Today's IT job market is candidate driven. Demand is high and employers have to compete with each other to attract top talent. There may be no apparent end in sight, but most historical down-turns were not broadcast until they hit. I have no crystal ball and I certainly hope there’s no down-turn anywhere on the horizon, but the wise person is always prepared.
And while there’s no such thing as a truly fire-proof career, there are some key things you can do to build a buffer and ensure that no matter the economic environment, that you are a highly sought after candidate.
Assess Yourself. A valuable employee is a self-aware employee. Understanding what it is that sets you apart from colleagues and competitors and what you can bring that no one else can is vital information to know. It may very well make you uncomfortable to think of yourself in this way, but if you expect employers to see you as invaluable, you’d better know this first. In order to withstand unexpected twists and turns in the economy or your industry, you must remain relevant. The first step to doing that is knowing your strengths and your weaknesses. And then choosing to build upon them both.
Always be Adapting. Even if you’ve been at your current job for 10+ years, and are well-established in your position and industry, you need to remain flexible. Times, like tastes, change, and how good you are at what you do is only one part of building a fire-proof career. Once you venture outside the safety of your current position - either by choice or due to changes in your company - you need to be up on the latest trends across your industry or discipline. Just because your present company is content with the status quo does not mean others are. Business changes at the speed of light- keep your running shoes on at all times.
Always be Learning. Staying current with certifications might very well be part of your job responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean that that’s where you should stop. Seeking out training from vendors you work with helps to add value to your knowledge base, even if it’s not germane to your current position. There are free webinars, vendor trainings and a constant stream of information out there to be explored. Making education a constant part of your work ethos is vital to staying current and marketable.
Build a Solid Referral Network. While mastering a high level of expertise, building a successful track record and establishing yourself as a highly regarded professional will always make you an interesting candidate, no one will know about it if you don’t have a solid network of peers and higher ups to recommend you. The level and degree of recommendations you’ve garned on LinkedIn is one of the first thing recruiters and hiring managers alike look for. Even if you don’t see yourself leaving your current position in the conceivable future, adding new recommendations to your profile will only serve to keep you current and in-demand.
Build a Network of Mentors. Even the best C-level executives have mentors. Advisors who have been where you are, seen what you’re seeing and know from experience how to navigate choppy waters. But a good mentor doesn’t have to be C-level or even a VP. What makes a good mentor is wisdom and insight, and a willingness to share their expertise and experience. And just as a mentor is someone you might turn to when handling a tricky deal or situation in your current position, a mentor is also someone you want to go to when it’s time to move on. Because of the unique relationship one has with a mentor, they can often be more candid and insightful. Seek them out, listen to their advice and then weigh it against what your gut is telling you. Just as Luke had Yoda, seek out teachers, even in the most unexpected places.
So, yes, the title of this blog post is misleading. There is no such thing as a fire-proof career. There’s no sure-fire way to insulate yourself from the ups and downs of your industry or the economy. However, since there isn’t, what you can do is make sure you to hit the above points in order to make yourself a whole lot more fire-resistant.
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