Ultimately, you are in charge of where you want to end up in your career in the technology field and the path you choose to get there.
“Plan for Your Career” is one of the essential 12 behaviors and actions to adopt and practice from Success in the Technology Field that will help you to advance or prepare for a career in technology. The twelve recommendations involve adopting crucial behaviors that apply throughout your career, as well as specific actions you should take at different stages of your career.
We work in the technology industry because of the opportunities—it is such a growing field, with a need for technologists, but also professionals with many other skills, including analysts, accountants, sales, and marketing personnel. Many companies, government agencies, and the military offer structured on-boarding programs for new employees and recruits. Many of these programs support new employees or recruits in developing more specialized skills for particular positions, which can be of value to both the employee and the company, at least in the near term.
Plan for Your Career
No matter where you are in your career, whether just entering the workforce or an executive with thirty years of experience, you should have a written career plan. This is especially important early in your career, and a written plan makes it easy to review and test the validity of long-term objectives, as well as evaluate your progress. It is okay to be bold in your thinking and to have big goals, but know with whom and when to share them. Your goals will not be understood by many.
Pick one major professional position you wish to have that defines your primary goal. You can then have one or two other goals, but they are secondary to that primary goal. Don’t set goals reflecting two different career paths, such as wanting to become the CEO of a company and wanting to be a tenured professor. While it’s been done, it’s rare for someone to have the talents and discipline to accomplish both. Revisit your career plan on an annual basis, updating your career goals, career path, and IDP. Use mentors to support you as you develop your career plan, as they can help you refine your focus and prioritize your activities.
In addition to your goals, your plan should include:
- The competencies (KSAs and behaviors) required to meet your goals
- A career path plan that will result in you meeting your goals
- An individual development plan (IDP) that contains the specific actions you will take over the next five years to develop needed competencies.
Be Flexible and Open to Opportunities
Given the rigor I recommend in preparing and updating a career plan, you might have the impression that making a plan and not diverting from it is the best way to succeed; but that is not the case. Be open to new opportunities, and always meaningfully consider an opportunity that does not appear to line up with your career plan. Sometimes an opportunity will arise that is too good to pass up. Do not let the consideration of risk overly impact your decisions, especially in early through mid-career. One of the benefits of career planning, and keeping your plan current, is it provides a measure of your career advancement. If you’ve been with one organization for 6+ years, then consider making a change if you’re not still developing your competencies and meeting all the milestones you have in your career plan.
You will undoubtedly face significant setbacks and hardships in your career—even the most successful people have. During a challenging time professionally, it is not easy to keep your motivation up and drive yourself forward. Yet, a career plan with both long-term goals and short-term objectives that move you incrementally to your goals can be of value, especially during difficult times. These plans can help keep you motivated and help you recognize that perhaps part of the reason for your current difficulties are deficiencies you should address, probably in certain KSAs or behaviors. With your mentors’ help, work to recognize what you can learn from your current situation and resolve to improve. Going a step further, revamp your IDP to directly address any deficiencies you have identified from your current difficulty. And be especially mindful to focus on developing skills and abilities that enhance your job performance, not just provide additional knowledge. A focus on your IDP is a means to accelerate your career.
Success in the Technology Field: A Guide for Advancing Your Career
Success in the Technology Field is a practical “how-to” guide for a career in technology. It presents a holistic model, incorporating skills and behaviors that help you define and attain your career goals, whether you aspire to be an executive, a leading technologist, or a successful product salesperson.