Eight steps to accomplishing your IT career goals

Stand out from your colleagues. These eight steps can help you achieve your IT career goals and take control of your career.

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Have you created your IT career goals for the upcoming year? Do you know exactly where you're headed and the steps you'll take to get there?

Sure, it's easy to come up with goals, but it's much harder to commit them to paper, regularly review them, and hold yourself accountable to achieve what you desire.

But you can do it.

One thing's for sure: You can't go any further in your career being who you currently are and only knowing what you currently know.

If you want to stand out above the rest of your colleagues, earn more money and take control of your IT career, these eight steps will help you realize those goals and show you how they translate to the real world:

1. Determine what you want to accomplish this year. Doing so allows you to dream up tangible items to steer toward.

Real-world example: I want to earn a salary of $100,000 by year's end.

2. Document each goal in the present tense using action verbs. This not only outlines what you want but also programs your mind as if you've already accomplished it.

Real-world example: You write out "I earn $100,000" (even if you currently earn substantially less).

3. Write out the specific roadblocks you anticipate for each goal. This will ensure you know what to expect and whose support you're going to need to make your dreams a reality.

Real-world example: You determine the roadblocks, such as your current boss doesn't understand the value you bring to the table or you're stuck in a contract position and there just aren't enough hours left in the year to earn that amount.

4. Set a deadline for each goal. This makes it more tangible and holds you accountable.

Real-world example: You determine that by the end of the year, you want to be earning $100,000 a year.

5. Create a roadmap and set your expectations. Write out the steps you have to take to accomplish each goal.

Real-world example: You learn you need to quantify your value and prove to management how you're contributing in your role. Maybe you realize you need to get a new job or contract position, or if you work for yourself, acquire more clients by doing X, Y or Z.

6. Prioritize all of your goals. This makes you think about the most important thing that will make the biggest difference in your career, the second most important thing and so on.

Real-world example: You outline what you've accomplished as priority one, what you intend to accomplish this year as priority two, you set up a meeting with your boss as priority three and so on.

7. Get started now. Lao Tzu said "a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." Whether it seems like it or not, every little thing matters.

Real-world example: Begin to document how what you're doing at this very moment contributes to the business.

8. Revisit your goals every single day. This will program your subconscious mind to help you in your decision making and ensure you're steering yourself in the right direction toward your goals.

Real-world example: You print and review your goals each morning before you boot your computer, check your email, before anything – because your goals are more important than anything else.

Piece of cake, huh? Seriously, it's pretty simple, but you have to start now. Speaking of getting started, these goal setting and goal management techniques come down to one thing: self-discipline. Writer Elbert Hubbard summed it up best by defining self-discipline as "the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not." Sometimes I don't feel like getting out of bed in the morning. Sometimes I don't feel like writing or getting started on a security assessment project. Nevertheless, when these thoughts come into my head I remind myself of what Mr. Hubbard said and it helps me get back on track and motivated to move ahead.

If you remain positive and work on your goals daily, you will start seeing positive changes in your IT career. People attract what they think about. So practice these career management techniques and hold yourself accountable every day. Mark the calendar one year from today and look back and see how you've progressed. You'll be amazed.

Kevin Beaver, is an information security consultant, keynote speaker and expert witness with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. Kevin specializes in performing independent security assessments. Kevin has authored/co-authored seven books on information security, including Hacking For Dummies and Hacking Wireless Networks For Dummies (Wiley). He's also the creator of the Security on Wheels information security audio books and blog providing security learning for IT professionals on the go. He can be reached at kbeaver@principlelogic.com.

This was first published in April 2009

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