For those who have chosen an information technology career path, 2014 has generally proven to be an excellent year. According to the recent US News and World Report article 100 Best Jobs of 2014, careers like software developer and computer systems analyst are at the top of the list (actually, they’re the #1 and #2 positions).
The importance of an IT career assessment
While IT careers in demand can seem like a good “problem” to have, it can become quite overwhelming when there are so many technical job opportunities to consider. Assessing where you are professionally every few years is important. I encourage technical professionals to conduct a personal career assessment — something I refer to as their TLC4: Technology, Leadership, Career Path, Commute, Compensation and Culture. I coined this acronym to make it easy for IT professionals like you to remember the most important career motivators. Here is a basic breakdown of all four, and how they could impact your IT career:
“T”echnology. Is your current company committed to using the most up-to-date, efficient and cost-effective technologies to solve their business problems? Is there a reluctance to change the systems or platforms they are using because, “We have always done it this way?” Has your organization’s primary code stack migrated from Perl to Ruby, but because “you know the system so well,” Ruby developers are being hired from the outside and you’re enhancing legacy code? Are you stuck in SQL Server 2005 with no plans to upgrade? How important these scenarios are to you will determine whether your “T” is being satisfied.
“L”eadership. Does your company’s management and technical leadership approach foster a productive and pleasant work environment? Are you being given the appropriate recognition for your achievements and being treated as a business partner versus a subordinate? I have spoken to many technologists who love the work they are doing, but are not happy with the person for whom they work. While there are varying opinions on what type of “L” works best for them; technical candidates, like yourselves, usually want to know their contributions are truly important.
“C”areer Path. Does your company have a clearly defined roadmap for IT careers? Remember that popular interview question you were likely asked before being hired: Where do see yourself professionally in five years? Can your organization take you there? Some people are motivated by a progressive change in job title and management responsibilities. For others, it is growth in learning additional technical skills across departments. It’s important to consider whether the responsibilities and tasks you carry out on a daily basis contribute positively to your career roadmap.
“C”ommute. How much commute time are you willing to tolerate for a great position? For some, it’s a walk down the steps to their home office. For others, traveling an hour or more through traffic each way is normal. One trend we are seeing for many IT professionals is that working from home (for those who desire it) is becoming more of a reality on a partial or full-time basis. Flexibility in commutes/schedules has quickly become key in many of our candidate’s career motivators.
“C”ompensation. Is your current compensation plan for your technical skills currently in line with the market? Can you do better, and if so, at what cost? If we were only talking about a base salary comparison this would be pretty simple. However, compensation can made up of multiple components including: sign-on bonuses, performance bonuses, stock options, company benefits (the actual cost to the employee), vacation time and other paid time off, retirement/pension plans, profit sharing and much, much more. While most people focus on the base, it is conceivable for an organization’s $90K offer to be more valuable than a $110K base for the same skills.
“C”ulture. Do your company’s values, philosophy and “personality” align with the type of organization where you want to work? This includes everything from the mission statement, history and community service activities to the dress code, “open door” policy, flexible work schedule and office setup. There are many more elements that can be added to this list, but it is important to know whether the overall business plan is indicative of a company where you feel comfortable giving such a large percentage of your life toward growing and endorsing.
Reviewing these core IT career motivators can be a critical step in your career assessment and planning. So what are you waiting for? There is no better time like the present to assess your own TLC4 and discover whether you’re on the right IT career path — and if not, the next steps you should take to get there.
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