We live or die professionally by our contacts, brand and knowledge. If you need to find work tomorrow, how many people can you reach - how many would help?
With holidays coming up and some free time on your hands, here are some useful things to do so that you come back from the break skilled-up, marketable, informed and better connected. These actions will see you:
1. Skilled - with the essential tech strategies you need to get to grips with
2. Styled - seeing you as cool as a summer cucumber
3. Branded - making sure you stand out from the crowd
4. Marketable - ensuring your resume will get you that interview
5. Informed - keyed into what's going on and who's making the weather
6. Networked - expanding the outer reaches of your personal galaxy
1. Maintain your skills
One definition of a successful IT consultant is someone who has read one more page of the manual than you, so don't get left behind in the battle for work. Three key skills to get up to speed with are: wireless, Web 2.0 and virtualisation. But take care of how much you learn. One of our human "tells" (a give away) is when we know a subject too well - we are all too conscious of what we don't know and try to hide shortcomings. So get a basic grounding in the subject and don't dive too deep. Check out these one-stop-shops for all you need to bluff your way through any situation:
• Microsoft's virtualisation plans.
2. Be a style guru
Take some time to check out cool websites and get up-to-date with trends. Hunt for shining examples of next-generation sites offering new ways to inform and entertain. Look for web presence with cutting-edge tools to create, consume, share or discuss all manners of media, from blog posts to video clips. Here is list of a few I like - there's no accounting for taste.• Eminem.com - Detroit rapper's memorable website • Craig's List - a portal to a thousand other sites unique to your city • Scobilizer - feel the pulse of the Web 2.0 generation, Robert has it all • StumbleUpon - a bunch of useful bookmarks. Needs a download • How Stuff Works - tutorials that explain pretty much everything • Top Walls - great wallpaper artwork • The Subservient Chicken - he really will do what you say
3. Build a winning brand
Remember, virtue is NOT its own reward. So take control of your destiny. Develop your professional character and know how to put on a good performance. Promote yourself unashamedly to the widest possible audience by creating your personal brand online and developing successful reputation management skills. Build up a simple but comprehensive strategy to manage your virtual presence. Chris Brogan has written an article that says it all. You can also use services like Twitter to build an online reputation.
4. Sell yourself
Use the lazy days of summer to tailor your CV to your next career move. Make sure it is concise. Two pages max - it's a résumé! Cut out any resume '3100">'clichés about being a self-starter etc it will look like you have been to an outplacement agency and are trying too hard. Let the employer work out if you are brilliant from what you have actually done. The average first view of a CV is five seconds. You need to get across where you worked and what you done - include any international experience. Refer in your CV to any online presence - it adds value. Certain sites will review your resumé for free and there are plenty of templates to download and customise.
5. Be well informed
"Nice to have so much free time," is a comment you get when you tell people you read blogs. They think of them as public diaries kept by egotists or wannabe journalists. Among the 20 million blogs out there are plenty of those. However, find the blogs that aren't written by, or for, fools. Make reading them an entertaining but essential part of your job. Subscribe to ones that deliver easily digestible bite-sized chunks of the info you need to get on. Seek different point of view, find the voices that skewer the falsehoods. Use a feed reader or aggregator to maintain your subscriptions to. It will check them for updates, and display content in a readable format. Try Blog Lines or Google Reader. Some of the top technology blogs are listed on the Weblog awards page.
My favorites are:
Or to see what everyone else likes, go to ComputerWeekly.com's UK Blog Awards.
Three excellent non-tech blogs are:
6. Work your network
Your network is everyone who doesn't actively hate you, and if your network is not expanding, it is probably contracting. Spend a few minutes each day cultivating new relationships. Keep it expanding by finding other professionals in your field through reading and learning. Connect with old friends and business colleagues. Participate on social networks, attend events and go to every party you know about.
Often those at the periphery may be the most useful. Sign on to or revisit key network sites. Watch the news streams on LinkedIn or the updates on Facebook and other social networks. Twenty minutes spent on these often gives up interesting information and might prompt a posting out to people in your network. Try out LinkedIn for professional networking, Facebook for social circles, and Twitter for everyday conversation and networking.
Make relationships with others before you need them so you build up a credit balance when you need help. And never ask for a favour as people will feel obliged and avoid you. Ask for advice instead - it flatters people and makes them feel good. Importantly, don't act like a sales organisation by phoning everyone every two months.
Technology is now just a commodity and the IT professional's worth is dropping down the value chain (particularly as IT is increasingly under the FD's remit - it'll soon be at book-keeping level). Mr. Benz (1895) had his head under the bonnet of the car he invented its successor is managed by a technician. Mr Benz (2008) is now in the boardroom. Where are you going?