Column: Treat your career like a business

A theme that has emerged consistently in this year's Computerworld careers column is the need to treat your career increasingly like you would treat a business.

A theme that has emerged consistently in this year’s Computerworld careers column is the need to treat your career increasingly like you would treat a business.

You need a plan, a strategy and you need to stay close to the market. You need to be able to anticipate developments and back winning technologies. To do that you need access to reliable information. And, again just like redesigning a business, you need to be ready to reskill to make those you have fit what the market wants.

Training does not end when you leave the formal university or technical institute setting. It’s ongoing, either through outside courses, semi-formally through in-house and computer-based courses or informally and on-the-job. If you are not learning, you are going backward--just like a business that fails to grow in an expanding market.

Employers in the IT industry, of course, are walking a bit of a staff retention tightrope with regards to providing training. The more they train their staff, the more marketable those staff become. But not providing staff with opportunities to learn new skills may see them depart anyway.

A case in point was reported in Australia recently. SAP R/3 skills have been in short supply and anyone with skills and experience in that area could command big dollars. The state of Queensland treasury recruited six staff and spent $A60,000 teaching them about R/3, only to have the bulk of the group poached by the private sector and other government departments.

The lesson? Employers must learn that they have to be competitive, not just in the markets where they sell their goods and services but also in the market for staff. And to be competitive they have to not only pay market rates, but also provide a good work environment and access to further training.

Of course, Queensland Treasury’s reaction was slightly different. It held meetings with several IT consultancies and suggested they should develop their own expertise and, apparently, was pleased with the result of those meetings.

So much for the free market.

And now a prediction for 1997. We’ll see systems vendors playing a much larger role in sponsoring and developing IT courses at the tertiary level.

3Com has already announced some plans in this regard and it has to be for the better. It will help ensure such courses are much more closely linked to private sector developments and will provide a closer match between the demand for skills in the market and the supply from educational institutions.

(O’Neill is Computerworld New Zealand’s careers specialist. Email him at rob_oneill@idg.com.)

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