Tag: technology

Kick in the Pants: How to Find the Best Mentor For Your Career

Kick in the Pants: How to Find the Best Mentor For Your Career

career mentorIf there’s one thing that separates wildly successful people from everybody else, it’s often the presence of a mentor.

In the IT and tech worlds as in life, we can’t do everything on our own. We need good advice, a sounding board, and the perspective of somebody who understands where we’re coming from. So why do so many people avoid mentor-mentee relationships?

Because most people don’t understand how to get a mentor, if they realize they need one at all.

A great mentor is rarely handed to you. Sure, some people naturally fall into mentorships without making a concerted effort, but this isn’t something you want to leave to chance. In tech and IT, it’s imperative to be at the top of your game and to think like an entrepreneur. A mentor can help you make the most out of your job and show you how to turn it into your life’s work, not just another 9 to 5.

However, there’s a catch: finding the right person for you. But don’t despair. Mentees have found their mentor matches for centuries, and you can, too. All it takes is a little work.

How to Find Your Best Mentor

First, you need to realize that most mentorship happens organically.

The words “will you be my mentor?” should ideally never come out of your mouth. That’s because good relationships develop naturally over time. In fact, you may already have a mentor if you seek the counsel of a trusted advisor regularly. Don’t discount any relationship just because the person in the mentor role isn’t in your exact field or industry. If he or she is valuable to your career, the person becomes your mentor as soon as you start thinking of them as such. No further acknowledgment is necessary.

If you haven’t found your mentor yet, determine what traits and qualities an ideal mentor would have to be useful to your specific work life.

Does your mentor need to have taken your career path? Or would it be better to get an outsider’s perspective? Do they need to be senior-level, or would somebody with just a few extra years’ experience suffice? Remember that mentors can come from anywhere, so don’t set your sights too narrow.

Start or deepen a professional relationship with your would-be mentor.

If you’ve pinpointed a stranger as your ultimate mentor, do not start by asking him or her for mentorship. For new as well as old contacts, let them know that you value their knowledge and would appreciate their professional opinion. Invite them to coffee or lunch, and get to know them (or know them better). If and only if you feel that the relationship is comfortable for both of you, see if you can continue asking their advice in the future on an ongoing basis.

Be the relationship’s maintenance person.

When you’re receiving the benefits of mentorship, make your gratitude known. Say please and thank you. Ask your mentor about his or her life, and offer your help. Mentorship might look from the outside like a one-way street, but nothing is further from the truth. It’s up to you to nurture the relationship — and eventually, to pay it forward by taking on a mentor of your own.

 

What To Do If Your Company Gets Acquired

What To Do If Your Company Gets Acquired

corporate mergerThere’s nothing employees want to hear less than that their company is about to go through a merger or an acquisition. But in the tech sector especially, the shifting tides of the marketplace mean that these changes are a reality many people must face. While it’s tempting to bury your head in the sand until the rocky times are over, that’s simply not an option.

You want to swim — not sink — no matter what happens to your current job, and the key is to take action now and get prepared.

Let’s face the music: Mergers and acquisitions happen all the time. Perhaps your competitor wants to control the market share and snatches up your company without a second thought. Or maybe your company is already a market leader in a sector your competitor wants to break into. Whatever the situation, jobs are at risk during the transition, and that goes for the other company’s employees, too.

Finding out that change is afoot can come as a shock to employees and create an exceptionally stressful, tense environment. After all, mergers and acquisitions put your livelihood at risk. It’s no wonder that work atmospheres change instantly as soon as the news spreads.

The important thing to remember is that nothing’s set in stone until the leadership makes personnel decisions; it’s not a guaranteed death sentence to your job.

Don’t let your stress get the better of you, and seize this opportunity to build yourself a “lifeboat” to get you to your next job, if necessary.

While ideally, we’d all be perfectly prepared to get a great new job at the drop of a hat, that’s not the case for many people. Whether or not your business is going through a merger or acquisition right now, it’s smart to follow the steps below so you’ll never be caught off guard.

