Jidaw Systems

Experience Without Experience - Experience Without Progress

"I've been working in IT for sometime but I'm not making any progress. I'm well paid but I'm not growing in terms of skills and knowledge. All I do on a daily basis are mundane tasks I mastered years ago. Although I have the interest, I'm worried. How will I cope in future?"

As one continually deals with IT career issues, this is a dilemma that is highlighted often. Call it "Experience without experience", or "Experience without progress". Which options are available to you? Let's look at how to address the issues involved.

Interest is cheap. Effort will cost you.

I'm glad you realize that getting and having a job isn't enough. Are you moving forward or standing still? Are you growing with purpose or moving round in circles? Are you making a difference? What're you contributing? Is it from you or from your environment?  Okay, you're concerned. But is that enough? It's positive to be concerned, but concern alone doesn't make the mark. Move up from "positive concern" to "positive action". I don't mean to sound harsh, but the wake-up call you need to hear and heed is "Interest is cheap. Effort will cost you." Put that interest to work! Period! End of story.


Be Proactive

Identify the problem. If you are not making progress, have you identified the cause?  Do an honest assessment of the situation. Look beyond the surface, go beyond the obvious. Don't focus on symptoms instead of the cause. Is this simply an issue of a terrible work situation, or is it about complacency? Being complacent about your career or depending on others for your career growth is a sure career killer.  Irrespective of the situation you're in, growing your career is your responsibility, not that of your employer, trainer or career counselor. To paraphrase Lee Iaocca, "in the Information Technology field, if you stand still you will go backwards." Since your expertise is your ticket to success why let others determine your future? 


Start by realizing that you don't have any choice but to be proactive in career matters.  And if you're static and you find yourself regressing in a backward situation, nobody should have to prompt you to get back on track. Explore your options. Get out of your comfort zone and take charge. Experience is not about number of years but quality. Experience is about value.

As you spend time and years in Information Technology are you deepening and enhancing your technical and soft skills?  What is your focus? What is your career plan (http://www.jidaw.com/careerplan.html)? Where are you? Where are you going? Which routes are you taking to get to your destination? What's the big picture? Are you maintaining the right balance between what you do and where you're going? The journey and the destination are Siamese twins.


As you assess the situation, don't just think about yourself. What value do you as a person and as an IT professional bring to the business? Is your value more than your cost?


Assess your environment

Your environment plays a big part in where you are and where you are going. How carefully have you assessed your environment? Are you using opportunities available for IT growth in your present company? Do you have such access? It is often said that we are products of our environment.  What manner of environment? What does your environment support? An environment that promotes growth? Or a negative environment? What are you becoming? What manner of influence? What manner of product? A product that has value and attracts attention? Or a product that is ignored?


Are there other opportunities for you in your organization? For example have you spoken to your manager, or your Human Resources people? Or your lack of opportunity could be due to unethical behaviour or simply negligence, on the part of those who should know and act on your behalf.


You might have to wait forever if you expect others to notice or understand your predicament. Seize the initiative. If as you say your present job is a dead end, examine the possibility of moving to a more appropriate job career-wise within your organization. How creative are you in seeking better opportunity within your present environment? For example, as a network professional, why not be part of the team implementing the Wireless LANs countrywide for your organization? Don't be afraid of taking less than you feel you're worth as there is no substitute for real career growth (knowledge, experience, exposure, attitude). Sometimes less is more, especially if you have the big picture in mind. Your move might be unconventional, but so what? Does that matter if a "step down" today will benefit and "step up" your long-term career growth? What really is your priority? Focus on substance - are immediate benefits more important than your long-term goals?


Soft Skills

You also need to make sure the problem is not from you. Sometimes lack of progress in the workplace can be addressed by developing the appropriate soft skills such communications, presentation, personal networking, leadership, teamwork, etc. When you work with people, it's not just about your tech expertise but your personal effectiveness.


Be honest. Do you exhibit a can-do Attitude? How seriously do you take your assignments? Sloppy or focused? Make sure your progress is not being hampered by a perception that you lack the appropriate soft skills. Nobody loves working with the "techie from hell". Are you more than just a techie? Do you use your resourcefulness to benefit the business? Or are an "I-couldn't-care-less" IT prima donna? Your tech skills may be great but how are you using your interpersonal skills?


