During your vacation, I hope you took the time to sit back with a cool one in your fist and give a thought to your career as an IS professional…to think about where you’ve been over the last few years and more importantly, where you’re going in the next few.

You know by now that your career is in your own hands, that no one is really looking out for your best interests other than you, and that being an IS type is no guarantee of career success, despite what the popular press says. A fool is a fool is a failure in any market, even if the person does know how to code in Java.

Maybe you’ve decided that your future is on a purely technical track, and that you’ll be able to anticipate technology shifts (and subsequent employment demands) better than everyone else. If you’re really lucky and very smart, you’ll be the one-trick pony who’s able to ride the technology wave to career success — after all, you were smart enough to jump on the CASE bandwagon when it was hot a few years back, weren’t you? And then you did read the wind before anyone else and shift to client/server tools, and then to object-oriented development, didn’t you? And of course, you made the switch to emerging Web-enabled tools in ’96 (with a brief stop as an SAP analyst, when the bucks were big) and as of right now, you’re a Java guru, right?

If you’re that good, there’s no reason you shouldn’t continue to do what you’ve always done — stay one step ahead of technology change, even if it is coming faster than ever before. Good luck.

The rest of us know that we’re not always going to be in the right place at the right time, technologically speaking; maybe the rest of us should start to build our reputation and career on something other than the tech trend of the month.

While you were thinking about your future this summer, did you see a frightening vision of yourself in 20 years as the oldest tech hippie on the block, hunched over a PC (or a network device, or whatever), ponytail greying, deadline looming, pot belly reminding you that you should really cut back on the Jolt Cola, and you would too, if it weren’t for the fact that you really need the caffeine?

If you didn’t like what you saw, you might want to think about a couple of career behavior changes now to ensure that your future lies somewhere other than a dark corner of technical specialization.

With an increased focus on the non-technical aspects of our careers, let me make two suggestions for the new season.

Go back to school. It’s fall and school’s starting again. They weren’t kidding when they talked about the importance of that life long learning stuff you know.

If you don’t have an undergrad degree, now is the time to sign up for evening courses. If you’ve got a technical undergrad degree, go for an MBA or some other non-technical advanced designation.

If you want to stand out from the rest of the crowd at work and the people you’re going to be competing with for the best jobs, and you want to meet the kind of people who’ll make a difference to your career in the future, upgrading your formal education is a great place to start. Do it now. As an added bonus, your employer will probably help pay for it.

Ditch the logo shirts and jeans. Answer these two questions honestly:

How much of your work clothing is comprised of golf shirts with the logos of software or hardware companies on them?

Do you wear jeans to work on a regular basis?

Allow me to let you in on a dark secret of corporate success — as comfortable as they are, jeans aren’t acceptable at the office, not even on Fridays in most organizations, and certainly not for those with management aspirations. As for the steady diet of tech-logo shirts, you may as well tattoo your forehead with “I’m a tech, and will be for the rest of my life.”

Think I’m out of line? Take a look at what your CEO wears: shirts with a logo other than that of his own company? Jeans? ‘Nuff said.

Next time: Taking control of your IS career

Hanley is an IS professional living Calgary. He can be reached at [email protected].

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