How to Survive a Merger or Acquisition

Get your finances in shape.
Planning a big purchase? Now’s the time to put that on hold. Eliminate any unnecessary spending and come up with a plan so you’ll be in good financial shape for the time it takes you to find a new job — just in case.

Refresh your resume.
It’s a great idea to always be updating your resume, but if you haven’t, start right now. You want to be ready to send it out to potential employers at the drop of a hat, especially if others in your same role will be on the job market at the same time as you.

Reach out to contacts.
Rekindle valuable relationships and reach out to new contacts that will strengthen your network. The sooner you do this, the better position you’ll be in if you need to let them know you’re looking for a new job.

Leverage HR.
Break out your hiring paperwork and see if you have any clauses written into it about whether your role can be laid off, severance pay, or non-compete agreements. Human resources mangers also often have a wealth of resources to help you find your next job, if necessary.

Keep your morale and work ethic high.
Show your superiors that you can take changes in stride by resisting the gossip and negativity that inevitably occur during mergers and acquisitions. You’ll make a great impression on those around you, which is a valuable edge to have during this transitional time.

 

About Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (June 2015). Contact Stephen directly at Stephen@ittechexec.com or send him an invite at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenvanvreede. To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You?

The Real Skinny: Why You Can’t Succeed in Tech Without Creativity

The Real Skinny: Why You Can’t Succeed in Tech Without Creativity

tech careerThe word “creativity” is highly misunderstood.

What do you think of when you hear it? Finger-painting in kindergarten, perhaps? Or even a marketing executive coming up with a killer ad campaign? The first things that come to mind when we hear the word usually have little or nothing to do with our jobs in the IT and tech sectors. Most of us are guilty of offloading creative responsibility onto others because it’s “not something we’re good at.”

We’re here to tell you that this train of thought is a big mistake.

Creativity is everyone’s responsibility, whether you’re highly technical or not. That’s because it plays a different role in every individual’s life. But what is the common theme amongst all creative people?

That creativity means good ideas — and the know-how to execute them.

(Now doesn’t that sound like something you can do?)

Today more than ever, we are seeing tech businesses leverage creativity to benefit the bottom line as well as the world. Think Google’s self-driving car. Or the way Netflix has revolutionized the way we consume movies and television. These companies leveraged their creativity by addressing real-world problems, trying something new, and taking a risk.

In other words, they were creative.

Creativity means innovation, risk, and newness. It means thinking of solutions nobody has considered before. It means sticking your neck out and taking a leap of faith.

Creativity isn’t a guarantee of success. But successful creative solutions have the power to change the world. And it’s the willingness to take such risks that separates out the best employees from everyone else.

Can you start being creative in your job? Absolutely, no matter what it is that you do. Start by looking at the problems you encounter every day with fresh eyes and daring to ask what if?

 

About Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (June 2015). Contact Stephen directly at Stephen@ittechexec.com or send him an invite at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenvanvreede. To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You?

The Real Skinny: How Long Should You Stay at Your Job?

The Real Skinny: How Long Should You Stay at Your Job?

Classic career advice says that you should aim to stay at every job for a minimum of one year — but how do you know when it’s time to move on?

There’s been a lot of talk in the past few years about the dramatically changing workplace and how shorter tenures are becoming the norm. Employees just aren’t staying put at their desks for 20 years at a time anymore. For people navigating the uncertain waters of their careers, this can cause some pretty serious feelings of instability. How short is too short, and how long is too long?

The answer depends on your particular situation.

According to a recent article by Forbes, a good guideline is somewhere between eight months and six years. Here’s how it breaks down:

Eight Months: Only leave if you are truly miserable at the job and think that staying will harm your career.

A Year and a Half: According to the article, this is a good minimum to shoot for because it suggests you passed a review cycle and chose to leave of your own accord.

