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Stay Competitive: Guerilla tactics for IT professionals

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Like working people everywhere, professionals in IT must balance demands for their time. In addition to daily work and personal obligations, it's also critical for professionals in all technical fields to keep their skills current. And training can become even more important as we get older. Because IT and software development, in particular, continue to evolve more quickly over time, it's not just that you can't slack off -- you actually have to work harder. Experienced workers demand higher salaries, so employers expect more from them. In addition, age discrimination is no stranger to IT.

It might sound grim, but there is an upside: significant, sustained demand and competitive salaries for professionals in many IT specialties in major cities. Bottom line -- you own your career. What are you going to do about it?

Your Stay Competitive strategy

Our recommendation for professionals who want to stay current is a simple, two-pronged strategy.
  1. Networking: attend conferences and talk to your peers.
  2. Studying: hone new skills by learning and practicing.
First: it's important to stay competitive by networking. Attend conferences and talk to your peers. The goal is to learn what other people are working on and why. Ask questions and challenge your own assumptions about the skills in demand right now, the technologies coming in the next wave, and the skills that will be required. Take opportunities to talk about all the cool, relevant things you're working on (without divulging trade secrets or getting too granular, of course), including the projects you're tackling in order to hone new skills.

Second: take what you learn through networking, and start filling the gaps in your skillset. Study, take technical courses, get new certifications, etc. Switch jobs if you have to. This is how you'll create a virtuous cycle between what you hear, what you talk about, and what you practice.

Apply what you've learned

The best way to apply the Stay Competitive strategy is continuously, little by little, throughout the year. However, conferences may show up in clusters on your calendar, so you'll need to plan in advance.

For example, the one-day 2015 RSA Conference is coming up on April 20, 2015, in San Francisco. If you work in IT security, you should be attending. To learn how and why to make that day really count, visit the JW Secure site and see our Security Trends and Guerilla Tactics for Conference Attendees in 2015 post.
 


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