Why You Need a Long Term Plan for a Career in IT

Why should you have a career plan? Do you even need to know what your job will be in the long term?

The answer is yes, you need to know, or at least have an idea of what you want from your career. One of the benefits of working in the IT industry is that it’s so varied. There are a lot of career paths and different areas to work in. This can also be seen as a bad thing. What if you don’t know what you want to do?

Many people in the IT industry start out as graduates from university. Early in your career you may still be working out what kind of role you like, what you’re good at, what’s suited to you. As you gain more experience, it’s a good idea to have a plan of where you want to be in the long term in your career. There are several reasons why it’s good to have a plan, or a goal, for what you want from your career in IT

1. Satisfaction with Your Job

The aim of developing a career plan is, eventually, so you’re satisfied and happy with your job and your role. To know this, you’ll need to work out what you want to do in the long term – five or ten years. Some questions to ask yourself could be:

  • Do you enjoy your current role?
  • What do you like about it?
  • What don’t you like about it?
  • Do you know or work with people who enjoy their role?
  • What do they like or not like about it?
  • Are you prepared to take training or further education to make progress?

These may help you decide what you’d like to do. You may currently be doing development work and love that, so being a developer could work for you. You may like to take on extra responsibility, which could cause you to move into a development team leader role.

You may like to talk to people and work out what people want from a system – generally the role of a business analyst. You might like to manage a team of project managers, or you might be attracted to the world of system testing. It’s all up to you!

2. Know How to Get to the Destination

If you know what you want from your career, or roughly where you want to be at a certain point in time, this is a great first step. I’d probably say that’s the hardest part – working out what you want.

Now that you know what you want, you can start working out how to get it. Ask people, do research, and find out information about your target role and the progress:

  • Talk to people in your target role about how they got to where they are and if they have any advice.
  • Research what your target role involves – skills required, experience, what you need to be able to do.
  • Look into any courses or certifications you’ll need to do to help your progression.

For example, if you’d like to get into project management and you’re a graduate at the moment, you may need experience in several main areas of IT (development, analysis, etc). You may need experience dealing with different kinds of people in different roles. You will also need to know what the project manager does, and you may consider studying a recognised qualification such as the Project Management Professional.

3. Proactive Approach

Your career doesn’t just happen by itself. It’s all well and good to go to work and do your job, but you can’t just sit and hope for opportunities or roles to come to you and expect to end up where you want to be. You need to have a more proactive approach to progressing your career.

Talk to your manager about your career plans – what you want short term and long term. Talk to people in your human resources department about these things as well – they may have tips on what you could do. Let people know where you want to go with your career. If you hear about an opportunity or a role you’d like to try, say you’re interested. This also demonstrates initiative and confidence in your own abilities – good qualities to have.

What do you think of developing a career plan? Post your comments in the space below.