One of the most important steps you can take as an IT professional is to develop a strong career “brand.” Think of a career brand as your way of communicating what you do better than anyone else in your field and how you do it differently.
Many IT pros have versatile skills, but for the most part, you’ll be hired based on the three things you do best. By wrapping your top skills in a “story” the boss can understand — even if he or she has no knowledge about IT — you stand out from the crowd and help others see exactly why you’re the best candidate for the job.
Here are a few powerful IT brands in today’s job market:
Turnaround Hero: IT is still a young field, and things don’t always go as planned. Turnaround specialists are called in when a project is on the brink of disaster. They re-energize the team, re-engage the client, and put things on a sure footing. The mark of a turnaround hero is getting things done on time and under budget, even if the effort was on the brink of collapse only weeks earlier.
Turnaround skills are especially in demand in management consulting and managed IT services firms where each engagement represents a major account with a Fortune 500 client. This gives sales engineers and other on-site consultants the chance to flex some relationship muscle.
Advantages: When a Turnaround Hero is successful, everyone knows it, including the executive team. They can rack up huge, quantifiable achievements in no time flat, and as their reputation builds, they tend to monopolize high profile turnaround situations.
Project Management Multitasker: Certified Project Management Professionals are in demand, especially if they’re efficient enough to take on dozens of projects at a time without dropping the ball. A Project Management Multitasker shows an ability to handle multiple teams, geographies, and objectives, and delivers results on all of them.
Project management is so hot that if you have the right certification, you can find opportunities anywhere from small firms to global, Fortune 100 companies. Where you go depends on your goals, of course — but demonstrated success in smaller enterprises can mean a relatively easy upward trajectory to top employers.
Advantages: IT PMs benefit from tons of P&L experience that many others don’t get. They are known as team leaders and have opportunities to work with complex, blended workforces that often include consultants, contractors, and personnel from multiple departments. Each project serves as its own accomplishment on your resume.
The Internationalist: Insight into global markets, especially developing markets, is always needed for top companies to maintain their edge. Spice that up with the ability to manage global, distributed teams in a highly virtual environment, and you have the makings of top-level leadership.
Especially in IT, companies constantly look for ways to increase their share by beating the competition to the next developing market over the horizon. The key may be the ability to cultivate relationships and motivate teams you rarely see face-to-face. A willingness to pick up some language skills, cultural insight, and frequent flier miles will go a long way.
Advantages: Once you’ve mastered the business culture of a country, region, or area, you can almost always find someone trying to break in or strengthen their presence there. As more and more businesses move to the cloud, skills with virtual teams are fast becoming indispensable.
The Credentialist: Consider this the “ultimate trainer” — the kind of person who can not only keep current on industry certs but also inspires teams to go above and beyond with theirs. Credentialists blow away the stereotype about IT pros being poor communicators by demonstrating a hands-on ability to teach others to improve their game: whether in tech support, project management, software design, or any other area where results depend on skill and sophistication.
These pros often have strong cross-functional leadership abilities, reaching throughout the enterprise to find departments in need and infusing IT know-how to solve their problems.
Advantages: A motivated credentialist can have an outsized influence on an entire enterprise by raising the bar on quality standards. It’s easy to quantify gains like an increase in personnel certification, and you can even take some credit for the successes of other departments touched by your work. Credentialists often end up in charge of crucial enterprise certifications like ISO and SOX, high profile issues that affect everyone.
S. D. Farrell, CARW, CEIC is a Certified Advanced Resume Writer, career development author, and speaker. He has placed hundreds of job seekers during the recession, helping IT pros from entry to C-level achieve their career goals at Fortune 100 employers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. Read more about information technology resumes from this author at his site, Career Excellence Advisors.