Education

11 smart career tips for 2011

A Silicon Valley-based executive search consultant and author offers her tips for handling your career in 2011.

Today we have some advice from Kathryn Ullrich, a Silicon Valley-based executive search consultant and author.

Andy Warhol said, "Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art."

As a passionate executive recruiter, I couldn't agree more, particularly when it comes to professionals being good in managing their careers. Here, for the New Year, are 11 career tips for 2011:

1.   Look out for #1. Take responsibility for your own career development. Many large organizations have scaled back on training and development-a common outcome of the economic downturn-and small companies can rarely provide significant support. Simply put, your career rests in one set of hands: yours.

2.   Be strategic. Have a long-term career strategy or, at the very least, a sense for where you're headed. Ask yourself, "What do I really want to do?" or "Where do I see myself in five to ten years?" Seek people in similar roles and ask for their advice.

3.   Work in step with your company's goals. Connect the dots from your role to your company's vision and key objectives. How does your work align with the organization's goals? What can you do to maximize your contributions?

4.   Be customer-centric. Whether your customers are internal or external, know their wants and needs, and be fervent about meeting them. Bring the voice of the customer into your day-to-day work and let it enhance your decisions and deliverables.

5.   Collaborate. Working with and through others is requisite to innovating, creating, and producing business results. Adopt a mindset for teaming and collaborating, and put it into daily practice.

6.   Hone your communication skills. Communication skills can make or break careers. Pick one area that needs your attention-considering skills such as listening, presenting, influencing, persuading, or distilling messages-and commit to improvement. Take a class, practice with a trusted friend or colleague, or join a group such as Toastmasters.

7.   Cross over functionally. Many successful executives have risen through the ranks by taking cross-functional roles, such as moving from finance to sales or from marketing to IT. Follow their lead and you can grow your skills, your network, and your political capital.

8.   Expand your experience. Volunteer for special projects or assignments that are outside your everyday role. Discuss your goals with your boss, an HR representative, or a senior leader, and ask for help in finding opportunities to broaden your experience base.

9.   Find a guide. Mentors can serve as influential role models and provide important guidance for your career. Reach out to a potential mentor within your company or industry and see if he or she would be open to mentoring you for a specific purpose and timeframe.

10. Network-now. The best time to increase your network is today. Starting now, get involved in groups such as professional associations, charitable organizations, or even sports leagues. Step into leadership roles and make your expertise known.

11. Specialize. Today, companies look for specialists, not generalists. Develop a personal brand, distinguish your skills and strengths, and determine how to best market yourself.

Kathryn Ullrich is a Silicon Valley-based executive search consultant and author of the award-winning book Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success (Silicon Valley Press, 2010, $19.95). She also leads Alumni Career Services at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Contact her at info@ullrichassociates.com.

22 comments
CareerSaverSamantha
CareerSaverSamantha

Absolutely! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of networking and getting to know people. It in often overlooked, however, by both new recruits as well as professionals. Do not underestimate the importance of being nice to everyone you meet! Keeping your skills and knowledge fresh and being more well-rounded, as mentioned, are two other areas of absolutely necessity. Samantha CareerSaver.posterous.com

kullrich
kullrich

Yes, this was semantics and editorial liberty. It's important to take responsibility for your own career development because you can't count on your company/manager to do this.

zorani
zorani

Excellent article but a poor start with 1. I don't think she really meant "Look out for number 1, irrespective of others" I suspect she meant, "Take responsibility for yourself and your development, don't be lazy and expect you boss or company to drive your development"

yattwood
yattwood

I have been a Database Administrator since the 1980's (yah, I are a 1958 Baby) - and I have also done (and still do) UNIX System Administration. Now that my company has outsourced the datacenter to the THIRD company in 10 years, company with operations in India (and y'all know whom I'm referring to) - I find that all my Oracle/SQL Server/DB2/AIX/HP-UX/Network Appliance/PeopleSoft skills are secondary to biting my tongue and working with the outsourcer DBA's, for I am supposed to be an "Application" DBA, working on projects and focusing on the database as it pertains to the application, and they are supposed to be "Operational" DBA's - doing backups, maintenance, patches, monitoring, recovery, etc, etc.... EXCEPT that you BEST BELIEVE that I am and will continue to do PLENTY of "operational" DBA work - cleaning up NetApp snapshots, watching load averages, warning the outsource UNIX SysAdmin that 'no-you-cannot-apply-that-OS-patch-because-you-will-break-something-else' - and more!

