Women in IT

Kick In the Pants: How to Navigate Workplace Politics

Posted on January 27, 2015. Filed under: Career Management, CIO, Women in IT, Work Issues |

toon476No matter how hard we try to get away from the drama of IT and tech office politics, they have a way of sneaking up on us. Whether you’re just starting a new job or you’re working your way up the ladder, it’s essential to know how to handle your specific workplace environment. No two companies handle their politics the same way. Fortunately, there are a number of best practices that can help you keep your head above water no matter where you work — the important part is to put them into play and avoid letting drama get the better of you.

Neutrality, Above All Else

The more important the topic at hand, the more things seem to devolve into an “us versus them” mentality. Your coworkers will want you to take a side and join them in their crusade. As enticing as this may seem — especially if you really do favor one side over the other — don’t give in. Sometimes staying neutral can strain certain relationships; as long as you feel confident that it won’t break them, stick to your guns. Make it clear to everyone that you understand where both sides are coming from.

**Of course, this doesn’t mean you lack the ability to be passionate or “fight” for what you believe in. The point here is to make sure you pick the battles worth fighting, and more often than not, the corporate “goo” is not the right battle.**

Do Your Recon Work

When you’re new to a job, one of the first things you should do is understand the workplace politics landscape. What topics, behaviors, and opinions are off-limits? A great way to crack this nut is by simply observing. Keep a close eye on what is causing stress or discomfort in your office, and take note if you see a pattern emerging. More often than not, a week or two of observation will give you plenty of information to go on.

Pinpoint Your Office Advocates & Adversaries

Everybody has them: your work friends and work foes. It pays to sort out who is who early on. The same way we have professional networks outside of our jobs, we have networks inside, too. Building strong relationships with your coworkers is a given. Pay attention to the people you’re unable to relate to on a personal or professional level, especially if you observe them involved in your workplace drama. Unfortunately, some people are naturally more drawn to chaos, and you will want to stay out of their path as best you can.

Be Forthright and Open

Mistakes happen. If you find that you’ve committed a blunder at your workplace, own up to it and make amends. Likewise, ask directly if there are any keys to preventing future gaffs. Show that you’re willing to learn from your mistakes and “play nice” in your office politics game.

Never Take It Personally

It can be a challenge to separate yourself from your job, and office politics do feel awfully personal at times. Remember that politics are most often the result of people wanting to do the best job they can, and that you’re all working toward the same goals. Even when it feels personal, remember that it’s your role — not you — in question.

When it comes to politics in the workplace, do your homework and choose to be the better person, and you’ll be on the right track for this and future jobs.

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How Many Certifications Do You Really Need?

Posted on January 13, 2015. Filed under: Career Management, Consulting/Contracting, Cyber Security, Engineering, Executive Job Search, Healthcare IT, International Job Seekers, IT networking, Job Market Trends, Product Development, Programming, Project management, Software Development, Technical Sales, Technology, Women in IT, Work Issues |

certificationsJob-changers and entry-level job-seekers alike all seem to have the same question: Should I spruce up my resume with extra certifications? And if so, how many do I need to get the job of my dreams?

The answer? It depends.

Of course, showing off your skills and education is a good thing — but so is real-world work experience. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of certification-collecting rather than working towards the skills that will actually move your professional life where you want it to go. And because you don’t have infinite time, you need to prioritize the ways you develop professionally.

(You also want to be careful that you haven’t fallen into the Career Credential Addiction that seems to be pervasive these days.)

So, before you start raking in certification after certification, follow these three steps: take a reality check, do your research, and strategize.

Reality Check

What certifications do you actually need for your job? Don’t get waylaid by job ads that ask for lots of certs — oftentimes, they are in the “nice to have” category and not the “need to have.” Always consult your hiring manager before jumping right into a new cert just to apply to a few jobs. Be aware that lower-level certs are usually worth less to employers than high-level ones, so don’t accumulate the basics just to have a few letters after your name.

Remember: Unless you are in a profession that legally mandates certification before you can practice your craft, there’s often some wiggle room in getting hired for jobs that ask for them.

Research

Here’s a tip that will save you time, money, and headaches: Research the people who have the job that you want on LinkedIn. What certifications do they have? Don’t stop at just one or two  — look for multiple people across the country who have the job title you seek, and keep a record of what certifications they have to their name. But don’t stop your research there. Scan as many job ads and company websites as you can to see where the common ground is. Chances are, if you see the same certs popping up over and over again, they are worth your time.

Strategize

Once you have the lay of the land, it’s time to come up with a plan. Will your current employer pay for certifications? Find out. Do you need to join a professional organization before you can get the cert you need? Ask. Boil down your plan to just the essentials, and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Never forget that relevant work experience is almost always considered more valuable than certifications, so factor that into your plan. Can you take on a new project at work, or volunteer your skills to an organization in need? Be creative in your approach.

Remember, it’s the quality of certifications — not the quantity — that matters in your job search. There’s no magic number. Certifications are shorthand for knowledge, but they aren’t the only way to prove your skills to potential employers.

Get comfortable communicating about what you do, and use your certifications as evidence to back-up your claims — not the other way around.

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Results of Corporate Entrepreneur Poll

Posted on December 9, 2014. Filed under: Big Data, Career Management, CIO, Consulting/Contracting, Cyber Security, Engineering, Executive Job Search, Healthcare IT, International Job Seekers, IT networking, Job Market Trends, Job Promotion, Job Search Tips, Manufacturing, Personal Branding, Product Development, Programming, Project management, Software Development, STEM, Technical Sales, Women in IT |

Last week I put out a call for responses to a poll asking our audience what the phrase “corporate entrepreneur” meant to them. This topic of corporate entrepreneurship will encompass my contribution to my upcoming book Uncommon with Brian Tracy (Spring 2015), and I wanted to get a sense of what professionals out there thought when they heard the phrase.

The largest response at 23% was that a corporate entrepreneur was “a strategist”. A three-way tie for second at 15% each included:

  • Someone who’s business savvy but probably more suited for self-employment.
  • Someone who sees what’s coming in the corporate realm and prepares for it.
  • A professional who knows how to apply certain elements of self-employment within the corporate structure.

If you’d like to participate in the poll, please feel free to do so. I’ve included it below and will keep it open a couple more weeks.

At that time, I will post the results and give an excerpt from the book discussing this issue. As a technical career strategist following the world of work closely, I am convinced that corporate entrepreneurship is going to be a “must” (yes, a must) for anyone looking to maintain their careers, particularly as we move through the next decade.

The shifting of corporate culture, the convoluted hiring practices, the mixed-generational workforce, and most importantly, the global market outlook are all bringing together a perfect storm that will forever change what it means to be in corporate. What we’ve seen so far is just the beginning.

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