I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m one of “those” people who plan my work every day. Yes, I make a list — little daily resolutions — of my top must-dos for the day, prioritize them, determine what I need to accomplish each task, and then it’s work, work, work until the list becomes a clean slate ready for the next new day. Given my nature, it should come as no surprise that New Year’s resolutions are my friend. Resolutions are, after all, merely a list of things not yet accomplished.
While many tend to think of New Year’s resolutions in terms of personal goals (lose 20 pounds, train for a marathon, take a class in Spanish), resolutions are actually a fantastic career planning tool. Resolutions provide us an opportunity to examine where our career was, where it is now and where we’d like our career to be in the future.
Below you’ll find a list of five areas that all IT professionals should consider when creating New Year’s resolutions for their careers. Resolutions aren’t a one-stop shopping experience and, as with any good list, good resolutions require a little research and planning. These areas provide a starting point for creating your IT career resolutions.
In working with career goals, I recommend that you consider both long- and short-term goals. Where do you want your career to be not just at the end of 2015, but in five or ten years as well? Your goals for 2015 should fit into your five-year master plan. Determine what you need to do to accomplish each identified goal and set up regular checkpoints (every three months, for example) to review your progress. Remember to keep your goals realistic. Goals must be achievable to be successful. If you overcommit, it’s likely that you won’t be successful and stay with your plan.
1. Know Your Market Drivers
Resolve to know and understand your market drivers in 2015. If you don’t understand what is driving your section of the IT industry, how can you plan your career to meet the emerging needs of the market and employers? According to Robert Half Technology’s 2015 Salary Guide for IT Professionals, the major technology hiring drivers in 2015 will focus on mobile, cybersecurity and big data. Robert Half also finds that technology salaries will increase about 5.7 percent in 2015.
It’s a safe bet that those earning the highest salary increases will be those who possess the right certifications and skill set in the areas currently driving the market. In addition to mobile, security and big data, cloud technology continues to be an area worthy of consideration in career planning. Not only did the cloud make Gartner’s list of top 10 technology trends for 2015, but most of the technology on Gartner’s list depends on the cloud in some manner.
2. Certifications, certifications, certifications!
No IT career resolution is complete without taking a closer look at certifications. Resolve to take a closer look at your certification portfolio and make changes and updates to your credentials as warranted. In examining your certification portfolio, consider the following:
What certifications do I currently possess versus what I need? Are these certifications helping to advance my career? Technology changes and sometimes we end up with legacy credentials that are nice to have but don’t really provide any value-add when it comes to advancing careers. Take a closer look at not just what credentials you have already, but what credentials would be beneficial in moving your career to the next level. Also, if you made a career move in 2014, you may be missing key credentials that are a must-have in your new IT field. Resolve to get those credentials in 2015.
Are any of my certifications coming up for renewal? One of my colleagues lost her prized PMP credential for failure to maintain the necessary continuing education credits. If you have certifications coming up for renewal, New Year’s resolutions are a good way to ensure that you complete all the requirements to maintain the credential.
Do I need to upgrade any of my credentials? New technology releases may necessitate an upgrade of your credentials to the newest release level. For example, those holding Oracle database 11g credentials may want to consider adding Oracle 12c (the newest Oracle database) to their certification portfolio in 2015.
Do my certifications match the current industry demands? As you can see from the Robert Half and Gartner findings, mobile, security, big data and cloud will be hot technology items in 2015. Do you possess the right certifications in your portfolio to match the industry requirements?
3. New Skills
“I am still learning.” Michelangelo
The world — even our career world — is a big beautiful place. Adopt an attitude of lifelong learning in 2015. Resolve to learn something new or gain a new skill in the upcoming year. This journey doesn’t have to be expensive. Many vendors offer free online training materials for their certification enabling you to gain new knowledge at your own pace (and at a great price — free!). You’ll also find many academic institutions that also offer free online resources (Coursera and MIT Open Courseware, for example). Explore a few of them and see what you can learn!
4. Career Changes
There is one certainty in life we can all depend on: Change. Life changes, technology changes and careers change. In preparing for this article, I spoke with a trusted friend, respected colleague, and seasoned IT veteran, Ed Tittel, about his recommendations for IT professionals as they make their New Year’s resolutions for 2015. A career review topped his list of recommendations. As you enter 2015, review your career status and determine if you want — or perhaps need — to make changes to your career path. If so, make a plan for how to address and begin to implement those changes in the upcoming year.
5. Personal Development
Personally, I think personal development is a very necessary but overlooked area when it comes to career planning. We don’t work in a vacuum and soft skills — people skills — matter! Do include personal development as a part of your New Year’s resolution in 2015. What personal skills do you need to possess or improve upon to advance your career in 2015? Are you able to communicate and present your ideas clearly and effectively? Are you able to effectively handle conflicts and mediate resolutions that make everyone comfortable with the outcome? If not, then it's time for a change!