It's been a minute since my last post, so I thought I would throw some words on the screen and talk about something that recently came up on a forum I am a member of.
Knowing what I know now, here are a few things that I would like to present to you related to the topic of how to develop your career. Before we get going, remember that these are my opinions and may not work for you. As an old roommate said to me once, extract the knowledge and discard the rest.
One of the most important things that you can do for your career is simply taking stock of where you are right now in your career and knowing where you want to go. All too many of the IT professionals that I know only have a vague idea, a notion if you will, of where they want their careers to go. Most, if not all of them, say things like "I want a meaningful career", "I want more money", or "I have no idea!". To me, none of them have a clue one where they are going or what they will be doing in the future. Now don't get me wrong, it isn't because they aren't smart or are unmotivated. I just think that they haven't taken the time to think things through.
Here are a few simple steps to get you going down the right path, career-wise:
1. You must take stock of where you are right now. What technologies do you have experience with? Rate them on a scale of one to three or use some other way to define your level of expertise. Beginner, intermediate, expert. Usually, I would say that you are a beginner with approximately one day to one year, intermediate would be one to two years, and expert would be anything above two years of experience. In addition to that, what do you do with the tech? Do you simply answer questions, do you install and configure it, or are you capable of architecting the solution for a customer who has never had it in their environment before?
2. Next, you must do a little dreaming. Where do you want to be? The "where" could be the type of technology you would like to support, such as cloud, security, network engineering, you get the picture. It could also be what industry you would like to break into, such as healthcare, defense, finance, etc. Ultimately, you can't get to your destination if you don't know where you are and you can't reach your destination if you don't know what/where it is.
3. Now comes the challenging part. You need to develop the roadmap. This is oftentimes referred to as gap analysis. You need to bridge the gap between number 1 and number 2. For instance, let's say you are a network engineer and you want to be a security analysis. If you do a quick search on Glassdoor or Indeed for security analyst jobs, you will typically see education, experience, and certification requirements. Use those requirements as the rough map you will further develop over time. Taking that as our guide, lets say that CompTIA's Security+ comes up in most of the postings. Well, now we know that we should focus on getting that certification. If it was something else, then obviously we would pursue that certification, experience, or training requirement.
To sum things up, you need a roadmap. As with any journey, there is rarely a straight line between origin and destination. Additionally, there may be really cool things to see on the journey that interests you. Because of that, you may find that you are not where you envisioned yourself being. Another thing that I have seen is that when people get sidetracked and don't arrive just when they thought they should, they get depressed or down on themselves. Whatever you do, DO NOT get discouraged. All moments are learning moments, even when we struggle and move in directions we didn't foresee.
The fourth step isn't directly related to the first three steps, at least not on the surface. The fourth step is to periodically reevaluate things. So go back to step 1 and start over again. It will refocus you and, more importantly, gives you a chance to see how far you've come.
Good luck and I hope and pray that your career trajectory takes you where your heart desires.