The answer is “yes”.
You need to know what your career will look like, long term.
Or at least have an idea of what you want from your career.
One of the benefits of working in the IT industry is that it’s so varied. There are a lot of career paths and different areas to work in.
This can also be seen as a bad thing. What if you don’t know what you want to do?
Many people in the IT industry start out as graduates from university. Early in your career you may still be working out what kind of role you like, what you’re good at, what’s suited to you.
As you gain more experience, it’s a good idea to have a plan of where you want to be in the long term in your career. There are several reasons why it’s good to have a plan, or a goal, for what you want from your career in IT
Reason 1: Satisfaction with Your Job
The aim of developing a career plan is, eventually, so you’re satisfied and happy with your job and your role. To know this, you’ll need to work out what you want to do in the long term – five or ten years. Some questions to ask yourself could be:
- Do you enjoy your current role?
- What do you like about it?
- What don’t you like about it?
- Do you know or work with people who enjoy their role?
- What do they like or not like about it?
- Are you prepared to take training or further education to make progress?
These may help you decide what you’d like to do. You may currently be doing development work and love that, so being a developer could work for you. You may like to take on extra responsibility, which could cause you to move into a development team leader role.
You may like to talk to people and work out what people want from a system – generally the role of a business analyst. You might like to manage a team of project managers, or you might be attracted to the world of system testing. It’s all up to you!
Reason 2: Know How to Get to the Destination
If you know what you want from your career, or roughly where you want to be at a certain point in time, this is a great first step. I’d probably say that’s the hardest part – working out what you want.
Now that you know what you want, you can start working out how to get it. Ask people, do research, and find out information about your target role and the progress:
- Talk to people in your target role about how they got to where they are and if they have any advice.
- Research what your target role involves – skills required, experience, what you need to be able to do.
- Look into any courses or certifications you’ll need to do to help your progression.
For example, if you’d like to get into project management and you’re a graduate at the moment, you may need experience in several main areas of IT (development, analysis, etc). You may need experience dealing with different kinds of people in different roles. You will also need to know what the project manager does, and you may consider studying a recognised qualification such as the Project Management Professional.
Reason 3: Proactive Approach
Your career doesn’t just happen by itself. It’s all well and good to go to work and do your job, but you can’t just sit and hope for opportunities or roles to come to you and expect to end up where you want to be. You need to have a more proactive approach to progressing your career.
Talk to your manager about your career plans – what you want short term and long term. Talk to people in your human resources department about these things as well – they may have tips on what you could do. Let people know where you want to go with your career. If you hear about an opportunity or a role you’d like to try, say you’re interested. This also demonstrates initiative and confidence in your own abilities – good qualities to have.
How to Create a Long Term Career Plan
Now you know why you need a long term career plan, how do you create one?
Let’s take a look at some of the stages, and show you what to do.
The Stages of Career Planning
There are a few main stages of planning a career:
- Self assessment
These steps loosely follow an IT project. You start with your current state, where you are now. Next, you determine where you want to go, how you want to get there, and then take some action to get there. Let’s take a look into these four steps in more detail.
Perform a Self Assessment
The first place to start planning your career is to do a little self assessment. This is an analysis of your own skills and experience in the IT industry.
What education do you currently have? What experience in the IT industry do you have? These are two of the most common questions that we can ask ourselves when performing a self-assessment.
There are, however, more areas of assessment you can look at.
- What are your strengths when it comes to the IT industry and the workplace?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What do you like working on?
- What kind of roles do you think you can do effectively?
Performing a thorough and honest self-assessment of your IT career and any IT skills will help you work out where you currently are and where you can end up with your career.
Choose A Specialisation
To be an effective IT professional, you need to have a specialisation. There aren’t many IT professionals who can excel at many different fields, and if there are, it’s not what they are hired for.
IT professionals are employed and trained in a single field or specialisation – such as .NET developers, Windows administrators, network engineers, SQL database administrators. People in each of these roles would ideally be able to do their role very well, but may not be able to perform other roles. It’s important to choose a specialisation to get the most out of your IT career and make it easier to find a job.
Part of career planning is choosing a specialisation, which can be done in a few ways:
- Perhaps you have some education already (a degree or certifications) that are focused on one or a few areas?
- Do you already know what kind of work in the IT industry that you like doing?
- Is there someone that you know whose work sounds fascinating to you?
- Is there a desired position or “end point” to a certain career path you’d like to take?
These questions can help you decide what your specialisation should be.
Determine The Career Requirements
Another part of your career planning is to determine the requirements to get to where you need to go. Depending on the career, you don’t always jump right into the position straight away – there are some prerequisites that need to be done first.
- Do you need any certifications or extra education to get a position in your chosen area?
- How many years of experience do you need?
- Are there any lead-up positions, or roles that you’re encouraged to do before moving in to this position?
- What path do other people in this field or position usually take to get there?
Read this article on finding the career path to your IT job for more information.
Take Some Action
Alright, at this point we’ve done most of the work. We know what we want to do, and what the requirements are. Now that we’ve determined that, it’s time to do something about it!
It’s time to take action.
Start by doing something to move you closer to this goal, this ideal career position.
Your career planning steps have been performed to allow you to work out what the requirements are, so you should have some idea what the next steps are.
There are many actions you can do, but it’s important to do something to move towards it. As the saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step“.
It might seem like a long time away, or an unattainable goal, but you’ve done your career planning and have identified some actions and now it’s time to move towards it!
I hope these tips have helped. I suggest developing a plan for your career and what kind of role you’d like to be doing in the future – it’ll be a great benefit to you!
What do you think of developing a career plan? Post your comments in the space below.
Image: Againstar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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