals have to continuously upgrade their skill sets in order to progress in their careers. Those who don’t upgrade their skills risk losing opportunities when shortages of new skills arise. As in the previous example about HTML, developers who learned other scripting languages like JavaScript went to progress their careers into web development. Every tech professional needs to identify the skills required for to progress his or her career to the next role and start working on it at the right time so he or she can stay relevant and eventually achieve their career goals.
  • Continuous Learning: Acquiring new skills through online learning has become the trend of the day. Employers today value experience over qualification, so it’s not always necessary to think about pausing work to study for a university diploma in a new skill area. A starting graduation is almost always required, but once a career gets going it’s useful to look towards short online course that can be done at one’s own convenience to acquire new knowledge and skills as and when needed.

How to take control of your career development

Career Development is all about YOU—your goals, your needs, your gaps and your desires. Though it is ideal to have a supervisor play an important role in career development, it’s the employees who have to ultimately take charge and do what it takes to prove themselves, asking for what they need, and moving forward.

Tech professionals who take full ownership and control of the direction their career is heading in are almost always the ones that enjoy career success. Instead of waiting for someone to tell them about what they need to do, they proactively work with the information available to them and use it to their benefit to build successful careers. So what exactly does one need to do?

Here are some tips that you can apply to your career.

  • Identify your career goals. If you don’t know where you are going, then it’s hard to get to a destination. Set a career goal and start working toward it. Your goals may change as you keep progressing and achieving them, and that’s ok, but stay focused on your career development. Your career goals will guide you in the right direction.
  • Develop a plan. Once you’ve formed your career goals, you need to create a plan, either short-term or long-term, to achieve them. Having a plan sets up a firm path and keeps you motivated. Document your steps as you work towards achieving your career goals. Steps may be flexible as things change in life, and plans need to be altered to suit your reality, but always retain your career goals in sight. They will help you stay focused in your efforts and keep you on the right path.
  • Find a Mentor. Successful people always have a mentor. Find someone who has more experience in your field of work and whose career has taken a path that appeals to you. Their perspectives and advice can be invaluable. They can help you identify the right skills to acquire, prioritize the steps in your plan of action, and give you honest feedback that you can trust. Finding a mentor may be easy, but it’s quite challenging to find one that has the right expertise and who will be as committed as you are towards your career development.
  • Acquire the skills that you need. Having set your career aspirations and discussed them with you mentor, draw up a list of skills you need to improve upon or acquire to reach your career goals. If you still don’t know what they are, ask your mentor for inputs, or find tools that will help you identify them. Once you have identified those skills, determine what training or resources you may need to see progress.
  • Job Shadowing. If you are not sure about a particular role and have multiple options for career progression, job shadowing is an inexpensive way to gain more knowledge about the options you want to pursue. Job shadowing enables you to understand the nuances of a particular job, and the key deliverables by observing an employee performing it. Job shadowing often happens in every organization when onboarding a new employee.
  • Work on your blind spots. Feedback on your KPI achievement helps you understand how you performed. If you have not achieved your KPS in certain areas, you will know what you need to work upon. Try initiating a conversation with your manager or peers to get their opinion about your work, look for their feedback. If you don’t get any feedback from your employer, do your own honest, introspective evaluation and think about how you can improve. The onus of career development is ultimately always on the employee, and the employer can only help with resources and feedback.
  • Seek and discuss opportunities. If your company has a got a new project and you think you are best person to be on the project team, ask for it. Speak to your manager and let him or her know how important an experience it could be for you. Doing that will also help communicate your areas of interest, initiatives you’d like to take, and most importantly, it will provide you the opportunity to prove yourself.
  • Network. Building strong relationships with key stakeholders, both internal/external are an integral part of taking control of your career. Try to develop a network of potential references among those who are acquainted with your current or could help you when you apply to a future workplace. Participate in industry events, discussion forums and network with relevant professionals using social networks. The larger your network, the more people you will have who can vouch for you, and provide you with referrals or recommendations as you travel along in your career path.
  • If the job does not fit your career aspirations, move on. Job fit is critical for your career success. If you think that the job you are currently in is no longer a good fit for you, it’s recommended that you move on and find a better one. Life is too short and your career is even shorter for you to compromise and work in a job that you don’t enjoy. Look at every job as an opportunity to learn something that is new and in line with your career aspirations. Sometimes your job may require you to do multiple things that don’t help you in your career progression, and that’s when it’s best to do a review of your KPI achievement. If you think your KPIs are being negatively affected by work that’s not in line with your career progression it’s time to speak to your manager. Not all managers may be supportive in the career development of their staff, and if that’s the case it makes it even clearer that you should move on and find a better opportunity.

Key resources for tech professionals for planning your career development

If you have reached till this point, it shows your determination to develop your career. We have discussed about how to take control of your career development. Here are few resources that can help you find the right information you need.

  • Exploring your career options: The first step to development is about knowing where you want to go and finding out how the current job helps you in achieving your career aspirations. If you aren’t sure on where you want to go, explore career options from your current role and decide based on what you want to do in life. Create a career path on MyTechlogy and you shall see career path options for you.

    To explore your career path options, click here to create your career path.

  • Identifying skill required for progression: It is hard to know what skills can help you grow and prioritizing which skill to focus on can be challenging. As part of the career insights offered at MyTechlogy, its intelligent algorithm not only identifies the skills employers demand for in your role, but orders them based on priority, so that you know what you need to focus on and start working on it.

    Click here to find out the skills required for your career progression now!

  • Tracking market demand for your skills: You may be coming across blogs/articles form reputed media firms on top skills that are in demand. Don’t be dejected if you don’t find your skills in the list. Your skills may still be in demand. To know their demand and track their movement on periodic basis, MyTechlogy helps you with it. The demand and predictive analysis provided shall help you focus on skills that can help you grow in your career.

    Click here to track the demand for your IT skills now!

  • Finding a Mentor: Getting a mentor is one of the most valuable and effective career development strategy you should opt for. The guidance, motivation and support of a experienced and trusted mentor can provide you a broad range of personal and professional benefits, which ultimately lead to improved performance in the workplace. At MyTechlogy, we have taken away all your pain of identifying mentors who are willing to help you in your career progression. You have the flexibility to choose mentors from almost all areas of expertise across 24 different countries. Choose a mentor, book an appointment and get career advice. It’s that simple!

    Click here to find a mentor and get career advice now!

  • Finding opportunities: Opportunities don’t come knocking; you have to grab it when they are available. In an era where the numbers of opportunities are less and the talent is widely available, it’s about being at the right place in the right time. MyTechlogy helps you save time and do the tracking of right and relevant opportunities for you at one place. So you don’t have to browse multiple websites for job opportunities. The predictive engine understands your career goals, opportunities you are interested in and suggests jobs on daily basis, so you don’t miss on any opportunity.

    Click here to Search IT jobs now!

  • Preparing for interviews: No progression is complete until you see yourself moving into the new role, whether it is internal or external. Moving up the career ladder within the same organization may be smooth; you may not have to go through interview process. But if you are looking to switch jobs, then it is better you prepare for your interviews beforehand, because the competition is very high and only one person is selected at the end. MyTechlogy help you not only with the interview questions but with the capabilities that employers expect for the role you are getting interviewed for.

    Click here to Try Interview Guidance now!

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Finalist at HR Vendor of the Year 2015 Awards under the category Best Talent Management Software
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