A continual commitment to growth and an insatiable appetite for trying and learning new things are important qualities of a successful technology consultant. For those searching for comfort, then maybe it’s not the career for you.
Becoming successful in your career as a technology consultant is not for the faint of heart, but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience and create a much quicker path to career growth compared to the path of corporate employment. In order to successfully create a career out of technology consulting, one must constantly reinvent himself or herself. That can take courage. Be brave, invest time in yourself, thrive on change, and become a lifelong learner. The accelerated career growth and variety of work available to a consultant are rewards well worth the effort.
Have a Plan
From my experience, consultants who develop a plan for themselves generally find greater satisfaction and success in their consulting career compared to those who simply follow the flow of opportunities or the highest dollar. Remember, as a consultant, there is no defined career path other than what you set out for yourself. Consultants who have found the greatest stability and achievement towards their goals typically consider the following when planning out their own career path.
- They seek roles that allow them to work with “bleeding-edge” or the “latest and greatest” technologies, often selecting those that may perhaps provide fewer growth opportunities, less pay and/or flexibility for the chance to work on an innovative new project.
- They choose from one of three career tracks: 1) Management. Often a less desirable path for some as it takes the consultant away from what brought them to the career—working hands-on with technology; 2) Architecture/Enterprise Level. This path allows a consultant to grow expertise in a specific area of IT. If you go this route, you will be designing solutions and working on those that span across the organization; 3) Niche. Evolving skills to become an expert in an area that’s unique and in high demand.
As I see it, staying in front of technology change is vital for a successful career as a consultant or corporate employee in technology. Change in our industry occurs so quickly that it’s not uncommon for today’s “hottest” technology to cool down in as little as a few years. You need to keep up as organizations don’t have the same patience they used to for consultants to learn on the job.
Plan and Invest in your Career
I suggest taking the time to figure out which career track is right for you and ensure that the job you accept offers growth opportunities that will help you reach your goals. Take your career in your own hands! Read professional journals and become educated in the newest technologies and the direction the industry is taking. When there’s an opportunity at work, be aggressive in getting access to learning and growing new skill sets.
And, if you need help, ask. Find a mentor or two, someone who is further along the career track you’ve chosen and who is willing to guide you on your way. Join professional associations and attend their events. Become involved, seek membership on their board. Network.
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Also read the Genesis10 blog post: Dev10 Makes Software Developer Careers Happen and Take Mom's Advice and that Coding Class.