A followup to my last post about career goals

I was at a Microsoft event a few months back, and attended a Brian Prince’s talk on Career Introspection. One statement that struck me then, and remains in my head today:

the company you work for, or change the Company that you work for.

I feel that I’m in the ‘former’ group, trying to push through modern technologies and breaking new ground. I feel like at some point I’m going to feel like I’m pushing a rope though. However, like Brian suggests, I did commit myself to stay this year, and I have a good idea of where I want to be at the end of ’09 (I have half a year to make it happen). We’ll see how close I end up.

Overall, the most important items from Brian’s talk was to make sure we realize that the company is not going to manage your career for you. Your manager will be plenty happy if you continue to do a great job exactly where you are today for the next 10+ years. You have to manage your career and make sure your job lines up with your career. To do this:
  • Find some recruiters, maybe through LinkedIn.com: Having recruiters in your network is a good thing, and I’ve had several conversations with them. It never hurts to hear about a new opportunity, or to chat with them about what skills are big in your area. I’m always upfront and say that I’m probably not looking to move, but it’s good to have the conversations.
  • Keep your resume ready: In today’s job market, things can change quickly. I’m sure that a lot of my colleagues who are in the same position for 15-20 years were not ready for what happened. I have a resume that I update every few months, because you never know what’s around the corner.
  • Network: User groups, such as .NET SIG, Java, Linux, are a great way to hear about opportunities. Training events where you’re sitting in a room with people from other companies, or big industry events like Microsoft PDC are a great experience. I learned a lot by chatting with other’s at PDC, and it was great to poke my head out of the shell a bit and see what was going on. My passion for new technology was awakened after PDC when I realized how far behind my company is.
  • Freelancing: Yes, the extra hours suck and it’s difficult to find work, but if you don’t feel that you are doing what you want, consulting is a great way to get started. I’ve been able to use a lot of technology that my company doesn’t use. Incidentally, I’m now starting to use some of what I have done as a consultant for my day job, and it has helped a lot.
It’s hard to say with any certainty what will happen this year. All I know is that I need to keep reviewing where I’m at, and trying to figure out where I want to go and how I get there.

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