Four Years: A solid 48-month span of working for the same company looks great on your resume because it’s not too long and it’s not too short. It shows that you’ve had ample time to learn, grow, and get promoted.

Six Years: If you’re staying at a job this long, it should only be because you’ve been promoted to a position of responsibility where you’re working on important projects with senior-level staff.

But, as with every set of guidelines, there are exceptions to the rules. If any of the following apply to you, it could be time to move on — even if you haven’t made it to the 48-month benchmark yet:

You’ve Stopped Learning.

Money is only part of the value our jobs give back to us for our hard work. If you’re learning nothing new, there’s a problem. Your current job is what prepares you for the next one, and if you’re not learning and growing, you won’t be prepared.

You’re Being Underutilized.

Are you sitting on a goldmine of ideas and know-how, but nobody sees it? There’s nothing more frustrating than wasting your potential on jobs that don’t value your skills. Find a job that not only uses your full skill set, but also challenges you to expand it.

Your Career is Stagnating.

If it’s been more than a little while since your last raise or promotion, it might be time to move on. Prepare for your next career move now by either getting that promotion, or moving somewhere else that will raise the bar of your career.

You’re Clinging On.

Sometimes we are the ones who refuse to let go of our jobs. Whatever the reason for clinging, remember that being too comfortable in your current job will most likely make it harder for you to get comfortable in the next one.

Your Ideal Job Is Within Reach

Have you been offered your dream job? Then take it! It’s okay to take a calculated risk with your resume once in a while if the payoff is really worth it. It’s your life, after all, and sometimes the best opportunities don’t come twice — so seize the day, but be smart about it.

Kick in the Pants: Work-Life Balance: What The Experts Are Saying

Kick in the Pants: Work-Life Balance: What The Experts Are Saying

work life balanceWork. Life. Balance. These are three of the most problematic words for employers and employees alike. How do you know if you have enough of it? Maybe you have too much of it? Are you working yourself to the bone? Or are people’s careers skyrocketing ahead of you because you focus too much on your personal life?

Experts’ thoughts on work-life balance are changing constantly, and the popular opinion on the subject is truly a moving target. That’s why we surveyed the latest information on the subject to report back to you how those three little words are being interpreted right now, in 2015.

Blurred Boundaries

Rarely are work and life two separate things these days, as Jacob Morgan of Forbes argues. As the expectation for being “always on” increases, so does the expectation that employees will find jobs they actually feel passionate about.

Smartphones Are Controversial

A major part of the blurred work/life boundaries has to do with technology, in particular, smartphones. But being constantly reachable on nights, weekends, and vacations isn’t always well-received by employees. As Fast Company reports, 65% of workers are expected to be reachable outside of work, but a whopping 35% of these employees feel they don’t have enough personal time.

A Little Imbalance Is Okay

As Entrepreneur author Boland Jones writes, “… for entrepreneurs, there’s very little delineation between the two parts of life.” Now that every employee should be thinking like an entrepreneur , we couldn’t agree more. When you’re in charge of your career and always thinking about what’s coming next, you might have work on your mind even when you’re not in the office — and that’s okay!

What’s important is that you connect the hard work you’re putting in with your overall career goals, not that you log long work hours just because everyone else is. When you can see the big picture and you like where you’re headed, it’s worth it.

The Real Skinny: Will Workplace Perks Make You Happier In Your Job?

The Real Skinny: Will Workplace Perks Make You Happier In Your Job?

workplace perksPeople in tech have one big benefit over people in other industries: the awesome workplace perks. We’ve all heard about the free meals, massages, and gym memberships that some companies use to herd all of the best talent their way. And yes, if your particular workplace doesn’t offer high-caliber perks, you might feel a little jealous, or even compelled to look for a more lavish workplace. But hold on for a second there: How do you know for sure that perks will actually make you happier at work?

