The Most Common Career Mistakes Capable IT Professionals Make
August 22, 2016
A colleague of mine, who was looking to define a clear IT career strategy, recently asked me to go over her resume. She had already accumulated lots of experience in her industry, yet, as I browsed through her resume, the problem with it was apparent: her numerous accomplishments in many different areas made it difficult to pin-point what her expertise was.
As I dived further into her resume, I noticed the problem with the resume was only a symptom of a much larger issue. In her attempt to prove she was useful and able to adapt quickly to different scenarios, she had agreed to do too many tasks and opportunities that were available to her. That workload ended up leaving her feeling overworked and unappreciated. There are several reasons why people like her end up in this kind of situation.
How People Lose Track of Their Career Goals
Reason 1: Capable people have a strong drive to accomplish things.
Reason 2: Others notice they often get the job done and assign more tasks to them.
Reason 3: Capable people are reliable, so they quickly earn reputations as people managers want to call on when they need a task done properly.
Reason 4: These dedicated people end up performing the tasks that have been assigned to them well, but that often prevents them from reaching their full potential. That’s equally bad for the employee and employer.
Granted some of the fault lies with (sub-par) managers who are unable to figure out which tasks are best for each employee. However, every individual also has to take responsibility for the poor career choices they make. We all need to be more shrewd and thoughtful when it comes to our career path.
So what did I end up doing for my colleague who needed help with her resume?
Well, we spent some time figuring where she operated at her very best. That is, where her passion, skills and the market demand for those skills intersect. Once we got all that out of the way, we came out with a plan of action for a more concentrated career strategy:
Creating a Focused Career Strategy
- For starters, we went over what she had done in the last 12 months, paying attention to as many details as possible. We made a list of how her time was spent: projects handled, accomplishments, and responsibilities.
- We then studied the list, looking for trends and patterns. What direction will her career go if the trends continue? Is that the path she wants to take? These are the types of questions you should be asking.
- Afterwards, we spent some time figuring out what she would love to do if she could do anything she wanted. All ideas were written down.
- We came out with goals for the next 12 months and how to get there. It’s best to write them all down at this stage in order of importance.
- We crossed out the bottom four goals. After all, we were trying to create a focused career strategy. Better to have a single primary objective.
- We then came out with an action plan for the next 2-4 months, with small victories that can be accomplished within that time period.
- Finally, we figured out what she would refuse to accept. Capable people often have many good opportunities thrown their way at work, but some of these opportunities do not help their long-term goals. It’s important to be able to recognise these and refuse them without ruffling any feathers.
A tent-building analogy comes to mind. Think about a person who uses many different poles (tasks) of the same length to support the roof of his/her career tent. No matter how many poles are used, the roof of the tent doesn’t go any higher.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a focused career strategy. The reality is: if you don’t clearly define your career, someone else will end up doing it for you. People tend to think of others as primarily one thing. You are a manager, consultant, project manager, attorney, programmer, or any other job title you can think of. Sure, it is possible to have all these titles at once, but people will still tend to see you as one thing first. There is only one phrase that accompanies your name regardless of your accomplishments. If you are going to take on other projects, it’s best to pick the ones that can be used to make your career pole longer.
While it remains important to have a wide range of skills in today’s job market, you still need to have a clearly defined career strategy and constantly strive to accomplish your goals.
I hope this helps – if you are in IT, looking for a career change and need help with your resume – drop me a line (email@example.com) and I will see if I can help you too.
Senior Tech Talent Manager
An Irish cat living the dream in Sydney I don’t know what to tell ya! Even though I’m a long way from the homeland I’ve successfully built up 5 years of local industry knowledge specialising in emerging technologies. I have a strong JAVA and Ruby on Rails following in NSW and VIC. I also have extensive experience sourcing specialist software development teams for technology companies with highly transactional, high volume, data intensive environments. Let’s catch up for a pint, but do send me a message and we’ll see what happens!
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