Many of us dream of getting that corner office one day, of earning the position and power of upper management, of being the… Best. Boss. Ever. But making that dream a reality can seem daunting in your early career. Here are five practical, simple steps to help you build your career and earn that corner office.
Regularly Update Your Resume
When you’re in a role that’s a good fit and provides you with fun challenges, it can be easy to forget to update your resume regularly, if at all. But be intentional about evaluating your role and your achievements on a quarterly basis, if not more regularly. Consistently making time to step back and consider what you do and how you do it. How effectively you do your job will help you better understand your professional growth and needs. And, as a happy consequence, you’ll find that you’re able to update your resume or vitae, ensuring you’re ready whenever opportunity might knock.
Develop a Positive Reputation
The IT community is a tight-knit one — where personal recommendations can take you a long way. Take proactive steps to develop a reputation for being knowledgeable, helpful, and intellectually hungry. The best IT pros are relentless learners, who are always working to expand their skills and knowledge of the industry, products, and best practices.
Having a solid knowledge base is just the beginning. Next, you have to apply what you know! Be intentional about volunteering, both as a thought partner as well as with practical, hands-on solutions. Become the go-to-guy/gal and it won’t be long before your supervisors are promoting you to bigger and better roles!
Look for Stepping Stones — Not Giant Leaps
Working your way into management roles takes time. It can be tempting to look for opportunities that move you directly and immediately into leadership roles, but a wiser course is to take smaller steps, developing confidence and competence as you build a leadership repertoire. Taking on responsibilities and leadership in smaller chunks enables you to master each aspect without getting overwhelmed. Volunteer for additional responsibilities in your current role, slowly expanding your skills and expertise. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Contribute to the Industry
As much as the IT industry is growing, it’s still a small world. The work you do and the contributions you make to the industry itself will help you develop a strong reputation and make you the kind of candidate that employers are ready to fight for. Join professional associations and consider being part of leadership efforts within those associations. Write for online publication on discussion forums, industry websites, etc. Attend professional conferences and take in all that you can! Consider presenting at professional conferences. Contribute to open source efforts to improve products, documentation, etc. In whatever format best fits your talents, make a contribution that you can point to as you talk with prospective employers and colleagues throughout the IT industry and throughout your career.
Never Stop Learning
Arguably, the single most important piece of your professional development is to foster an unrelenting curiosity and desire to learn more. This industry is constantly evolving and changing. If you hope to be successful in IT, you must be willing to evolve and change too — and there’s no better way to do that than to be committed to learning. Read voraciously. Train with tenacity. Never stop learning!
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