After watching the Crotchety Olde Geek in his debut of “Career Advice for IT Newbies”, I had to compose my thoughts on this. Bob and I have had some interesting conversations that have helped me find my way where I am today, and I truly appreciate this arrogant, condescending SoB’s perspective and analogies along the way. But there are some points that he’s made that I do have differing opinions on.
Nobody Cares About Your Career
Your parents, the potential employers, recruiters… nobody truly cares about your career more than you. In order to stay ahead in your career, you have to do a lot of the work. Network, network, network. Go to user groups and events in your industry and meet others in your career, as you never know who you’ll meet or where your career path will take you. Attend conferences. Read books. Participate in webinars. Be aware of the community in your industry and get involved. If you think this is a lot to do, just know that the work you put in leads to what rewards you may one day be able to reap. But again… the keyword is you. If you want it to happen, you have to understand that your career is in your own hands and ultimately, you control your own fate.
As Bob puts it, the profession changes every 5 years. I disagree with him on this – it changes much quicker than that! The schools truly are playing catch up and rarely teach what’s relevant today. As he puts it, though, this is cool and fun stuff. If you enjoy it, you’ll always find something new to learn. But the skills you’ve learned in school and in certs are getting obsoleted rapidly, so you have to stay up on it to stay in the industry.
Job vs. Career
IT is a career and doesn’t work well as a job. Having been in the field as long as I have, this is very true. You can’t work in IT for 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. IT never stops; it’s constantly changing. The people who don’t float to the top will sink at the bottom, and this is true. So if you’re maintaining your SQL Server 2005 skills and writing classic ASP and not learning ASP.NET or SQL Server 2012 skills, you will become obsoleted and sink to the bottom. This may sound cruel, but it’s a harsh reality. There are people in the field who are constantly furthering their career, and businesses are attracted more to those than to those who aren’t staying ahead and doing what they can do be more efficient and give the companies a better return on investment.
In some careers, they do mean the difference between employment and not employment. To me, personally, it’s alphabet soup that shows that people can learn technology for a test. It’s one thing to read the book and get the cert, but if you can’t perform and do the job, that cert is meaningless. I’ve unfortunately encountered enough people with alphabet soup and incompetence when it came to performing that I don’t look at certs heavily. But as Bob puts it, if you’re going to learn the technology, then go for the cert while you’re learning. I’ll be going down this course over the next few months, as one of my employers wants me to be teaching Microsoft courses, as they’re content with me teaching and know that I’d be a great instructor for these topics.
Ah… the catch-22 of not being able to get experience without a job and not getting a job without experience. Bob mentions the concept of the home lab and working with non-profits. These are excellent ways of showing that you’re learning things to get you experience, and it’s showing that you’ve got the initiative and the drive to get more experience. And even once you do land a job, don’t stop these! Continue to play with the technology that you want to work with even once employed, as you never know where it’ll lead. (And yes, we have a home lab, much more complicated than some. But I’m married to an IT guy who’s constantly trying things out and seeing how things work.) As for non-profit work, if you want to help but don’t know where to start, check out http://clevelandgivecamp.org – an event happening in mid-July to help benefit the non-profits here in Cleveland.
Technology is getting outsourced. Technology knowledge alone is not enough to get by. If you know what the company you’re working for does, you can use your knowledge to help benefit the company. If you’re interviewing some place, be sure to check out the website of the company you’re interviewing with. Check out the company’s profile on LinkedIn. Know the business and technology, and know how to apply the technology.
This is the first of hopefully many rants from Bob on the industry and other things that crotchety olde geeks rant about. This younger crotchety geek looks forward to seeing what else he publishes. If you’re looking for honest, sage advice – with the reality of it all, not always sunshine and unicorns – stay tuned to the Simplex-IT blog to see more Ye Crotchety Olde Geek rants.