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IT Career Planning 101 for 2017

By - Source: Toms IT Pro
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Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockIt's hard to believe the tail end of 2016 is already in sight, and 2017 just around the corner. This is the time of year when we traditionally gather with friends and family to celebrate the holidays, and to take a break from the normal workaday grind. That makes it a particularly apt and appealing time to pause for reflection, to think about what's gone before, and what still lies ahead. It's also an excellent time of year to do some career planning, and to set some goals for next year as to what you want to accomplish. That includes taking stock of what you need to do to maintain your current skills and knowledge, and perhaps to add to that collection.

MORE: Confessions of an IT Pro: Precious Ideas Will Hold You Back

What You Got There, Anyway?

If you already work in IT, you're in possession of some set of skills and knowledge. If this means you've already earned some certifications, it's a good idea to check your account on the sponsor's web page and find out if any of them come with expiration dates or continuing education requirements, and to start planning for those things you need to squeeze into 2016 or make room for in 2017. This might mean taking a course, reading a book, writing an article, attending a conference or seminar, or all kinds of interesting things to do.

Though it does take time and effort – and sometimes even costs money – to keep your credentials up-to-date, there is some fun to be found and enjoyed in enacting that maintenance process. Make it part of your year-end routine, and this sort of thing will never catch you by surprise.

What's Next on Your Hit List?

As you think about what lies ahead for 2017, think about the kinds of skills and knowledge you'd like to enhance, or new items that you'd like to add to your current portfolio. If you need some inspiration, I suggest visiting our "Best Certifications" page and browsing around the top five listings in the 27 categories it covers. What you want to do is to ponder your situation, and make some decisions regarding the following questions:

  1. What technical areas or certifications interest you the most?
  2. How much time can you devote to professional development in 2017? How much money?
  3. What kinds of certifications does it make sense to pursue, given your time and money commitments?
  4. What are you ready to tackle in 2017?

Resist the temptation to overcommit or over-pursue. Unless you really can devote more than 60 hours a month to certification prep, you really can't tackle more than one cert at a time, and probably no more than one or two certs per year. Plan accordingly, and choose your targets wisely.

This should give you plenty to think about, and a great variety of non-shopping sites to visit during the Black Friday period. While everybody else is out shopping and spending money, you can be digging into some career planning that should ultimately help you make money (and then, do some shopping of your own).