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Goal-setting tips for the IT professional

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Whether you’ve just started out in your tech career or you’ve been working as an IT professional for several years, it’s never too early or late to set goals for your career. With IT jobs available within almost every industry and sector, the sky’s the limit when it comes to opportunities for career progression, growth and development.

The only constant in the tech industry is that it’s always changing, which makes goal-setting even more important for IT professionals. Defining your career goals each year will help to ensure that you are keeping up with the latest technologies and preparing yourself for new advancements or opportunities that might come your way.

Take a moment to reflect

Before you start listing down all the professional goals you want to achieve, take a moment to reflect on your career so far. Examine your skills, interests, strengths and weaknesses as well as what motivates and excites you in the workplace. This will help you to understand what you want from the next stage in your career.

Some questions you can ask yourself include:

• What are your strengths and weaknesses?
• Do you enjoy learning new tech skills or programming languages?
• Is there a specific technology you’d like to be more specialised in?
• Do you enjoy collaborating and working with other people?
• Where do you want to be in your career in a year? Five years? Ten years?

Set your IT career goals

Now that you’ve taken the time for some honest self-reflection and you know where you’d like to take your career next – set yourself short, medium and long-term goals that are S.M.A.R.T.

S – Specific For a goal to be effective it needs to be specific and clear so that you can choose the right stepping stones to achieve it. A goal such as “Get promoted” is not specific enough. A more specific goal would be, “Earn a promotion to Software Manager in my current company”

M – Measurable With each goal you set, it’s important that you’re able to measure the progress made. Without measurable criteria, it may be hard to know when you’ve achieved your goal.

A – Achievable It’s great to have ambitious goals, but if realistically they are unattainable, then what’s the point? When setting your goal, ask yourself if it is achievable given the time and resource you have available. It’s also important to consider any factors that have potential to impede your goal.

R – Relevant Does achieving this goal take you closer to the next step in your career? Don’t lose sight of the overall purpose or objective, ensure there is a real benefit attached to reaching that goal.

T – Time-bound Every goal needs a timeline. Additionally, knowing there is a deadline can be an effective motivator.

Examples of S.M.A.R.T. goals for IT professionals:

  • I will advance my java coding skills by actively contributing to 5 open source projects on Github over the next three months.
  • I will improve my communication skills by the end of the year through attending a networking event each month and enrolling in an online communications course.
  • I will earn a promotion to Senior Software Developer in my current company within 12 months by setting objectives with my Manager, documenting my progress, and regularly checking in to ensure I am meeting expectations.


Accept that your goals are fluid

Sometimes goals don’t always go to plan and they end up taking longer than you planned. It’s also perfectly normal to not reach a goal from time to time. Your personal life, new technologies and the industry are unpredictable so even the best laid out career plans are at risk of being disrupted. Therefore, it’s important to recognise and accept that your professional goals are fluid and will shift and change throughout your IT career.

Adam Shapley

Managing Director, Hays New Zealand and Hays IT Australia & New Zealand

Adam began working at Hays in 2001 and during this time has held significant leadership roles across the business including responsibility for multiple specialisms in various locations across Australia & New Zealand. In 2018, he was appointed to Hays ANZ Management Board and made Managing Director for Hays New Zealand. Adam is also responsible for the strategic direction of the Hays Information Technology business across Australia & New Zealand including driving growth across Digital Technology, Projects & Business Change and IT Operations & Support. .

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