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Free IT Career Advice: How You Can Help Me to Help You

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

If you're looking for free, personalized IT career advice you've come to the right place. We're here to help you succeed -- and here's how you can help me help you.

I get at least half-a-dozen requests for input, advice, or information a month from Tom's IT Pro readers. All are welcome, but some make my job easier than others by providing sufficient background for me to understand what they know, what they've done, and where they'd like to go from here. You can help me to do my best work in pondering your situation and offering recommendations and suggestions for career and professional development if you do a little homework first. Here's how.

Help Me Help You

I've been the beneficiary of questions, comments, and concerns about IT career development and training and certification since the mid-1990s, when I started developing courseware and teaching courses on Microsoft technologies way back in the NT 3.51/4.0 era. Believe it or not, I'm always happy to help out when I can, not just for the benefit of the individuals who are bold and proactive enough to contact me, but also because of the valuable intelligence about what people are thinking about, doing, and wrestling with as they ponder their current job situation and their future career prospects and interests. In fact, I almost always end up learning as much or more about various programs, credentials, career enhancement strategies, and so forth, as do my interlocutors.

That's why I'm always glad to get career and certification questions and do what I can to respond to them. I also try to put their current circumstances onto some kind of path into the future where a range of positive outcomes is at least possible, if not fairly likely.

Back in January of 2012, I put together a questionnaire designed to help me understand what you know, what you've done (and are doing right now), where you live and work, what kinds of career aspirations you might have, and what sorts of certifications you may have earned or are interested in pursuing in the future. I also ask about long-term career goals and objectives, with an eye toward a planning horizon a bit further out than immediate concerns or issues in need of action on a "sooner is better than later basis."

Get Free, Personalized IT Career Advice

In order for me to be able to help you in the best way that I can, please take a few minutes to answer these seven questions in as much detail as you can. You can preview all seven of the questions here.

What to Expect?

The more effort you put into pondering the questions and providing details and info, the better the advice and suggestions I can supply in response to that input. Having now answered over 50 questionnaires as I write these words, I can speak from experience when I say that one-word or extremely terse answers won't give me much to go on when formulating answers.

For example: don't just tell me you have a BSCS. Tell me when you earned that degree, from which institution, and what kinds of courses and topics you found most interesting in school. If you're already thinking about a Master's to follow that degree, tell me that, too, and anything else that might further illuminate those thoughts: where you'd like to go, what subject, what area of specialization, what's holding you back, and so forth.

There's an old saying in computer science with the acronym GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out), which means that bad input can't help but produce bad output. If you tell me more, rather than less, in your questionnaire responses, I'll be able to respond in kind when I reply to your input.

Response Timing:

This service has proved extraordinarily popular, and it's currently taking me two to three weeks to work through the backlog. You should get an acknowledgement from me that I've received your input within a day or two of posting it, but do be patient in waiting for a more detailed reply. Thanks in advance for your patience and understanding.

In counting through my blog posts here since the kickoff in late 2011, somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of my efforts have related to incoming reader requests for information, advice, certification specifics, and so forth. I guess that means our desire to reach out to the reader community is working. But to help me keep giving my best, so you can benefit from my strongest and most useful suggestions, and advice, I hope you'll remember to turn to the seven questions to fill in some blanks on your background, work history, certifications, education, and yada yada when you reach out to me with questions and concerns. It's worked reasonably well so far, so please do your part to help me keep it that way.

In closing, I'd like to thank all the many current and aspiring IT professionals who've turned to me with questions, issues, requests for information, and more. I've kept in touch with enough of them to understand that, at least in some cases, I've done much more good than harm. But ultimately, it takes serious reflection, strong commitment, and hard work to make changes in one's life, be they personal or professional, so I have to give most of the credit where it rightfully belongs: in the hands of those smart enough to ask for advice, and persistent enough to act on it.

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