How Much Have You Invested in the Tech Career You’ve Built So Far?

Posted on April 24, 2014. Filed under: Career Management, Consulting/Contracting, Executive Job Search, Job Market Trends, Job Promotion, Job Search Tips, Personal Branding, Resumes |

tech careerIn other words, how much time, money, and other resources have you devoted to getting where you are today?

If you’re anything like our entire team at ITtechExec and NoddlePlace, you’ve probably spent thousands on graduate degrees and certifications, countless hours throwing yourself into the latest development project or solutions initiative, and more time than you might care to admit thinking about work.

Have grad schools and cert programs convinced you that the latest and greatest is what keeps you relevant in the market?

There’s no arguing that an MBA or other grad degree or the latest certification or PMP or PE credential is still a major resume “booster.” In the past, though, just the fact that you had one or two would immediately open doors for you. Grad schools and cert programs knew this, of course. So they convinced us to go into debt to get them (and to keep going into debt to sustain them).

Today, however, the continuous quest for more credentials does not always equate to immediate open doors. The job market is more discerning, and these programs don’t do much to prepare you for that market, much less the technical job market that often has its own set of rules. So you can invest quite a bit of your own time and resources only to find out that you still need to know how to position yourself properly. (For more on this, see my own MBA story.)

Does the market send signals that it thinks you’re too old, experienced, expensive, etc.?

Right now we are seeing people in their early 40s worry about age, level of experience, and salary range…all because “irrelevancy” seems to be on everyone’s lips. This perception has invaded the tech job market in particular…that age and relevancy are tied together, that more experience somehow makes you stale, and that a high salary means you aren’t hungry or enthusiastic anymore.

So the question becomes, then, what is your answer to this market going to be?

There isn’t much that is conventional about the tech job market at the moment. Although jobs are opening up, promotions are on the rise, and contract/consulting opportunities are exploding, the fierce competition, the demand for more than just degrees and certifications, and the question of relevancy all make it uncertain…a bit of a “zoo,” if you will. Yet 95% of technical leaders still come at it from the “toss the resume out there and see what sticks” method. And they expect their peer-to-peer networking to do what it has always done for them…work.

Now, these traditional approaches do still have merit, BUT they are convoluted in the tech job market zoo. You will find that even with the credentials and the good referral, you still need a differentiator to back it all up. Otherwise, you end up with lots of nice interviews and discussions but no offer…even though you are qualified.

What if I told you that this differentiator is not a big mystery?

The differentiator is understanding your audience and presenting your background to them in a way that meets their current needs and demands (and understanding that this is an “ongoing” thing, not just when you are in “job search mode”). It’s where a customized technical resume portfolio solution comes in. Portfolios can help build in flexibility and prepare you to face the different hiring scenarios that are out there. They can also give you that differentiation because you aren’t hanging with the masses; you are approaching them from their perspective. (For more on technical resume portfolio solutions, see my  SlideShare presentation.)

But you need to know which tools are best for your situation AND how to use them. Although there is a lot out there you can do (or buy), you don’t need to do everything (that’s the good news!). (For more on how these technical resume portfolios work best, see my second SlideShare presentation.)

So if it works, then why will only about 5% of tech pros do it?

Because our paradigms can be difficult to change. Because optimist or pessimist, we get stuck in thinking about what worked before, how it was 5, 10, 15 years ago. Because we think we are minimizing risk by doing what everybody else does.

It’s an interesting perspective, if you think about it, coming from a market that is devoted to the “new” and innovative. But it’s what happens.

Don’t forget the second piece to the puzzle, though…

The technical resume portfolio solution is one part, but really it is just the beginning. What makes it more effective is maintaining it! Doing so provides a state of “every ready” as the market fluctuates. In other words, your career is not a “one-and-done” kind of thing. If you’re going to maintain those certs and keep pushing forward, then you need to protect what you’ve started and not just hope for the best.

Think of it this way. If you have 25 more years in the market, you might have as many as 8 more career moves ahead of you. If you have 10 years left, you have about 3 more. If you have 5 years left, you possibly have up to 2 more. Even if you think you will beat those odds, it still pays to be ready…and that’s where 95% of tech pros will miss the boat.

You’ve invested a lot to get those certs, climb that ladder, pay for that degree, etc. But all that effort doesn’t just sell itself. You still need to know how to market it.


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