Now that I’m a student again, I should be in the perfect position to hand out career advice… maybe not, but it is not going to stop me do so anyway. As I mentioned to a friend of mine, blogging is about letting the creative juices flow to let out those half baked ideas, poorly thought through plans and general contradictions 🙂 Here is my short list of suggested things to do to develop a sustainable career.
Build (Several) Networks: According to the parachute book, 80% of all available jobs never get advertised – they are given to people who know (of) the person who needs to employ a person. If I look back at my own list of jobs, then the percentage seems to fit pretty well. Once you get the job, it’s often about knowing the right people to help you solve a problem, answer a question or to find the right people. And to be part of these social networks, you’ll need to pay attention to your reputation, ‘brand’ and ‘mindshare‘. One of the best ways to do that is to be helpful.
Be Helpful: The trick to unlocking the value of your network is to return the favour. If you have helped someone then they are probably more likely to help you – and even if you haven’t helped them, they are more likely to help you if you are known as ‘a helpful person’. But being helpful only works if you are also seen as reliable.
Be Reliable: You cannot help everyone, and if you do help, then be sure that people can rely on your help. And be sure that it doesn’t affect your ability to perform your normal duties. Getting a reputation for being unreliable can be a real career killer. And remember, you can only be reliably helpful if you continue to build recyclable skills.
Build Recyclable Skills: No, I don’t mean ‘green’ skills or the ability to sort the rubbish at home. Recycable skills are those that can be applied in different contexts, different problem scenarios and, most importantly, they don’t have an expiry date. I’ve seen people trying to become the ‘go to’ guy, and be generally helpful, through their technical skills. However, if these skills are tied to a specific technology or even worse, a specific version, then the value will expire. They are hard to transfer to other technologies. A better strategy is to use those technical skills to develop mentoring, training or root cause analysis skills – or good, general design skills. People appreciate help with, say, technology problems, but they’d love you for teaching them how to solve them without your direct help. It also helps you helping more people, as you don’t need to help the same people over and over again.
And remember: Your career is YOUR responsibility – no one else….
If you have more suggestions then please add them in the comments section – thanks! 🙂