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Career Planning: Its all about Attitude!

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Career planning is the first step for success with your career. Unfortunately, many professionals are not in control of their careers as they simply watch their careers unfold, not knowing how they will attain their career goals or what they want to achieve. Career planning is never too late. IT Managers, Professionals, trainees, newcomers or Chief Information Officers (CIO) all need to take a look into the future.

An “I-don’t-care” or “anything goes” approach won’t allow you to reach your potential. You and other professionals have a choice; you can decide to take control of your career through planning and by taking wise decisions based on these plans. Don’t let your career happen! Make your career happen! Clearly you need to be self-motivated with a relatively clear sense of who and what you want to be.

Too many people focus on Certification and other career tools without any consideration for career growth. Training, Certification and work experience should only be considered within the context of your unique, individual career development plan. The issue of certification comes only after you have a realistic career development plan in place. So what does having a career development plan entail?

Assessment

A career development plan requires what I term as career self assessment and career situation assessment. What do I mean by career self-assessment? Career self-assessment requires to you ask and answer questions that relate to your career expectations. You must ask yourself the questions: What sort of working life do you want? What type of work or activity makes you happy? What are your career goals? What are your ambitions, personal or lifestyle preferences? In terms of career satisfaction what is important to you? It is essentially about the direction you want your life to go.

Generally, the areas you should consider are: Nature of work, Work interests, Recognition, Security, Income (Salary and benefits), Personal / Family life, Opportunities for growth and Responsibility. Simply put what would give you career satisfaction in each of these areas? Which areas are of top priority, which are unimportant, which are you indifferent to? Through this you can identify IT jobs / environments that interest you. (http://www.jidaw.com/myitcareer.html). Use reliable resources available to help you learn more about your areas of interest.

You may need to write down your professional short- and long-term goals. Be descriptive and edit them over and over until you are sure these goals are what you desire.

A valuable career self-assessment is one that is honest. Lying to yourself will not help. Understand, and be happy, with what you want to do.

Next you need to do what I would call a career situation assessment. What is your current career situation? What stage are you at your career? What is your current situation with respect to your work or profession? Are you in a job that meets your ideal situation? If you are out of work, what is your background? Are you self-employed? Or are you a student? Again you must use the criteria you used for your career self-assessment to assess your current career status. Are you currently meeting your expectations in terms of Nature of work, Security, Income (Salary and benefits), Personal / Family life, Opportunities for growth, Responsibility, etc? This involves assessing your current skills and experience to identify what you must learn, or experience you need to acquire to excel. What practical knowledge do you have? How relevant are your present skills and experience to your goals?

Which areas require improvement? It must be pointed out at this juncture that certification or training is not the solution to all your career limitations. Some career shortcomings cannot be solved through certification. Since you know your career goals it should be easy for you to identify your career gaps.

Closing the Career Gap

The next step is therefore what you must do is to address these career gaps or shortcomings.

So how do you actually reach your career goal? You need to be focused. Deciding on a particular profession or job is only half the task. More simply put, it is time to develop a step-by-step plan. As stated earlier, the essence of a career plan is knowing what you want and determining how to get it.

I advise that you consider these career-planning issues:

1. Choose the steps (i.e., decisions and actions) that you will take to achieve your career goals. What are the common steps that other people have taken to prepare for and to enter the particular area of IT you have chosen? Your career should be a series of calculated steps that lead to an end result. There may be more than one path to reach your goal, but which is the right path for you?

Invest in yourself. These actions and decisions may include training, certification, formal education, work experience or internship. Some cases require a change of attitude, job, location or work environment. Consider these steps carefully and choose the ones that you believe will work for you. You may also choose steps that are entirely unique to you as long as you are sure they will get you to your destination. The decision on what these steps are and where they will ultimately lead to is uniquely yours. You must own the process; set a course and stick with it.

2. Most of the time when we look at IT careers we focus only on opportunities and demand. To succeed you have to consider the challenges and obstacles you might encounter as you attempt to reach your career goal. Don’t avoid challenges. But which resources can you muster to overcome each obstacle?

3. Time to achieve your goals is a serious issue you must consider. You need to have a means of measuring your progress. Since the career planning is done using a step-by-step approach, how long should it take you to complete each step you have identified?

4. It is not enough to identify the steps you are going to take, you must also decide on the step-by-step process you will take to achieve your ultimate career goal. In which order will you pursue your career plan? Set your priorities. The order you follow is often determined by opportunities and resources available to you.

5. Implement your Career Advancement preferences. It is not enough to plan you must follow through. Implement your career plan based on the (1)-(4).

What these 5 points emphasize is that it is absolutely critical that you realize career planning involves doing an in-depth industry / career analysis with your career needs in mind. It is not only about decision-making but also about gathering career information in a wise and purposeful manner.

In considering these points, it helps to talk to human resources personnel, career planners, academic/career counselors and employment agencies that hire people in your area of IT. Talk to people who have worked, or are currently working in the IT career you’re considering. Find out as much as you can about the profession and the types of skills they had to develop. Find out about the challenges and how to overcome them.

You can also discuss your career goals with your manager, counselors, teachers, or instructors. For example, if training is a requirement, find out about the training required to reach your goals from training schools and instructors.

Visit websites and online career guides for the IT industry (for example, http://www.jidaw.com) to learn more about the career you’ve chosen for industry outlooks, current articles, and news.
You should also review employment adverts in newspapers, job centers, IT job openings (http://www.jidaw.com/jobs.html) (formal and informal) to learn more about available positions in your area of interest and the skills required to get them.

Constant Evaluation/Assessment

Note that career planning should be dynamic, and not static. What did you like and dislike, after implementing? Were some of your assumptions wrong? You need to be sensitive to changes in your Career Path by being flexible and open to new avenues.

IT as a fast growing and fast changing field presents a challenge for all of us who want to work and succeed in IT. Keep yourself informed on a continuous basis. The continual study of new technologies is necessary to keep computer skills current. It is your responsibility to keep on investing in yourself (http://www.jidaw.com/dinosaur1.html). Always look for ways to grow in your career and skills, through continuous skill development, by attending work or career -related training / seminars, reading relevant text, taking online courses or pursuing further education. In IT, the importance of managing your career-and keeping informed about developments that touch on your career preferences is imperative (http://www.jidaw.com/certarticles/trends2004.html). In this respect while your career planning must be focused, it must not “lock-you-in”, by being inflexible to changes in the environment and your desires.

It’s your life

I hope you find the ideas in this article useful. However, at the end of the day, it’s all about attitude. Nothing is cast in stone, so keep your options open. Career planning is all about taking your destiny in your own hands. You cannot succeed with career planning if you approach life in an unplanned, careless manner, by just hoping for the best. “The person who waits for roast chicken to fall into his mouth will wait very long.” Approach your career planning with sincerity and wisdom. Career planning is neither difficult nor time-consuming if done properly. You simply need to be focused.

In the words of William Ernest Henley, “It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”

All the best in your IT Career.

Jide Awe is the Founder/CEO of Jidaw.com (http://www.jidaw.com)

Career Planning: Its all about Attitude!
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