We all know that money is not the same thing as happiness. If you’ve ever had a cushy job with a less-than-cushy boss, you also know that sometimes a paycheck just isn’t worth working in a toxic environment. Perks that save you money on things like groceries, exercise equipment, or daycare aren’t really that different from extra money in your pocket, and they certainly don’t guarantee a better relationship with your boss.

Most research shows that workplace perks don’t make much of a difference in employee happiness.

The top factors in employee happiness are often cited as fair pay, good working relationships, a sense of autonomy, and recognition for a job well done. When it comes to happiness, financial benefits are really only part of the equation. Of course it’s essential to be paid well for what you do — but do you really need all of the bells and whistles, too?

As attractive as a perk-filled workplace seems, it’s the quality of the perks —not the quantity — that really matters.

Not all companies can offer Google-level perks, and that’s okay. There are dozens of perks that reflect well on a potential employer, but have little to do with how much they are spending on extras. Oftentimes, these “quality” perks come in the form of workplace policies. Pet-friendly offices, casual Fridays, or summer hours, for instance, might not seem as glamorous as free lunch, but they actually might make a bigger impact on your day-to-day job fulfillment.

When you’re looking for your job, seek out perks that show that the employer actually cares about employees and isn’t just aiming to impress.

It’s easy to get starry-eyed when you’re in talks with a big company that offers tons of free stuff, but don’t mistake perks for the qualities you care about most in a job. Perks function in today’s world as a marketing tool that caters to potential employees. Some companies devote an extraordinary amount of time and resources into creating perks that will get your attention. This doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with the perks or the company — it just means that you have to take extra care not to let perks distract you from what’s actually important to you.

Before you jump ship and pick up a new, perk-laden job, challenge yourself to figure out what’s vital to you in your next role, regardless of extras. Perks are fun and interesting for a little while, but having the job you want in an environment you love is a better long-term move for your career and for you.

About Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (June 2015). Contact Stephen directly at Stephen@ittechexec.com or send him an invite at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenvanvreede. To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You?

 

Kick in the Pants: 5 Ways You Can Start Thinking Like an Entrepreneur

Kick in the Pants: 5 Ways You Can Start Thinking Like an Entrepreneur

technical recruiter helps with IT resumeIf you’ve been taking a slow, leisurely climb up the career ladder, listen up: It’s time to stop being passive and start thinking like an entrepreneur.

These days, it’s no longer your employer’s responsibility to plan out the next 20 years of your career — it’s yours. Work is changing, and if you want to have a career you love, you have to change along with it. Entrepreneurial thinking is the new “must” for every employee, whether you’re the newest hire or the CTO, and it’s the way you’re going to make the most of your current job and your future career.

So how do you start thinking like an entrepreneur, even if you feel the furthest thing from it?

Trim the Fat.

Entrepreneurs are the captains of the proverbial ship, and dead weight will sink it. Toss inefficiency overboard so you and your company can get where you’re going faster.

Let Your Passion Guide You.

What part of your job inspires you and fills you with new ideas? Focus on what drives you, even if seems small at first, to ignite your passion and come up with creative solutions.

Banish Fear.

Take calculated risks to up your entrepreneurial ante. The movers and shakers of the IT world don’t move and shake because they play it safe; they have the confidence to take intelligent risks and to handle the consequences.

Share Your Vision.

Don’t save your brilliance for a later date, or somebody might beat you to the punch.

Be “The” Expert.

Are you the go-to person in your workplace when a problem arises? Aim to know more, work harder, and pitch in more than anyone else to be seen as a leader, not just another employee.

When you put these practices into play, you’re better equipped to be a knockout at your current job, but more importantly, you groom yourself for a future career that just might surpass your expectations.

CIO & IT Career Project Management: How to Plan for Success

CIO & IT Career Project Management: How to Plan for Success

As I work with senior-level IT leaders, IT operations directors, as well as IT program and project managers, I hear more and more about failed technology implementations. Not that the technology itself failed, although that certainly happens too. What really intrigues me is the level of project failure from an operational, functional, and process standpoint.