Effective Career Management Strategies for IT Professionals

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that field of IT services is rapidly growing and creating high-paying jobs and excellent opportunities. In fact, the subfield of computer systems design and services alone employs over 1.5 million people. However, the IT industry is quite unique and competitive, so IT professionals should follow the tips below to effectively manage their careers.

Career Planning

First, college students and entry-level IT job candidates should research individual IT disciplines and their potential for future growth and opportunity. There are limited benefits in pursuing a career path that lacks long-term growth and development potential. The next step is to consider the associated economic viability and stability because the demand for certain technology products and services fluctuates according to market, innovation and industry trends. Research shows that the fastest growing IT jobs include web and software development as well as systems and cybersecurity analysts.

Continually Cultivate Skills

The technology sector is very fluid and agile, so IT professionals must continuously refine their knowledge and update their skills. The actual rate of technology progression depends on the sub-field, but all IT professionals who want to be successful in their careers must proactively increase their qualifications and expand their abilities. The easiest way to accomplish this is through maintaining industry certifications and membership in professional organizations. Attending technology events, conferences and trade shows are the best ways to stay up-to-date with market changes, emerging solutions and real-time trends.

Expand Business Acumen

Technologies like Big Data, sentiment analysis, machine learning and predictive analysis are transforming how business leaders conduct research, understand situations and make decisions. Many companies are striving to integrate departments and expand technology solutions, so IT professionals have many opportunities to become involved in new projects outside their expertise. Most companies that engage in e-commerce are aligning their sales, marketing and product management departments in order to centralize and streamline operations. They need IT professionals who understand their concepts and concerns in order to identify traffic, increase conversions and encourage click-throughs.

As a final note, IT professionals should maintain a strong network of industry contacts and associates. This will provide viable employment opportunities, but it will also establish credibility and guarantee future growth. IT professionals should also utilize appropriate resources in order to advance their careers.

Tips for Handling Consultant Employment Issues

No matter whether it's an in-house employee or a consultant hired from a staffing firm, issues are eventually going to arise with your employees. Job performance, team dynamic problems, and even hygiene are issues that every employee is going to be prone to from time to time, no matter what flavor they are. Handling these issues properly is important, especially when it's a consultant. Here are a few tips to help the handling of consultant performance issues go a bit more smoothly.

  1. Notify the staffing firm. When you plan on having a sit down with one of the firms' employees, it's best to let them know in advance what's going to be taking place. Who's going to be sitting down with them, what the talk is going to be about, and what outcomes you expect to happen as a result of the meeting, are all key pieces of information the firm needs to know. They can back your decisions up, and provide proof that the meeting took place should there be a need for it.
  2. Know when to send the issue directly to the firm. For times when you have a repeat offender, or a serious offense such as substance abuse, violence, or sexual harassment, it's best in these cases to send the employee directly to the firm so they can handle the disciplinary actions.

If you're in the tech industry, it's much easier to track the work performances of both your in-house employees and consultants you've hired in. In this case, it is in your best interest AND highly recommended to treat any consultants like you would a regular employee when it comes to performance monitoring and job issues arising.

In a perfect world, you've never have to worry about job performance issues. Unfortunately this isn't a perfect world, but you do have us here at Akraya on your side. Let us know how we can help you!

Six Steps To A Successful Career

Six Steps To A Successful Career

You know you are good dealing with people, but you are not sure what that means for your career. You love analyzing data, but you don’t know how to build a career on it. You are an entry-level employee at a big company and job opportunities keep passing you by. Even if you were to get one of them, you are not sure how it would fit into your long-term goals, or even if you have long-term goals. What's your career plan?

So many people go about looking for “jobs” without considering that they are letting opportunities for a satisfying career pass them by. Often, they don’t know what they really want to do, and if they do, they don’t know how to get there.

If you need to build a career for yourself, no matter your age or situation, consider the following tips:

 

1) Know yourself – The first step is to know who you are. If you don’t like dealing with strangers, don’t go into sales. If you are energized by people, look for a collaborative work environment. If you are not comfortable directing others, don’t aspire to be a manager. So often, we allow our preconceptions about which jobs are desirable (or lucrative) to dictate our decisions. People who do this find themselves very uncomfortable in their employment. Know your strengths, know what you bring to the table, and seek opportunities to showcase those skills.

 

2) Build your brand – This advice has been given so often that it almost has lost its meaning. However, brand-building is important especially now, because employers can discover information about applicants much more easily than in years past. Consider how you come across in person and online. In person, be amiable, professional, well-dressed, non-judgmental, and hardworking. Every time you deal with a colleague or potential employer, or anyone really, be your best self. You want employers to see you as someone who consistently delivers. And, don’t allow your online persona to detract from your brand. In fact, it should strengthen it. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Make sure the information you send out into the world via Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and so on, is appropriate. Employers can and do research their potential employees online, so make sure your online presence represents your brand.

