Happy New Year!
It’s the time of year we reflect back on what went well last year and think about what we want the next 12 months to look like. I know I made a few mistakes in 2015, but overall it was a great year. For 2016, I’ve set a few exciting goals which will stretch me as a person, be fun as well as help others.
Here are a few ideas for you to consider for the coming year. I strongly encourage you to take an hour out, find a coffee shop, turn off your phone and map out what you want to achieve this year.
1. Get Certified
Yep. Certification is more relevant now than ever before. When I started out it was all based on what you said you could do but IT is now a core business function and hiring managers simply won’t consider your application if you haven’t taken the time to gain a relevant professional qualification.
I know you are busy and have a number of challenges but aim for one certification every 90 days.
2. Learn Cloud Computing and Security
Mark my words. Most computing functions will be moving to the cloud in the coming months. Many are already there and from reading various periodicals and speaking to CTOs, many more are in the process of moving. You simply must understand how the cloud operates if you are to be relevant in 2016. Consider the CompTIA Cloud Essentials and Amazon cloud certifications.
Security is still a specialized job, but you must have a strong grasp of threats, vulnerabilities and countermeasures as an IT professional. Just as all pilots must pass exams on meteorology to carry out their jobs, all IT people should have an understanding of security principles and best practises even if they don't want to become an expert in that field.
3. Make a Career Change
Unless you have just started in a new job, you should be looking to advance by way of promotion or find a challenging role. Experience with various employers is considered a positive, unlike 10 years ago when you were expected to remain with the same company for life.
Every 18 to 24 months look to find a new challenge. Otherwise, you will find yourself getting stale and complacent. It never pays to get too comfortable in IT.
4. Take on a Project
Wherever I worked, I’d always speak to the department manager and ask if there were any jobs he or she needed help with. 99% of the time they will be overloaded and looking for help with something. Start with simple stuff and as you gain trust, you will be given more business critical roles.
I literally started off by creating spreadsheets of Cisco router and switch serial numbers for my manager and before long I was interviewing new applicants and visiting vendors on his behalf to find solutions to network expansion issues we had.
Consider getting a Project Management certification before or while you do this.
5. Start Freelancing
It’s not as hard as you think and you don’t need to quit your day job either.
When I was working at Cisco, I got some business cards printed and started handing them out to family and friends. I attended a few business lunches when I had time and before I knew it my phone was ringing with a request to install routers and switches or advise on the best models to purchase. I did all the work during days off or weekends.
It actually paid more for one days freelancing work than I earned over two weeks for Cisco. Check out my IT Freelancing Course if you want all the details of how I made it happen.
6. Sharpen Up Your Brand
It amazes me how IT people are often seen as the scruffy geeks at work. I suppose because many of us feel that we don’t fit into the corporate model of how things work. But here’s the thing.
Everything you say and do and how you carry out your job reflects on your personal brand. For this reason, I was always very careful to maintain a professional image wherever I worked.
Consider the following a few best practise tips:
• Dress smart
• Be well groomed
• Don’t get involved in office gossip or politics
• Be punctual
• Don’t complain
• Don’t be a pain in the ass
• Help others but don’t let them take advantage of you
• Keep studying but only let your boss know when you pass
• If your career has stalled, move onto another company