If my students widened the scope of the question a little, they might find things a little easier. For instance, the question “how do I get experience” becomes a lot easier to answer, particularly if someone has worked in the IT industry before. Recruiters have to satisfy themselves that you can do the job, and you have to demonstrate evidence of your your own abilities to them.
Many people I speak to already have experience as a professional, even though they haven’t been involved in a complete life-cycle project before. They know how to manage projects, they have worked in teams, and taken the lead when necessary. They know the peculiarities of a business process in XYZ domain, and can dictate the workflow backwards, but not in an SAP environment. They can manage the implementation of ABC Software, and know how to handle the programmers that were out-sourced last year. More importantly they understand the needs of the client and how to work through what can be a difficult relationship.
Skills such as these are ‘transferable’ between all professional jobs. Employers like to see evidence of these skills, and successful professionals are adept at presenting this evidence.
A key aspect of becoming more professional is developing the ability to look at your own working style and how you achieve things. Once you understand this you can explore different working styles and perhaps get better results. Think about the transferable skills you already have and write them down. The next time you update your CV (Curriculum Vitae) you need to be writing about your approach to dealing with clients, gathering system requirements or whatever you do well.
And don’t forget that being professional means that you identify your own areas of weakness. However, rather than hiding behind what you do well, a professional would seek ways to develop their weaknesses and transform them into strengths. A simple way of investigating this is SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis – 1 minute with your favourite search engine will locate lots of SWOT resources.
One of the advantages of working for an organisation is the wealth of experience that other individuals have. Mentoring is the process by which somebody with experience (the Mentor) helps somebody with less experience (the Mentee). This can be very successful and if your company has a mentoring scheme then get enrolled fast. Individuals that do not belong to a particular organisation can always hire a mentor or a professional coach. Once you have developed your own expertise then take the opportunity to ‘give something back’ and take on your own mentee. Yet another development opportunity!
So the bottom line is:
- Reflect upon your work experience and highlight the transferable skills that you have acquired;
- Get educated – and I don’t mean trying to justify another domain-specific training course. Use your organisation to develop your professional skills. Got a hang-up about writing reports? Find a report-writing course or consult the vast resources available on the Internet. Want more project lead experience? Volunteer yourself to lead a project and take the opportunity to reflect about your own work style and develop new skills.
- If possible get yourself a mentor or a coach. Mentoring is very much under-rated, and most people are really surprised at what they can achieve.
Professionals already know that career mobility requires self-awareness and planning. Your approach to self-development should be as thorough as your approach to your job. That way you can up-skill ahead of the rest as you spot the next big trend. Of course I wouldn’t want to stir up the debate about whether Java is better than ABAP. But I have seen a lot of CVs lately from experienced ABAP consultants who want to get into Java Web Dynpro…