 

3) Consider the lattice instead of the ladder – Your goal position may not be something you reach by ladder. These days, you may instead need to try out different areas via the “corporate lattice.” Be willing to try different things. Consider how your strengths may translate into different roles. As your career moves forward, you may be surprised to discover various career paths that you were not aware of when you started down the path.

 

4) Instead of networking, build relationships – Networking is the buzz term that often translates into quick conversations and meaningless handshakes. Networking is not something that you do a few hours a week to build your career. Instead, you should be building relationships with people on a daily basis, with people who seem important now, and people who don’t. Being an authentic person with a genuine interest in others will get you much farther then attending networking events where you never actually get to know anyone. The people who know you, your brand, and your skills, are more likely to assist you in your career than someone you tossed a resume to at a networking event.

 

5) Make yourself indispensable – Even if you are in a role you dislike, make yourself the best employee your manager has ever seen. You are far more likely to earn your way to a better role by exceeding at the one you have than by underperforming out of disappointment for your current situations. And, don’t forget the importance of building those relationships. A co-worker now may be a manager somewhere else later who is hiring for a job you desire.

 

6) Be bold – If your dream job is on the other side of the country - move. If you aren’t qualified for a role now because you don’t have the education – go back to school. If a bad working relationship with someone is holding you back – fix the relationship. This is your career and your life, and sometimes getting what you want may require a bold move.

 

You can have a satisfying career, but your success is up to you.  Follow these tips, and you'll be surprised how good work can be.

Networking tips for contract workers

As an IT Contractor, I'm often asked for networking tips to keep people connected in between assignments. Fortunately, networking as a contractor is no different from networking as a non-contractor. It's just networking, period.

Keep in mind that the end goal is to meet people, make connections and expand your circle of influence. People network everyday in many ways and most of the time it is very informal. I'm including a few simple strategies that have followed my career over time, kept me employed and growing my career in a way that benefits me.

  • Hello, my name is - networking usually begins with a hello! I understand not everyone has an extroverted personality, but a simple greeting and firm handshake are valuable assets. Speak clearly, introduce yourself and learn to engage in conversation. These are the beginning steps to being able to market yourself and your career.
  • Choose your venue - there are formal networking events like agency mixers, recruiting events and even job fairs. But there are also less formal settings that you can control. Try to go for the simple meet and greet at a coffee shop or favorite lunch spot. It will make conversations more personal and intentional. Besides, food makes everything easier.
  • Social Networks really work - sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and the like, are great tools to communicate and meet recruiters and potential employers. Don't be afraid to establish a strong social media presence to build, expand and showcase your brand.
  • Follow-Up is key - finally after you've been introduced and had your conversations, remember to follow-up. Send a note every quarter letting potential recruiters know what your employment status is, or just to keep in touch.

Remember, networking is about connections and relationships and that is not just a one time affair. It will take time, effort and attention. These connections in many cases are lasting and can have positive effects on your career, so make every interaction count.

If you're interested in growing your career, contact us about your next steps.

Three Tips for Being a Consultant or Contractor

 

Going out on your own can be rewarding. You can work when you want and choose the jobs that make you happy. There is no more listening to a boss telling you what to do. However, now it is your responsibility to line up enough jobs to pay your bills. You are the only one who is going to make your business successful.

So, here are some tips for being a consultant or independent contractor.

  • Treat it like a business. In order to be successful, you need to realize that you are in business for yourself. You need to put the time in to find jobs and complete them to the best of your ability. If you don’t consider it a business, you won’t spend enough time working to make it worthwhile.
  • Don’t forget about the paperwork. Though you want to focus on making money, you need to keep up with your paperwork to ensure that your business is successful. Someone (you) needs to make sure that you are billing your customers and getting paid. You also need to keep track of your expenses. Doing this regularly will make it less stressful at tax time.
  • Market, market, market. In order to be successful, you need to be constantly marketing your business, even when you are too busy to do it. Any people only focus on marketing when they are slow, which leads to busy times. Then, they don’t continue to look for new customers, which leads to slow times. In order to stay busy all of the time, you need to be constantly marketing your business.

In order to be a successful consultant or independent contractor, you need to treat it like a business. You need to be constantly looking for new work and give your customers what they want every time. However, you can’t forget about the paperwork – even if you just hire someone to help you with it!

