“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do” - Bob Dylan
Easier said than done?
The concept of lifetime employment with a single employer is a distant memory for many, and is especially relevant to those involved in the IT industry, where volatility and disruption are the norm – paradoxically, mostly as a result of IT.
In many ways, a single employer is unlikely to provide all the opportunities for you to acquire the broad range of skills and experiences needed to guarantee sustainable career resilience and adaptability.
Should you? ….
- Continue to entrust your career to your employer, and let them steer your career? After all, you’re really valued and the environment’s great (at the moment!)
- Stay in your ‘industry’, after all it’s an important service that is, you think, largely immune from major change. Society will always need firefighters, right?
- Expect your boss to meet your IT mentoring needs? (i.e. Will your boss provide the support and guidance for you? More importantly, do you see your boss as a good role model?)
- Actively seek alternative positions within your employer in unrelated areas to broaden your skills base in the hope that it leads to future opportunities. Might be hard if you’re really good at your current job.
- Switch employers the minute you stop learning new things? … or don’t get along with your new boss?
- Look at doing something quite different, such as retraining in a completely different career or industry, or even start your own business if you think you’re in a decaying business or industry?
At the end of the day, the combination of your appetite for risk, personality type, skills, drive and experience are the types of factors that will either help or hinder the achievement of your career and personal goals. Testing your assumptions on how best to get to the next stepping stone in your job and career is not as easy as it may appear. Test your career and personal assumptions, then develop a ‘go forward’ strategy that is relevant and meaningful to you, which is also sustainable – but expect it to change.
So, broadly speaking, how should you plan for making it to the next stepping stone?
- The persistent approach: Set an ultimate, long term career goal, and steadily working towards that goal – and hope you get there. Like a military route march.
- The adaptive, proactive approach: Once you have developed your core skills, start working on acquiring as many supplementary skills as you can, expose yourself to differing experiences and gain fresh knowledge in related or even unrelated areas, then go for opportunities are they present themselves to you (or created by you) – all while being acutely aware of, and interpreting and seizing the opportunities offered by the volatile environment we all live in.
At the end of the day, managing your career requires deliberate investment of your time and energy. Just like investing in an income generating asset. In that light , do you see your career is an income generating business, for the most part? If you are an IT professional, whose primary value lies with the technical skills you possess, will your boss provide the objectivity and IT mentoring perspective for you to move on to bigger and better things?
If you wish to continue working for organisations as a employee in one form or another, consider your job in the light of ‘runing your own business’, that is
….. ‘you have one client, that’s your employer of choice, not necessity!’.
Reflect on this from time to time, not so easy when you’re so busy and distracted with doing your job – it could be the game changer for you!