Managing your career...it isn't an entitlement

What are you doing to manage your career?

What are your professional goals and what are you doing to make them become a reality?

How will you avoid career obsolescence?

I've raised this topic with IT staffs before. Sometimes it provokes a defensive response. What do I mean? Are there plans to outsource us? Am I trying to convey a veiled 'Dear John' message?

No, but I am suggesting--rather overtly--that you think about your career plan. Just because you're here and have a job, benefits and a fair amount of job security does not mean things can't happen down the road. Higher education is entering a period of much greater accountability. The cost of college is too great not to. Constituents will challenge us to prove our value, to cut our costs, to look at outsourcing and other possibilities. Consequently, you cannot rest on your laurels or succumb to a sense of entitlement. You must continually reinvent yourself and be ready for what's coming.

I've seen this happen to others. Technology workers do comparatively well on the pay scale. Yet over time and a career, higher salaries (and 45% benefits!) demand greater accountability. As we remain with our organizations longer, and our pay increases, and we do not continue to add more value and grow, we become vulnerable, especially those of us in the technology field. We can, and may, be outsourced if and when our services can be delivered at less cost by outsourcing.

Don't panic. Be realistic. There are many career strategies you can implement to keep yourself current. Make a plan. Set goals and start taking steps in that direction.

Consider what type of training you need. Often times technology workers tend to focus on, well, technology training. That's important. So, too, are developing some of the 'softer' skills, like writing and communication, project management and team development. We will also need leaders for tomorrow. How many of you would be willing to take a management role? MBA anyone? You might also take a look at some of the Continuing Education programs offered through UNH. They have a good program on managing and leadership.

Never assume that your career plan is PSU's responsibility. While we have an interest and will do what we can, it would be a grave mistake to assume that the organization will carry you through to age 65. Leadership and management are more transient, hence you can never depend on anything over a period of time.

It's YOUR career. If you don't take charge of it, you have no one to blame but yourself.

*****

A couple of books you might find useful... The World is Flat and JobShift. The former gives a more macro view. The latter is good for looking at your career as You, Inc.

2 thoughts on “Managing your career...it isn't an entitlement

  1. If PSU offered a program like Columbia (my former institution) or Franklin Pierce College, I'd be very tempted to sign up, and I bet others on campus would too. Links to sample programs:

    http://www.fpc.edu/pages/gps/gradstudies/msitm.htm
    http://www.ce.columbia.edu/technology/

    At Columbia, employee tuition waivers would cover most of the costs in certain circumstances. I never signed up because the commute to NYC was to costly, plus it would have been too much of a time drain.

    Something to think about (for continuing ed., graduate school, and the administration)...

  2. You mention that accountability is increasing, and along with that accountability is the expectation that skills are maintained and further developed. While it is an easy thing to purchase a few books and read some manuals, this method is a weak substitute for formalized training. If buying some books were all that was needed to be successful, a college degree in Computer Science would hardly be neccessary. A big shortcoming of this method is the lack of hardware and software to test on. In systems, having test servers to apply new knowlege on in a safe environment is crucial to the success of training, as it provides a hands-on experience and a place to make mistakes. Formalized training in this area provides such an experience.

    With no money for training and no money for test systems, it is a difficult position to be in where accountability and expectations are raised while putting the burden of training solely upon the shoulders of the employees. You mentioned training in the "softer skills" as an alternate path to professional development, but how does team development skills help you when your mission-critical system fails during peak hours and it's the technical skills that are neccessary to bring the system back on line?

    It's really a question of investment. I don't expect PSU to foot the bill for all professional development. On the other hand, PSU benefits greatly by investing in the development of its staff, and by having highly trained personnel, it guarantees a high level of service to its students.

    There must be a balance between personal accountability and employer support.

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