Contact us for more tips for being a consultant or independent contractor.

3 IT Cover Letter Tips

In a sea of cover letters, how do you make yours stand out? Check-out the three cover letter tips described below.

Creative Format

Consider having a little clean fun with your cover letter format. Express your creative side without getting messy or kooky, but use your IT skills to make your cover letter stand-out from the rest. From strategically placed graphs to old-school programming fonts, consider making your cover letter uniquely themed to your personality and skill set. Give your words a face in that faceless sea of cover letters!

Beyond Job Tasks

Most people reading an IT cover letter understand that those applying have the skill-set to perform the job, so the decision-making process turns on other factors that make candidates stand-out. Experience is great, but it's likely that other IT professionals have similar work experience. Focus on 1) any job task or you improved at other jobs, and 2) the changes you implemented at other jobs, such as altering processes for increased efficiency, and 3) the results of these improvements and implementations: think results backed by numbers/data.

Unique Perspective

Increasingly, managers are seeking employees that are innovative. You've probably heard over and over to give a blurb in your cover letter about how awesome the company is and how you fit into their culture, etc., but everyone else probably knows this as well. Again, make your cover letter stand-out by referencing something unique that you researched or found-out about the company that others may not know: show how you're already an insider.

For more information, contact us today.

 

3 Networking Tips That Will Help You Get Ahead

It's who you know that gets you a job, and what you know that let's you keep it. We've all heard some version of this old proverb. Those of us who've dived into the job market know that it's often truer than we wish it was. Whether it's a family friend who hires you for an internship, or an old college classmate who tells you about an opening in his office, the people in our network are instrumental for helping us get ahead.

If you want to increase your network, here are three things you should start doing immediately.

 

Tip #1: Offer to Help (It Makes People Like You)

One of the best ways to go from a face in the crowd to someone's new best friend is to offer some form of help, free of charge. If you run a blog, for example, then reaching out to people in the industry you cover and offering coverage is a good way to get noticed. If you're an artist, then offering to help a local convention design their banners or mascot can make you the go-to person the next time that organization has work. Endear yourself to other people, show them you are willing to work, and that will benefit you in the long run.

 

Tip #2: Send Thank You Notes

Remember when you were a kid, and your parents made you write thank you noted to your relatives who sent you birthday presents? That skill comes in handy when expanding your network.

Always send a card thanking someone for an opportunity, or as a follow-up. It makes you stick out in their mind, and sometimes that's all it takes for you to get the callback when the next round of interviews happens, or a new position opens up.

 

Tip #3: Remember, Online is Real Life

There's a strange belief that what happens on the Internet isn't real, and it doesn't affect your offline life. This idea is slowly dying out, though, because so much of what we do online is our lives. We meet people, we keep in contact, and many people work through the Internet.

As such, the contacts you make online matter. Whether it's in your social media groups, on forums, or elsewhere, any community you can become a part of increases your network. Also, though, the things you say and do online reflect who you are. It isn't hard to find information about someone, so remember that what you say today might be on a hiring manager's desk tomorrow.

How MSPs and Recruiters Can Get Along Better

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What makes the relationship between hiring managers and recruiters tense? For starters, both parties must distinguish their roles up front.

Hiring Manager Role

Hiring Managers have a lot on their plates. They need to be active writing job descriptions for HR and up-to-date on the job search. Only they know exactly the kind of candidate suitable for the position and they need to ensure their needs are concise. Hiring Managers then follow-up with HR after the job posting is created to review the candidates submitted for the position. Based on the quality of candidates, the Hiring Manager may need to reevaluate the job description or even call staff suppliers to clarify the expectations to recruiters.

Recruiter Role

Recruiters need to be experts in the fields they recruit for. They need field expertise and excellent knowledge of the aspects involved for the role they help fill. With the technical experience they have, they will have a better understanding of the requirements and expectations of the position. Recruiters screen candidates, asking questions that a Hiring Manager would not - getting technical and uncovering any fishy information. Their job is to find and recognize the best fit candidate for the role before the candidate is offered to the Hiring Manager.

For the relationship to be the best it can be, both parties should:

1. Build trust - know each other's goals and motivations

2. Set clear expectations for the relationship together - follow-up with emails after meetings about these expectations with the terms and conditions for the relationship

3. Create clear guidelines for the opportunity profile together - leave the vague verbiage behind and get on the same page

4. Communicate - don't put off scheduled calls or meetings and be open and honest in discussions

5. Interview candidates collaboratively - work as a team to screen and select the best candidate

6. Close the deal together - the Hiring Manager should make use of the recruiter to negotiate the offer to the candidate

7. Celebrate - after the hiring process is finished, secure the bond with some kind of celebration and review

Relationships between a hiring manager and recruiters can be tenuous for different reasons. We hope to fix that. Let us know if you have some tips to share about how to help these kinds of relationships.

