How many times in recent months have you been told that as an IT professional, it's simply not enough to be a technical whizz-kid if you want to move up the career ladder?
Everywhere you turn you're confronted with the image of the new-look chief information officer, and told that to stay ahead of the game you'll need to develop hybrid skills and talk the language of business.
But acquiring those disparate skills and then finding the right job in which to deploy them could be tougher than you think.
After 16 years in the industry, one Computing reader - let's call him Chris Smith - feels that he's reached a brick wall, even though he has both technical and business skills. Smith is in his mid-30s, and works for a major high street bank. Although his background is in IT, over the past five years he has gravitated towards projects with greater business emphasis, and now says his main role is as a business enabler within the company. Smith's quandary, however, is that his bank's grading and pay structure is split into two - technical and business - forcing him into one of two classifications.
"If I want to progress in the company, I have to choose between the technical or the business side, even though I know the real pay-off is in mastering both," Smith says. "Although the time has come to pull down the wall between IT and business, it's difficult for the individual to move towards this New Economy. I believe company culture will dictate this movement, rather than the ability of employees to adapt."
But how widespread is Smith's problem in an industry that has taken to heart the idea of hybrid business and technical skills? We asked Tony Corner, recruitment manager at IT services company CMG, to take a look at Smith's CV and show him how to produce the killer version that will get him the job he wants.
The skills crisis in IT means good people will not be short of work, says Corner, but he warns people still don't know how to sell themselves. "At present, the shortage of good people is severe, so anyone with relevant skills and a CV that sells should have no problem in finding a position," he says.
Smith says the situation isn't quite that simple. "There seems to be a disparity between the apparent shortage of hybrid people and the advertisements for such vacancies," he says. "Perhaps these jobs are hard to specify."
One option for Smith is to take a position at a startup or dotcom, where job delineations are likely to be more flexible. "The new firms I've spoken to have been far more responsive than well-established companies on this issue," he acknowledges. "They are looking for more generic skills and tend to be run by people with a grasp of technical issues. But these are relatively small companies, some of which don't have solid business plans." That level of uncertainty can be off-putting for those with financial overheads, such as a mortgage.
There are no real barriers to people moving into hybrid roles, according to Steve Clark, divisional manager at London-based IT recruitment company Michael Page Technology. Clark agrees with Corner that individuals with a solid technical background and newly-acquired business skills should not have trouble using both sides of their experience. But they need to be aggressive.
The only drawback with business skills, Clark adds, is that they will tend to be specific to a certain sector, unlike more portable technical skills. "A Java programmer is a Java programmer, and it doesn't matter in what industry they work," Clark says. "But if someone has business skills it will be in a specific environment, such as banking. However, if the role requires technical expertise and the employer is looking for a business-facing individual, what argument would there be not to employ someone with those skills?"
|Experienced ecommerce and ebusiness professional with the technical and business knowledge to act as a business strategist and enabler in the new e-revolution era. Extremely capable individual, with a broad background in many technologies and business activities. Keen to advance personal knowledge and career. Motivated by the challenge of new technologies and their application in the business.|
|communications, web components and bank system integration. Drove forward the delivery of ground-breaking ecommerce systems, continually learning and applying new technologies to new business processes and concepts|
Regular customer contact enforced a high level of knowledge of emerging technologies, the external market place and the corporate bank's systems. Close collaboration with partners and suppliers was undertaken with excellent results, and led to a quality understanding of how to manage good supplier relationships in an e-world. Role included reviewing systems, commerce servers, applications and technologies and providing recommendations for their further use
|What's wrong with Smith's CV|
|Tony Corner, recruitment manager at IT services specialist CMG, goes to work on Smith's CV, and offers useful tips on making the best impression on your potential employer.|
The main objective of your CV is to provide information to a potential employer about your skills and experience. Unfortunately, Smith's current CV actually raises more questions than it answers, according to Corner. "It fails to sell," he says. "The key skills are little more than a ramble."
"The overall impression from this CV is of a person who wants to do things but has little or nothing to offer an employer by way of experience," he continues. "If this sounds scathing, it is, because so many people have no idea how to sell themselves. With a little extra thought this candidate could have produced a good career summary. If he is unable to find a new position it is possibly the fault of the CV."
Attention to detail
Although Smith's CV includes detail on languages such as Visual Basic and C++, he needs to be consistent and more of this kind of information should be included throughout. Don't just say that you possess the latest skills. These need to be defined because the person reading the CV may be looking for specific experience. Include details of the technical environments you have worked in and the types of tools you have used.
The description of Smith's early career portrays him as a technical person, involved in networks and desktop services between 1996 to 1998. This section shows more detail than any of the other descriptions, but even here there's no mention of the technical environment worked in or software used. The most recent job should offer the most detailed description, including the tools used, project details - and the results of the projects, such as whether or not the application was delivered on time and to budget.
It's important to explain your career progression so that if a move from, say, a very technical role to a more business-focused position comes across as more than just coincidence.
"The CV needs a skills summary near the beginning where all the languages and technical environments are listed, together with either the number of months used or a grading system, say one to five, where one is an understanding and five is expert knowledge," advises Corner. "Within the text of each job, reference should be made to the skills so that the reader knows what was used and when."
"There are a lot of gaps between projects on Smith's CV," says Corner. "A potential employer will also want to know why the candidate is looking for another job when only starting this one in April this year. Was it a contract? He doesn't tell us." If you do have employment gaps and took time out for a particular reason - to travel, for example - include that on the CV.
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