Chapter 1. The Toolkit Approach to Career Development
As someone who has spent many years working in the IT field, I place great emphasis on providing actual value. I did the same when starting this project and during its production. In effect, while writing each morning, I asked myself why I was undertaking this project. Why am I, in fact, putting other projects on the back burner to pursue this? I have worked to create a comprehensive and realistic set of tools to help you achieve success in your career-building efforts.
The reason stems from my experience as an IT professional, employee, employer, consultant, writer, and self-proclaimed pundit of technical solutions. Over the past several years, I have witnessed a number of promising technology professionals thrive. I have had the pleasure of working on projects with people I would consider the best and the brightest in their fields.
I would watch with excitement as their careers grew. Just as often, however, I would watch as good technologists with excellent skills struggled to advance in their careers.
I'm a people watcher by nature. I find the human aspect of any endeavor of life to be the most exciting. People, as an object of study, are fascinating. I would analyze the careers of those whom I would emulate in my own growth and those whose careers floundered. I wanted to discover patterns in both groups—the successfully growing professionals and those who struggled.
Much of what I witnessed and analyzed is familiar. Most of the principles of successful career growth relate to "life management" and are not specific to the technology field. From Napoleon Hill to Stephen Covey, the attitudes and skills of success have been studied and extolled. The information is both well known and available—it broadly addresses life and the individual's approach to it.
Don't forget luck! Yes, as much as the die-hard advocates of steering your own course and taking control of your destiny might want to deny it, luck certainly plays a vital part. Chance meetings and unforeseen opportunities can arise and lift an individual through dramatic professional growth from time to time.
Certainly, some individuals experience more luck than others throughout their lives; however, all career builders do, at some point, experience luck. With this as the case, my goal is to prepare you to take advantage of that eventual lucky situation. Author Denis Waitley stated that LUCK is an acronym for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge. I believe this is true. In relation to career building, this would mean striving to build your career with the best information and tools available. In this way, when you are presented with a lucky situation, you are best prepared to capitalize on it.
That is the objective of this project and book. Simply put, this book provides you with the tools necessary to create opportunity and take advantage of those opportunities that arise.
What you, the reader, will discover is that you already know most of this, or you at least find the information sensible in its simplicity. This book has no secret formulas, no catch phrases to lift you out of professional obscurity, no single technique to separate you from the masses of other professional career builders, and no special skills to master. The information is easy to understand and can be adopted, with more or less proficiency, by anyone.
However, a word of caution: Although the information I convey is simple to understand and master, its application is anything but. "Simple" does not necessarily equate to "easy." Applying what you learn requires work and practice. More importantly, as with anything of long-term consequence and value, it requires diligence.
On the two sides of this spectrum are two types of individuals:
- The individuals who, when building and applying their toolkit, meet with success immediately. Their career is launched with relative ease by being at the right place at the right time. For these people, the danger is an abandonment of the toolkit approach.
- The individuals who, when applying the information and skills from the toolkit, do not experience the success they would like in a time frame that suits them. Perhaps they see or hear of others who meet with immediate and tangible benefits or career growth without applying a special approach. They also might abandon the toolkit approach.
For both types of individuals, my admonition would be to stay focused on the long-term objective of building a well-rounded career. As you will see emphasized throughout the rest of this book, your career is not synonymous with landing a job, no matter how good.
Your career is made up of a series of decisions over a long period of time. Therefore, immediate success or short-term frustration is of minor importance.
I have coached with predictable results the careers of several individuals. I have watched as relatively simple methods, philosophies, and hard work have resulted in dramatic career success and the success of the projects for which they were charged. I discovered over this time that, although I enjoy defining and implementing high-tech solutions, I garner even greater satisfaction in watching the career growth of those with whom I work.
I have presented and written several pieces directed at technology professionals, particularly with assisting them at furthering their careers in some tangible way. Many of them asked me to write this information down. Several suggested I formalize my ideas into a book.
This book is the embodiment of that work.
Over the past several years, I have watched many technologists flounder in the area of career development. Some of these men and women I know to be extremely effective in their utilization of technology. For a number of reasons, however, their careers have faltered. Some even chose to leave the field and find work in other professions. Sometimes I felt this was truly a loss, both for the individual and for the industry.
This notion was emphasized during a recent conversation I had with a programmer I know. I have worked with him several times over the past seven years. He is both diligent and technically proficient, but he has spent the past three years struggling in his career.
He recently told me he was pursuing another line of work. His desire was to remain in IT, but he was burnt out and dejected. As we discussed his recent challenges, it was apparent that his approach to career development in general, and his perception of his role as a technologist in particular, were ineffective. I am convinced that he can have a rewarding, growing career in IT if that is his desire, but it will require the adoption of new ideas—ideas that he largely ignored during the past IT boom but that I cover in this book.
It is not my goal to convince people to remain in an industry or career for which they do not possess drive or passion. Instead, I hope to create both hope and a plan that matches the drive and passion they already have.
The field of IT and the individual technologists are suffering through an industry correction. This correction, the causes of which are defined more clearly in Chapter 2, "Career Building Defined," is resulting in stifled industry and individual growth. Industries and individuals are suffering needlessly through a correction that will produce incredible benefits for both the industries and the individuals who choose to work in it.
The IT field is maturing. As it does so, the normal growing pains will make themselves known. For the astute professional, however, such times of correction provide opportunity.
The opportunities in IT will still be abundant, but they will be more refined and specific in their reach. This will require IT professionals to be equally refined and specific in their approach to building a technology career. IT professionals will have to know where to look for opportunity, what it looks like, and what steps to take to maximize their potential in taking advantage of the opportunity.