Karen Armon has coached executives on their careers for 22 years. She is a regular contributor for Profit Online. Her most recent article covered the top trends in tech careers for 2014.
We asked members of Profit’s LinkedIn group to ask Armon their career question. Many readers wanted advice about breaking into a new technology or business area. Others had questions about how to obtain a first job in their field of choice, or getting back into the workforce after a period of unemployment.
Here are Armon’s answers to a selection of their questions. To participate in future Q&As with Profit contributors, join our LinkedIn group.
Q: What are some of the most in-demand positions in tech today, from the perspective of tech companies and recruiters?
A: My primary focus is working one-on-one with top talent and preparing them for their next move – either up or out. With that in mind, the people I work with have at least 15 years of business experience and are in upper middle management or executive roles, so I have some insights into what they are looking for in talent today. Technology is swiftly changing all traditional roles and is impacting how business organizes itself, reaches out to clients, and builds communities. Therefore, those individuals who are most in demand are those who have a well-rounded set of skills in all areas of business – not just technology. This includes technology companies as well as those who are not in this space.
The single best way to find a job is through your network, which represents 80 percent of how individuals find work today.
Q: I am currently in a hardware/application support role in the IT services industry. I would like to shift my career and focus more on cloud computing/virtualization. How I can I achieve this?
A: Several of you in this forum have asked similar questions about moving from one sector in the technology industry to another. To move from where you are to something else, you need to shift your approach to be attractive to that sector. Steps include to:
Q: I have experience analyzing data for the government and am getting an MBA in information systems. I am interested in joining the private workforce as a consultant or user support representative. Do you have any recommendations on how to transition to this field?
A: To continue the discussion above about transitioning into a new industry, over the last 40-plus years, the research shows that the single best way to find a job is through your network, which represents 80 percent of how individuals find work today. (By the way, finding work through recruiters represents only about 10 percent.) So focus your networking by going to local business-oriented networking events, and listening with a different “ear” to what they are looking for in top candidates. Then, reshape your presentation to meet those unmet needs.
Q: I really liked your article. I am almost finished with getting my degree in computer science, and I would like to get into the area of IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). How can I find out about the scope of opportunity in this field?
A: Looking for career opportunities in a certain field means finding out what is needed today. We have no idea what the long-term future holds, and trying to map out a five- to 10-year plan is counterproductive. My advice is as you listen to and connect with professionals who are in this industry, you’ll find out what the opportunities are. So, get out of your college environment and begin meeting folks who are already working in your field. And thank you for liking my article!
Q: I am trying to figure out which courses I can take to enter the Oracle workforce in a telesales capacity and work my way through to field sales. I am looking at an advanced diploma in business information, to begin with. Would you have any other suggestions?
A: If you are interested in sales, then why are you getting a degree in technology? Focus on a marketing or sales diploma – which is about how to attract, nurture, contract, and negotiate with customers who may not understand what they need or want – and let the technology skills become a backdrop for you, i.e. a minor in your education. Developing a technical expertise will not get you where you want to go.
Q: I used to work at a bank for twelve years as a key account manager. I am unemployed now and I want to shift my career from banking to marketing. I am certified for both careers. What is the best way for me to get into marketing?
A: Being unemployed can be really, really scary, particularly in today’s slow growth economy. But good people can always find work – if they work hard enough to find it. I would suggest that you look less to your certifications because, even though they are nice to have, they really will not be the thing that “takes you over the top.” Rather, get more specific about what you want to do in marketing and in what industry. Being general and unspecific will take you in a direction that will be general and unspecific. Get clear about what industry you want to work in next and what role you are willing to take. Then, go for it, no matter how long it takes or hard you work at finding that next opportunity. Winners are never quitters!