JoeRJr
JoeRJr

Item 11 references the idea to ...Specialize. Today, companies look for specialists, not generalists... As both previous tech head hunter and a life-long engineering / computer / technology specialist and manager, I humbly state that specialists be hanged! What the vast majority of companies want, need and demand these days is ONE person who has the accumulated knowledge, expertise and capabilities of a minimum of two to three people. What the companies demand is tireless yes people who can do the work of a small team, but all on the backs and minds of one person.

seven2seven
seven2seven

Specializing is actually NOT a good thing to do right now. Most companies are looking for a Swiss-army knife kind of an IT guy. Long gone are days when you could just claim to 'specialize' in one thing such as Exchange... Why? Because they CAN and they know that they can abuse the current economy and use 1 vs. 2-3 staff members.

Englebert
Englebert

So, one of your rules s/b : Focus on skills that cannot be outsourced

sseifert
sseifert

I disagree with your last point - companies that I work for and with are looking for "versatilists" - someone who can fulfill and adapt to multiple roles. The only time we go for "specialist" we usually outsource that.

jengels
jengels

That just sounds terrible. What happened to the golden rule?? I understand your point about taking responsibility but what you are saying just isn't coming across right. Being successful is about having a good attitude. People want to be around people who think positively and consider others. Of course it is up to each individual to take responsibility for their career path etc. I just think "Look out for #1" is one of the worst things you can say.

roger.aucoin
roger.aucoin

I don't think Kobiernicki's comment should replace #1 - I think it should be added high in the list

l.kobiernicki
l.kobiernicki

This is too selfish to be really successful ie. based on reality as you find it. It is self-contradictory ! Delete No. 1 & replace with " Look after your people - which means everyone with whom it is possible to relate with humour & respect ". Given this change of heart, everything here finally then begins to make sense ..

LewSauder
LewSauder

Kathryn, this is terrific advice for anyone, but imperative advice for Consultants. Consultants need to be on top of their game at all times. Item #11 (Specialize), may seem contradictory to items 7 (Cross over functionally) and 8 (Expand your experience), but a Consultant needs to focus on being deep in at least one area, but broad in others. Consultants should print this and refer to it regularly. Lew Sauder, Author, Consulting 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting (www.Consulting101Book.com)

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

After all, when hiring, they want somebody with x years' of experience. College and certification can only go so far. But without entry level jobs and other means to acquire actual experience...

seven2seven
seven2seven

@yattwood Consider yourself lucky that you STILL do JUST one thing or at least in 1 'branch' of IT.... Try Exchange, AD, MySQL & Oracle(...yeah),telco, web dev, cabling, Help Desk, Cisco & SonicWall routers, win servers, MPLS, VPN, purchasing, on-site support (read road-trips)...user hand holding...all this for the privilege of being called 'the IT guy'. I have met with plenty of specialists...but have never worked with them and for a Good reason. (I like my equip running) My advice....whether or not you like it LEARN IT! Long gone are days where you can say 'I am xyz specialist' unless you are trying to get a job at xyz company...MS/Cisco Certs anyone?...right. Oh and 1 more thing, don't take advice from IT journalists. :)

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

But what is your HR goup doing? Sorry but specialization is what gets you the job. Generalization is what makes you successful at the job. Dumb but that's life. Personally my specialty is fitting square pegs in round holes! ]:)

youzer
youzer

I'm not sure who you expect to be looking out for your personal interests if you aren't going to do it yourself. Being successful is measured differently, and perhaps having a "good attitude" plays a role in that. But if you don't look out for #1(that's you), then who will?

JOKOGBOLA
JOKOGBOLA

The advise THAT ones career is in one set of hands and that is YOU, is an all-important fact for any one who wants to get ahead on time in his or her career. The days of employers spending heavily on training employees are over!!!

CoachRick
CoachRick

I agree completely with Kathryn on item #1, take care of #1 -- on several grounds. As "Semantics" states, it is how you read it and I too believe that Kathryn means to get serious about your career and do what is needed and wanted to make it work for you. But unlike the 'selfish' position, I get that if I am to be the best to my clients/customers/co-workers -- actually everyone around me -- then I need to be at my best and I can only do that if I take care of myself. As a personal coach, I see this to be true in nearly all of my clients; those that spend all of their time doing for others are spent and used up and feeling lost. I often use the analogy of the safety talk on the airplane as it taxis out to the runway where at the end they talk about the oxygen mask and what they say about it that is so important. Put on yours before you assist others. For me, this is what #1 says. Coach Rick

gechurch
gechurch

Perhaps the wording of item #1 could have been better. I took it to mean "take control of your own career because no-one else will do it for you", not "be selfish to get ahead".

samsonsam
samsonsam

i really like your post ....now that amvery much new into IT and i really love to be very deep in it.what can i do to boost my knowlege in networking.what tips dou have for me in other to boost my career.how can i get more free teaching online to read and familiarise my self with the reading and diagrams. tanks. sam.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

The reality is, most IT jobs are intertwined and not segmented into happy little groups anymore. People need to know MANY things - to be more generalized and less specialized.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

After all, most of us are people and most of our personal interests, especially at a base level, are remarkably if not frighteningly similar...