8 Ways to Boost Your Career in '08

Here's what you need to do to stay in the driver's seat as the world changes.

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5. Work on multifunctional programs and multidisciplinary teams. Companies are putting together more teams of workers from diverse departments to deliver technology-related projects, says Diane Morello, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. Getting assigned to those teams is a key to getting broad business knowledge and becoming known outside IT.

"Individuals are going to work much more consistently around multidisciplinary teams, and that means their competencies need to be understood and known by people outside their skill sets," Morello says.

In short, you must be skilled in teamwork, effective communication and change management. Try to work for managers who operate across business units. Or, if you can, get assigned to a boundary-spanning role, and seek some relief from daily operational duties so you can focus on the big picture.

6. Beef up your business skills. The need to do this has been building for a while, but 2008 will put an even greater emphasis on business acumen, says Kate M. Kaiser, an associate professor of IT at Marquette University and coordinator of the Society for Information Management study "The Information Technology Workforce: Trends and Implications 2005-2008."

The need for business knowledge is moving farther down the IT workforce chain, she says. Even newly minted IT workers will have to have business smarts. Moreover, companies are looking for IT workers who have expertise in functional areas, such as marketing or finance, says David Foote, CEO and chief research officer of research firm Foote Partners LLC in New Canaan, Conn.

Getting a degree in business management -- an MBA if you have a tech-related bachelor's degree, or a bachelor's in business if you have an associate's degree in technology -- can help prepare you for this new reality, Kaiser says. But so can on-the-job management experience, such as leading projects.

7. Be more accountable. The folks in finance, marketing, HR and other corporate departments already use data to evaluate performance. IT workers will increasingly have to do the same, Cummins says. Granted, evaluating an IT shop can be hard, because of the lack of productivity measures and because of the difficulty of measuring certain, sometimes intangible, gains. But be prepared to show your value.

Learn Six Sigma-type tools and benchmarking, and learn from business managers who have reputations for running efficient departments.

8. Manage your own career. You can't rely on your manager, company or vendors to determine a path for you, because those predetermined paths might be too narrow or even obsolete, Foote says. You yourself must prepare for tomorrow by evaluating your skills and filling in what's missing through certification, education and on-the job experience.

"This is the year you can no longer sleepwalk through your career," Morello adds. "Each person has to take ownership of his or her career path."

Forecast 2008: IT Trends & Predictions for the New Year

How'd we do in '07?  See last year's Forecast 2007.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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