The second half of 2015 is well underway and you may be feeling a bit behind in the advancement of your career goals. Fear not, intrepid IT pro; it's never too late to revisit that time-honored tradition of making resolutions and pushing toward your goals. Here are 10 things you can do to help move your career forward.
1: Take a class
Nothing advances your career more than learning a new skill. And because the world of IT evolves faster than a lot of other careers, it's especially important to drive yourself further whenever possible. One easy way to accomplish that is to sign up for a class. You can find classes just about everywhere on every topic. If possible, find one that might address a personal weakness, such as subnetting or network security.
2: Network smarter and more often
It's easy to overlook networking within the industry. But nothing gets your name out there faster than making personal and professional connections. And if you do this smartly, those connections will each be meaningful on multiple levels.
Be sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and that every connection you make can find you there. While you're updating LinkedIn, consider upping your web presence game. Make yourself as findable and relevant as possible.
3: Take a risk
We spend so much time doing everything over a precious safety net. That net can only stretch so far and once it has reached its limits, most of us tend to avoid extending ourselves into the unknown. But beyond that safety net you might well find something incredibly special. Yes, that requires risk; but as Dade said in Hackers... Risc is good.
4: Keep an updated resume on hand at all times
Having a strong, up-to-date resume is critical for career advancement. And thanks to modern technology, there's no reason why you can't carry your full CV/resume on you wherever you go. In fact (again, thanks to modern tech), that resume you have on a convenient thumb drive doesn't have to be a flat PDF or .doc file. With the help of HTML5 (or many other languages) you can create an incredible, interactive resume to hand over at any time. This should be a no-brainer for anyone with the skills to pull it off.
5: Practice presentation
I'm not talking about ramping up your PowerPoint or Presents presentations. I mean it is finally time to break down and practice presenting yourself to others. Too often IT pros get so caught up in working alone for hours on end, they lose the ability to relate on a social level. You need to hone those skills because they will get your foot in more doors than anything else. You might be a Cisco guru, but if you're as socially awkward as a preteen boy at his first dance, you'll be lucky if you ever manage to get a second interview. Practice introducing yourself, chatting at length, and coming off as graceful and eloquent in social settings.
6: Be a mentor
Mentoring isn't just a "pay it forward" situation; it has many additional levels of payback. When you mentor someone, you practice one of the single most important aspects of IT... helping others. Not only that, you're adding a skill that can go on your resume. Being a mentor can also dramatically boost your confidence. When you're always looking for a new gig, you feel like you're always reaching out, looking for a helping hand. Being on the other end of that connection refuels a intangible but crucial portion of your emotional and mental makeup.
7: Get healthy
Too many IT pros are far from the epitome of health. Poor dietary choices, lack of exercise, too little sleep... it all wears down the body and mind. If you want to be at the top of your game, you need to get healthy. That doesn't mean you have to go overboard. Start out slowly and resolve to start exercising. That act alone will have a positive domino effect on your life and you'll find yourself feeling happier, sleeping better, and getting more done.
8: Update your wardrobe
Don't kid yourself. You've been dressing in khakis and button-downs for so long, you've forgotten there are other choices available. If you're serious about advancing your career, you need to take the time to advance your wardrobe. If you have a significant other, have him or her look in your closet and tell you what era your clothing hails from. If it's anything earlier than 2010, it's time to go shopping. While you're out, be sure to purchase an updated suit or skirt suit to use for all those upcoming interviews you're certain to have. Finally, update your hairstyle.
9: Be realistic
Too often we set unrealistic goals for ourselves. Take a moment to get introspective and honest to find out what goals are realistic for you. Don't kid yourself into thinking you can learn Ruby on Rails if you aren't a programmer. Don't set a goal to become a network security master if you've spent your entire career as a help desk technician. Know who and what you are—and build upon that. Don't try to focus on something you don't fully believe you can achieve. That doesn't mean you have to play everything safe. You still have to take risks (see #3 above). Just make sure the risks are, in some way, aimed at achievable goals.
10: Decide your endgame
What is it you want out of your career? Do you want to be the head of an IT department? Do you want to own your own managed support company that serves mid- to large-scale businesses? Do you want to develop that it app of the year? Once you decide what your endgame is, you can start building an ideal set of resolutions geared specifically for that goal.
You're set. With these strategies firmly in place, there's no limit to where you can take your IT career. Even though we're past the midyear point, you have time to achieve your goals and boost your career by 2016.
What strategies and tips would you add to this list? Is there a goal that keeps eluding you? Join the discussion and share (or seek) suggestions.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.