Sharpen tech skills to stay on the cutting edge

For most IT professionals, working with constantly changing technology is one of the most exciting aspects of the job. But keeping up with new developments can also be one of the biggest challenges. Nonetheless, it’s essential to regularly refresh your knowledge in the field to ensure your skills

remain in demand.

Start by determining which specialties are hot. Attending trade shows and reading industry publications can provide valuable insight into what’s new in the field and what expertise may be sought in the coming months. Another good way to keep up on emerging trends is to browse classified ads and Internet job listings. Doing so will allow you to assess how closely your skills align with market demand. Following are some additional suggestions:

• Go back to school. Enroll in a continuing education program offered at night or on weekends by your local university, college or technical school, and focus on an in-demand area of specialization. Many companies offer reimbursement for courses that improve your ability to do your job, so ask your manager about your firm’s policy.

• Learn on your own. You may have always wanted to master Java programming, but didn’t pursue this goal because it isn’t relevant to your current position. Consider doing it anyway. Teach yourself by purchasing or downloading a developer’s kit or by locating a local user group. You never know what career opportunities might emerge.

• Volunteer. An excellent way to gain hands-on project experience is by giving your time to local schools or non-profit organizations. Offer to update software, install new systems or train users, depending on the group’s needs.

• Become certified. In a Robert Half Technology survey of 470 IT consultants, an overwhelming 83 per cent said technical certification is a valuable tool for career advancement. Though it requires a time commitment — and you’ll have to work around your schedule — this can be a good investment in your future. Be sure to check with your manager to see what type of support your company can offer.

As businesses look for ways to increase productivity, new technologies will continue to be introduced. IT professionals can keep pace with the speed of change by seizing every chance you can to enhance your skills and continue learning. Using the suggestions above, you can familiarize yourself with the latest and greatest innovations — and improve your marketability and job success in the process.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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