There's nothing wrong with job satisfaction but feeling overly complacent may be holding you back from career advancement.
An existing IT job may hold back your career if it doesn't provide the opportunity for growth, says Peju Adedeji, career coach and advisor at IT audit training courses service Your IT CareerAcademy. “IT jobs can be very demanding, which can create a silo effect where the individual only focuses on their job without seeing the big picture outside of their existing role,” she observes. “Understanding how an IT job ultimately helps an organization meet its business goals is essential to identify other areas of opportunity and ultimately developing a career beyond the current job.”
Broadening Skill Sets
Career-stifling jobs are frequently highly specialized positions, providing few opportunities to learn new skills or broaden one's professional knowledge base. “Jobs that have little room for creativity or innovation may also limit career progression,” says Ron Delfine, executive director of career services at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College. Meanwhile, individuals who remain in the same job far too long without assuming new challenges or responsibilities may eventually find themselves in a position where their skillset has become obsolete, he adds.
Robert Hourie, a staffing specialist with IT recruitment firm Elwood Roberts, advises stagnant IT pros to examine new and interesting technologies. “Start the learning process,” he urges.
Delfine agrees. “Consider seeking additional training or certifications, taking on new responsibilities within your current job, or exploring new job opportunities within or outside of your current organization,” he suggests. “Networking with other professionals in the field can also be helpful in identifying potential career paths and opportunities for growth.”
Hourie is a strong believer in self-promotion. “Networking and speaking up in meetings are important for career progression,” he explains. “The more you highlight your work -- nearly brag about it -- the more you will get noticed.” Silence is career deafening. “If you stay quiet in the corner, like a lot of IT people do, it will pigeonhole you into a particular job.”
Taking Stock of Professional Goals
A good first step to career advancement is assessing your professional goals and building a career development plan, Adedeji advises. This requires researching promising IT jobs and determining what it will take to get to the desired new position, she says.
Failing to pursue professional development opportunities and not maintaining a current and relevant skillset are both great ways to shift a career into neutral. “This includes not keeping up with the latest industry trends and technologies, not networking with other professionals, and not pursuing additional training or education opportunities,” Delfine says. “IT professionals need to continually develop their skillsets and be aware of and learn new methods and tools that can be applied across multiple industries.”
Another mistake is spending too little or too much time in a particular role. Knowing when to stay and when to move on is a skill within itself, says Erin Goheen, vice president of technology at freight and logistics services firm XPO. “I've seen cases where job-hopping can be detrimental to one's career because it prohibits technologists from maximizing the amount of learning and skill development gained in a particular role,” she explains. “Conversely, if you’re in a role for too long and you're no longer learning and expanding your professional capabilities, other professionals who are actively growing in similar roles will pass you in their career trajectories.”
One of the biggest blunders career-minded IT pros make is believing that a copious number of certifications are needed to transition to a better job. “Many companies hire for skills not certifications,” Adedeji says. “The focus on certifications might actually prevent the individual from identifying and acquiring practical skills that companies are actually looking for in a candidate.”
Goheen recommends taking ownership of your career. “This is where professional relationships are key,” she says. “I always encourage my team to build a professional support network.”
Goheen also advises IT pros to hold candid conversations with their managers, focusing on issues that are integral to career success. “Talk about where you see yourself in one, five, and even 10 years down the road, and work with your manager to understand how you can get there,” she suggests. If you’re not having these critical conversations with your manager, and you're not provided with clear and actionable ways you can improve, seek out a mentor for advice. “You would be surprised just how many people are willing to help you if you just ask.”
Pursuing Happiness in Careers
Career satisfaction comes in many different forms. “I know people who are so happy in their roles, they wake up and go to bed delighted with life,” Hourie says. “On the flip side, I know people at the top of organizations who are miserable, stressed, and more than likely divorced at least once.” That’s why it's important to plan a career around life goals, even if it means delaying or sacrificing career advancement, he suggests. “If you don't have life goals, start to consider them.”
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