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Three Simple Confidence Boosters You Need to Own

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Does the word, "confidence" describe you? If you don't feel like it does, this post is for you.

If you DO feel like it does, this post is still for you. Here's why: confidence is very harmful if it's overdone. Overdone confidence runs the risk of coming across as arrogance.

The trick is, you will never know if you have confidence without examining yourself, and you will never attain true confidence without adequate self-knowledge, so the keys to confidence lie in a strong self-knowledge.

Let's dive in!

1. Measure your capabilities holistically and objectively

This can sometimes be painful. Measuring your capabilities through hard results, a case study, or outside input will keep you honest, and that is the first step to confidence.

We must be aware of what our capabilities are and what they are not. This enables us to avoid false confidence in something we aren't the best at and be full of true confidence in areas we know we excel in.

2. Identify weak spots in your capabilities that are crucial for what you do, and then improve them.

Don't miss the importance of this: if you have a weak spot that isn't crucial for what you do, don't worry about it! If you want to improve your overall confidence, seek to improve areas that are crucial for what you do. If you stink at public speaking but never need to speak in front of a group, don't sweat it! Become proficient in Microsoft Access, instead.

After you have identified your weak spots (and strong ones) in Step 1, improving your weak spots will enable greater confidence in those areas as they improve.

3. Utilize the "Fake it 'till you make it" mentality when appropriate

So let's say you've identified your weak spots, tried to improve them, but you're still feeling shaky. You need to make that sales pitch but you are very nervous and fear the worst.

This is where the false confidence can actually help you. Act like you know what you are doing, keep striving for improvement, and eventually you will know what you are doing. Best of all, you will often convince your audience that you are confident and grounded all along.

Know yourself, improve your weaknesses, and fake it 'till you make it.

Keep it simple and be confident!

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6 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job

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Why didn't you get the job?

Your interview was flawless, and you answered all the questions quickly and thoughtfully. You felt like you meshed well with the hiring manager and employees. However, the job was given to someone else. What went wrong? Here are six reasons why you might not have gotten the job.

1. Too Prompt/Not Prompt Enough

The time that you arrived for the interview is the first impression that the hiring manager will judge you on. Being late for an interview will have obvious negative effects on your chances of employment. What you may not realize is that being too early can have a negative impact on your chances as well. While the hiring manager may have left you sitting in the lobby, they may have felt rushed to finish what they were doing in order to tend to you

2. Dressing to impress

There is a saying, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have." Impressions are important when interviewing. The way you present yourself as a potential employee can be a tiebreaker between you and another candidate.

3. Resume/Cover Letter Lacking

Your resume helps the hiring manager to decide whether you qualify for the job. Misspellings and grammar issues may make your resume or cover letter seem to have been carelessly put together. A long resume may also have gone unread due to outdated and unimportant information. Take a look at an earlier post, Four Tips For Writing An Effective Cover Letter, to get tips on writing a desirable cover letter.

4. You Did Not Ask Any Questions

While being interviewed for a job, it is also expected that you interview the hiring manager. Asking questions allows you to stand out above the other candidates. Failing to do so may make your interview forgettable.

5. They Hired Within the Company

Individuals seeking employment not only compete against other candidates, but they must also compete against employees already working within the organization. This is known as the “internal hire," typically, it is easier for the organization to hire current employees. These employees are low-risk since their work experiences are known, and the hiring manager has an exact impression of their capabilities, personality, and work ethic.

6. References Did Not Support You

References are often the last step in the hiring process, and sometimes make-or-break your employment opportunity. Your references may not have known how to close the sale for you if they did not know the background of the company or the position you were hoping to acquire. Finally, you may have listed old references, or you may not have remained in contact with your references. If they no longer know your current capabilities, they may not represent you well as an employee.

Being denied a position gives you the opportunity to strengthen your interviewing skills. Keep in mind some of the key factors that hiring managers look for. Arrive 5-10 minutes early for your interview, this is a respectful time and does not rush or keep the hiring manager waiting. Look through your resume, and look for unimportant or outdated information that could be replaced or deleted. Your resume is one of your initial impressions, and first impressions are very important. Dress to impress the hiring manager and remember to ask questions. There are many reasons that you may not get the job, many of these may be beyond your control such as an internal hire, but it is important to increase your opportunities with those that you can.

For career opportunities with great companies, visit our Career Portal for more hot job skills.

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