4 steps to freshen up your image

If you're not being chosen for highly-visible assignments that could advance your career, then maybe it's time for a spring makeover!

Spring is here...freshen up your career!
Credit: Adobe Stock

When was the last time you were asked to participate in a special project that had a lot of visibility?

Do your colleagues always seem to be the ones chosen instead of you for those career-making assignments?

Have you applied for positions in your company and been turned down?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then maybe it's time for a career spring cleaning!

The thrill is gone…

When you've been in the same job for five years or more there is a risk of becoming stagnant in your IT career.

Yes, you're doing a great job of maintaining the status quo, but people may stop seeing you as being an innovator or change agent. You may be perceived as out of touch and maybe too entrenched in the past.

So you don't get selected for those high profile projects that help solve critical business problems; or those trail blazing projects using leading edge technologies.

But here's the danger --  moving up the ladder is less about your skills and hard work -- and more about relationships and your visibility in initiatives that matter to the organization.

It reminds me of the song by blues legend B.B. King -- The Thrill is Gone!  The thrill is gone for you and for those who have the power to promote you.  So you stay stuck in your current assignment.

Spring is here…time to get a new attitude!

More than other career fields, IT people are at risk of becoming dinosaurs if they don't keep up with technology, trends, and innovation.  They're left in the dust maintaining legacy technologies and applications, while their savvier peers move on to bigger and better opportunities.

If you aspire to be promoted into higher leadership or tech roles, you need to start looking like you're ready for this new challenge. And that responsibility is on you, not your manager or company, to manage.

Here's four things you can do to put a fresh spin on your career and position yourself for greater opportunities:

1. Freshen up your perspective

Start looking outside of your current four walls. Look beyond your current role and department and ask:

  • What challenges and opportunities is your company facing?
  • What do your customers need from your company?
  • How does your company stack up against your competitors and why?
  • How can technology be used to improve the situation?
  • What new technologies are on the horizon that might bring a competitive advantage?
  • What expertise or experience can you bring to the solution?

Remember when social media started taking off within companies? New roles were created within the business and IT to address this new phenomenon.  Then big data came, opening up new opportunities. Now cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, and the Digital Marketplace are hot topics.

2. Inventory your skills

Now that you have a broader perspective on your company and industry, think about the technical and leadership skills you might need to play a role in providing solutions to the challenges and opportunities.

  • Perhaps you can augment or learn a new skill in a critical area such as cybersecurity or data visualization.
  • If you're in leadership, what are the current trends around leading IT teams?
  • Or maybe you're a project manager and see the need to deliver projects faster. Consider bringing Agile development in and try it with your current team.

3. Update your image

Ok. It's time to get a little personal.

Albeit unfair, the way you dress, style your hair, your vocabulary and other personal traits say a lot about you.

If you're showing up to work in jeans and people in the roles you aspire to are dressing more spiffy, it's time to update your wardrobe.  You don't need to break your bank account to do this either. Google "how to dress for work" and you're sure to find examples of how to uplift your wardrobe in an economical way.

This is a free country and we're all free to express ourselves the way we want. But if you're working in a conservative environment and you're wearing a Mohawk hair style…well, you may want to reconsider adapting your style or changing companies. I'm exaggerating, but you get my point.

Think about your communication skills.  Are you always talking in acronyms and your business partners think you're speaking a foreign language?  Practice speaking in language that people can relate to.  This will make you look more professional and leadership-like.  And by the way, this goes for both oral and written communications.

If you find it difficult to effectively interact with people, or if you've been told that you're abrasive, then you need to work on your emotional intelligence. That's too much to cover in this article, but you can start here with an assessment and coaching session.

4. Rearrange your priorities

Instead of waiting for your skills and hard work to get you promoted, it's time to start owning your career and making this a priority.

Here's some first steps you can start taking right now:

  • Invest time in building relationships. Both on the business and technical side.  You'll find that when you show interest in other people and what they do, they're usually open to meeting you for a coffee break every now and then. And as you cultivate these relationships you will be able to share your career goals and be on their radar when new opportunities open up. But remember, it's not just about you. 
  • Look for opportunities to participate on special project teams or to handle special assignments from your boss. Let your manager know your interests and ask for his/her support. 
  • Be intentional about your career.  Make some plans about what you want and create a path to get there.

Happy spring cleaning!

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