Could your frustration be due to a lack of communication skills? How well do you understand your company's business and how IT fits in? "We look at the same thing, but we don't all see the same thing." Work to understand the organization's motivation. Nobody is in business to frustrate its staff. Understanding affects the quality and impact of your soft skills. Professionalism requires consideration and courage. Your understanding of what drives the business and people you work and interact with is key to being a leader and an effective communicator. What is your interaction with your colleagues like? How effectively can you contribute to a business or to people you don't understand? Sincere understanding and commitment creates a positive influence on your organizations and people you work with.


To most organizations such a commitment to soft skills and personal effectiveness indicates initiative and foresight. It indicates a willingness to go the extra mile and it often translates to "give me higher quality work and I will move mountains". 


Job Change

If despite your genuine efforts, you still believe you are in an environment that runs counter to your values and aspirations, you may have to take a look at IT career opportunities outside your present organization. To be sure this is the right move, be careful and professional. You must be convinced that this move will improve your situation not just now but also in the long term. Carelessness can be costly. It certainly is not in your interest to jump from "frying pan to fire". Changing jobs is a risk. But take calculated risks. Don't change jobs on a whim. Don't use a "meal ticket" "money rules" mentality to change jobs. Again "less may be more". A job change requires a thorough and deep assessment of your current situation and the new opportunity.


Careful assessment is essential to avoid job-hopping. Moving around too often or job-hopping usually sends the wrong signals. In a competitive situation, having to explain your jumping around puts you at a disadvantage. Clients and employers look for people with signs of stability. Nobody wants experience without commitment.


Furthermore when you change jobs don't burn bridges you might need tomorrow.  Despite any misgivings you might have, be professional in handling exit issues. When you leave avoid being flippant with your previous employers. Leave on a positive note.  Positive departure always comes in handy as a future reference and for building your personal network.


Self Development

However, it's not only by changing jobs that you create opportunities for growth. What're you doing in the area of self-development? Self-development is key to growth in information technology. Again you have to be proactive. Don't wait until others are ready to invest in you. Invest in yourself! Examine your self-development options. What are your priorities? Are you making the extra effort required for self development? Create time for self-development. Which options will move in the right direction? As an IT professional, how well have you embraced lifelong learning? (http://www.jidaw.com/dinosaur1.html)


Keep current by reading and by doing. Consider setting up a home lab. Depending on your interests you could learn how to manage and troubleshoot an in demand operating system, or build a personalized e-commerce system or develop animation for an online game. In addition, use books, the Internet, IT certification and training for self-development based on your career focus. Although these tools are no substitute for experience, self-development ensures you don't remain stagnant and with the right focus you sharpen your tech advantage in the vast information technology space.



Volunteering is another option open to you. It is however, often overlooked by many. Volunteer in your spare time, while you still maintain your current job.  Offer to do IT jobs for your Old school, religious body, political party, social club, professional association, NGO, the neighborhood center, or your community group. If you're a web developer, what stops you from publishing a highly functional site for your old school? Again pay shouldn't be the issue. Volunteering creates avenues for you to gain not only quality experience, but also valuable references. And don't underestimate the prospects for personal networking.


The Right Perspective

Whichever route you decide to take, it's important that you keep the right perspective. Don't lose interest or become complacent because of the situation. Playing the blame game won't get you anywhere. Self pity is wasteful and worthless. It's your future at stake. This is no time for worrying, moaning or cursing your luck. You are responsible for your career decisions. And you can do something about it. You are not helpless. Look for the open doors around you. With the right attitude you can improve your situation. Develop a positive energy, can-do attitude. Develop what you have and make it work for you.


So can you walk the walk? Obviously the proactive approach I've described requires time, focus and resilience.  This can be hard if you've always operated in reactive mode. Get out of your comfort zone. It beats slumbering and hoping for the best. And I'm sure you know your career is worth the effort.

I wish you all the best in your IT Career!

Jide Awe

Jide Awe is the Founder of Jidaw.com (http://www.jidaw.com) 

Jidaw.com's mission is to help you build and sharpen your career focus. Time permitting, we would be glad to answer your career questions, but before sending email, please check the IT Career Resource Center first to see if perhaps your question or problem already appears there or can be solved using the resource center 

or better still attend the next FREE IT Career Seminar..  


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Tolulope from Lagos says:



Thank you so much. This has given me my sense of direction. Nobody else helps with such questions.  


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Ideas are not enough. You must be action oriented to improve your future.



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You have ideas. You want to achieve. You want opportunity.



But what are you still doing in your comfort zone? The comfort zone is a dangerous place.



"I wanted to", "I was going to" cannot put on a light bulb, not to talk of moving you forward.



Aren't you tired of hoping and criticizing? Stop defending status quo that locks you down.



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What is the use of ideas without action?



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