Technology-Related Career Trajectory: What’s Your Plan?

by Sheryl L. Christensen, Head Editor, INALJ California

Technology-Related Career Trajectory: What’s Your Plan?

Sheryl_ChristensenMany insiders in the field of web-based projects, both library-focused as well as business-related, are no longer quite as enamored as they once were of programming certifications, or even, in some instances, IT degrees.

There are still fields that absolutely require specialty certification and/or a technology degree prior to or during the beginning stages of an employment contract; however, more and more employers are looking for a results-oriented portfolio of work to be presented prior to consideration.

A portfolio of work, as opposed to a certification document alone, expresses insight and depth regarding a person’s skills, previous job-related achievements and wins (!), and may also provide an expressive peek into a person’s ingenuity, creativity, and style.

So – what to do? For starters: copious amounts of research. If the type of position you are looking at absolutely requires a certification or a degree, your path may be largely pre-forged. Read position descriptions and talk to and read about people who are in the field that you are aiming to join. What would they do differently if they could do it all again-now? What is their wish list for new employees coming into the field? Find out what the expectations and preferences are for education and for showcasing what you can do. Begin your trek to proficiency and employability with an end in mind. There are so many classes and so many paths and so many potential programming languages and platforms to learn that your wheels could very well spin for years jumping from course to course to course with no end in sight and no career materializing on the horizon.

Find out what schools, courses, traits, and, if necessary, certifications are well-regarded in your chosen field. I feel that there is no such thing as frivolous or wasted knowledge: everything we learn plays a part in who we are and, by extension, what benefit we imbue to our immediate and global environments. But, there is also something to be said for an efficient progression toward our goals. Staying on track to a goal that stimulates our intellect and passion also supports and expands our confidence, which, coincidentally, is a trait that contributes significantly to our marketability.

Mull it over. Give yourself a bit of time to puzzle about the educational and experiential path that will take you from the knowledge you currently hold to the expertise that you want to showcase in your portfolio. Some considerations to think about: the parameters of available training, cost, time, and also the output (proof of skill) that will result and that you can ultimately use to advertise to potential employers.

Build out from the nuts and bolts. List the characteristics you want for your portfolio project – platform interaction and wizardry, programming, design, structure, functionality, organization, metadata implementation, a usability report, etc. – so that the training you choose will lead to a focused attention on your skill and expertise as well as the benefit your skills will bring to an employer.

Map it out. Make a chart. Implement whatever type of Project Management style that will motivate you to act. Create a visual for yourself that diagrams the path and timeframe to completion of your goal so that you can keep it in front of you. Every goal you check off on your map can become a mini-graduation celebration with the benefit that continuing goals are already in place which will help to avoid time-consuming wheel-spinning and loss of focus.

Show off. Network – Promote your work on LinkedIn and other social media platforms; link to it on your resume and add the web address to your business cards. Ensure that employers can easily access your masterpiece! You may even consider creating a brief report: what platforms have you employed; what specialized skills have you used in the creation of the end product? Briefly discuss the benefits of your choices and what challenges they solve or avoid.

Whether the path toward systems librarianship or another technology-related career is your passion – or – possibly a career progression that you feel you can’t avoid, taking the steps to make a focused plan will help to keep perspective and get you where you want to go with less frustration and more (dare I say?) swagger.