As it happens I have had a wonderful 20 year career in Information technology and cybersecurity, and the career continues with new adventures. While thinking about my IT career, I came to see it as a succession of steps.
For people just starting an IT or cybersecurity career, especially students in high school and college, your teachers and professors will place a lot of emphasis on planning your career and work life. Even in a job interview, there is always the standard question “tell me where you see yourself in 5 years. The problem with planning, especially in technology, is that in 5 years you will be working with tech that hasn’t been invented yet. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while we are busy making other plans.” This is true for careers as well.
At one time I was a hyper-planner. My Franklin Day Planner tucked under my arm. My lists of written long-term and short-term personal and professional goals. The twenty minute planning session every morning that resulted in a prioritized To-Do list for the day. Work the list, then start over the next day. Wash, rinse, repeat. In retrospect, my Franklin Planner a solitary version of Scrum. Then one day I decided to drop the burden of that much organization. I currently use a Kanban board to organize my tasks, and rely on my Outlook calendar for scheduling, and that’s about it. But in place of long term plans, I have come to depend on serendipity as a major factor in my life and career.
My general advice on career planning is this: Don’t be so focused on your plans that you fail to see an opportunity right in front of you that you hadn’t considered. Your goals may be too modest, or too grandiose, or completely wrong for you. Do the work that is in front of you in a way that leaves you proud. Sign your name to your work. Have some fun while you work. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, do something else. Prepare for what’s next, even if you don’t know what that is. My experience is that you achieve what you focus on. If your are drawn to Cloud Services, for example, in your reading, training, and certifications, that is probably where you will end up. Prepare, and put yourself out there where like-minded people can find you.
LinkedIn can be a great way to put yourself out there with like minded people. LinkedIn has been a major factor in my career, and at some point I will write an article about that. If you are not on LinkedIn, you are invisible as far as your career goes. This gigantic professional skills database is where the recruiters go to find candidates with your skill set. These candidates, like you, are fully employed and “not looking.” But we are all open to serendipitous opportunities that just land in our lap. Since 2014, I have not looked for work, work has looked for me. Many of my best and most interesting career opportunities were offered to me, without any effort on my part, from people who “found me on LinkedIn.”
That said, looking back on my career, I see the different stages that are a great career progression for anyone. On Wednesday we will see how these steps might fit in with your own career goals and plans.