Your skills are your greatest asset – are you looking after them?
Most of us are quite risk averse and we like to protect what we have. We insure our homes and property, we service our cars and we put cases on our mobile phones, (even though it makes them look awful). We do this because we understand that we fail to maintain or insure our possessions at our own risk. We see these possessions as assets and it’s logical to protect them - but how many people think of their skill set as an asset?
By building and developing a desirable skill set you increase the chance of meeting your expectations of achieving the salary, satisfaction and stability you seek from your job. Conversely, if you neglect your skills you will earn less and have fewer choices of roles with less desirable employers. This is why your skills are your biggest asset and in this context, how regularly should you self-review your own career performance and situation - Annually? Quarterly? Monthly? Daily?
As an IT specialist, your skill set practically guarantees that you will be in or near the top 23% of earners in the UK (check for yourself - see note 1), you will enjoy a role with good benefits and holiday, which is broadly stable and with a good chance of career progression. From this starting point, a successful ongoing career seems almost assured however unfortunately that is far from the case and without careful management and care it’s easy to slip back down the career ladder with a painful bump.
On first inspection, the main risks for IT professionals would appear to be the emergence of disruptive technologies or working practices for example the development of a new but rapidly adopted programming language or infrastructure technology (there was a time that outsourcing to India or Vietnam threatened to put all but the most high level IT jobs off shore and although it didn’t quite work out that way I wonder how we would have adapted). However it’s the gradual changes that present more risk than sudden shifts, the most obvious example that springs to mind is how advances in cloud technology, virtualisation and storage have allowed businesses to reduce their infrastructure spend and headcount resulting in fewer generalist IT support roles and more demand for specialists in areas such as messaging, networking and virtualisation. There is an interesting contradiction in IT which is that people are drawn to the industry by the challenge and pace of new technology, yet many are slow to pick up on the personal implications of that change and today’s expert practitioner can always become tomorrows redundant skill set.
So what steps can you take to protect yourself and look after you most valuable asset? The answer is simple and straightforward:
- Be prepared to change roles and move jobs regularly
- Invest in your own skills, even if your employer doesn’t support you.
I hope this gets you thinking and in a forthcoming blog we’ll discuss each of these points and offer some advice to help make the right choices to protect your most important asset – your skills.
*Note 1: Calculated using the Institute for Fiscal Studies online calculator http://www.ifs.org.uk/wheredoyoufitin/ using Bristow Hollands average salary of £32000 and based on a single person with no children