Friday, August 23, 2013

Tips to Avoid a Mid-Career Crisis in Tech Fields

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Tech professionals are aware of this characteristic of their industry. They know that rapid changes in technology are common and that the tech used today may not be popular tomorrow. In order to keep up with these changes, they need to be able to manage their careers appropriately.
Unfortunately, it is common to see programmers, network administrators, and other tech professionals in an uncomfortable position because they could not manage their careers. They are laid off from a job that was once secure and have skills that are seemingly irrelevant now.
The solution to this is to assess the risks in your career. There are certain risks inherent in any career. With IT, the risk is keeping out of touch with technology. It may seem wise to stick to your strengths, but not in the tech field. Career development inertia is very risky in IT, especially if the tech you are familiar with is being phased out.
Active management of your career can help you avoid a tech career crisis, but it will involve more than just learning new technology. It also involves going beyond just learning every new tech and gaining industry-specific knowledge, maintaining a strong contact network, and seeking management experience. Here are some tips to help you out:
Look at the big picture
Considering the pace at which IT is evolving, it is surprising to see very few techies who look outside their small comfort zone. At best, they look outside when it is too late and get overrun by new technologies. To avoid this, you need to keep up with the latest industry developments in general.

Go through various online and offline news sources like Dice.com and Cnet News to keep in touch with technology trends that are not only shaping your particular field of interest but also the industry in general and even the world. It helps you understand the big picture and assess signs of danger pertaining to your area of expertise.
Transition on the job
If you find your expertise being threatened by a new technology, engineer a job transition within the current organization instead of going the traditional root of resigning and finding a new job. Your company already knows your strengths and can create a path for you to transition from one field to another. The shift may be lateral, but even then, it is a better alternative than leaving the company entirely and starting from scratch.
Focus your training
A transition works best if the technology or skills you are training in is related to your current function. You could seek a complete transition to an unrelated field, but the risk is high. It is safer to build on your current skills with training and specialize yourself instead of establishing a completely new area of expertise.
Rework your resume
In a fast-paced IT industry, your resume has to change rapidly too. If the skills in your resume are outdated, you need to overhaul it. Try a different approach and focus on writing about the value you brought to your company.
Some additions you could include are things like cost saving, budget management, deadlines met, and projects completed. Your skills should still be included, but keep them part of your history and not the main focus of your resume. 
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