No matter what your role is in IT, you’re always involved in projects. It’s critical for your career advancement that you select the projects that are right for you, and communicate how they add value to your team, your community—and ultimately, your personal brand.
The importance of seizing or passing on opportunities
It’s clear that what kind of projects you take on is crucial to your career, as well as how others view your performance. Perform well in a project that builds logically on your past experience and lines up perfectly with your career goals, and others will likely perceive you as a consummate professional— somebody they want on their next project. Perform badly in a role that’s outside your area of expertise, and others will likely have reservations about working with you again. Or perform well in a project that doesn’t align with your career goals, and you will likely find yourself struggling to get onto the career path you want.
It's imperative you carefully select projects to match your brand and career goals. So before becoming involved in an assignment, evaluate how it maps to your work style and preference. Consider the following points:
- Team dynamics – Collocation, remote/virtual or matrixes are all aspects of the core team to think about. Ask yourself whether the proposed team configuration and distribution works for you in terms of fit and communications.
- Sponsorship – Assess the project’s visibility in terms of high, low, or medium, as well as how much it’s being discussed in your networking circles. Ask yourself what the fallout would be in the event of early cancellation. Determine who the stakeholders are—for example, the sponsoring executive and an important client—and what the project’s value is to them.
- Rewards and recognitions – Define what you want to get out of the project. For example, do you want to gain experience, additional training, emerging tech exposure, or social contribution. This will clarify whether the project aligns with your career goals and has the potential for a strong Career Return On Investment (CROI). Consider how you would explain to a hiring manager what experience you took away from the project and why it was important to you.
By assessing ahead of time what you want out of a project, you can keep track of accomplishments along the way. Document major value-adding points in the form of written descriptions, images, or other documentation so you can prepare to communicate effectively to others what the value of the project was to your team and employer, your community, and yourself.
According to Doug Paulo, director, Americas IT Product Group for Kelly Services: “IT professionals need to increase their awareness and communication of the skills they’re acquiring and using from project to project. Too often, IT professionals complete the task at hand and move on to the next, without considering the impact of their work and using their accomplishments as an opportunity to harvest their career and reinforcing their personal brand.”
Bear in mind that not every project goes as planned. If the results weren’t as hoped, you should maintain an objective attitude. Focus on the lesson you learned from the experience, such as the need for improved communication or more regular progress reports.
Keep these points in mind and in action, and you’ll manage a confident brand of you going forward in this exciting phase of your IT career.
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