5 ways to up value of IT professionals

Boosting employability and salary prospects involves more than upgrading skills, say experts, who view leadership and networking among important considerations.

While upgrading one's technical skills and knowledge are par for the course for an information technology professional to boost his value both in the workplace and larger job market, there are other factors and means when it comes to enhancing one's competitiveness and employability.

Audrey Seah, senior consultant at recruitment firm Hudson Singapore, said the IT industry is one of the fastest changing markets in the world today. With new technologies being released at an unprecedented pace, IT professionals must strive to keep up or risk losing out in terms of competitiveness and job opportunities in the long run, she told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

Azzli bin Jamain, director of creative and professional services division at Singapore's Workforce Development Agency (WDA), agreed it is important for IT professionals to "stay at the forefront of technology advancements and continuously upgrade to prevent obsolescence of their skills in a dynamic industry".

JobsCentral CTO Eric Koh added that besides being having the passion for their work and the motivation to excel, increasing one's value is also about increasing their market visibility and awareness.

Here are five top tips suggested by various recruiters and manpower specialists for IT professionals who wish to improve their market value, which translate to better opportunities and remuneration.

1. Upgrade skills and engage in further learning
Continuous or higher education to upgrade oneself was a unanimous vote. WDA's Jamain emphasized that IT professionals should embrace continuous learning, such as CET (continuing education and training) programs offered by WDA, in order to broaden and deepen their skill sets for both career and economic progression.

Annie Lim, manager of Robert Walters Singapore's IT commerce division, pointed to CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) and MSCE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) certifications, as well as those related to security, storage, networking and data centers. IT professionals who are trained in those disciplines will have an increased value, since these are currently in demand by the industry, she explained in an e-mail.

Also, it is preferable for candidates to possess a Masters degree for most senior positions, she added.

Koh of JobsCentral noted that those looking to move to senior or strategy development roles can consider a Master of Business Administration (MBA) for while those wanting to go into research and development can take up a Master of Science (MSc).

Regular training and upgrading of one's skills demonstrates a desire for advancement, explained Koh. "This is seen positively by employers as having the passion, drive and motivation for greater success."

And while "hard skills" count, he also reminded that soft skills such as leadership and communication skills are important and should be improved as well.

2. Be a high-performer
Being a high-performing worker is the most direct way of increasing your professional value and salary, according to Koh. Besides working hard at the present job, this involves taking on new roles and responsibilities, solving problems and building good relations with your colleagues and bosses. One ought to take advantage of opportunities that come along, he added.

Hudson's Seah noted another aspect--seeing projects through from beginning to launch. "Completed projects can be highlighted as full achievements for IT professionals. It shows that they have the patience to see the project through to completion and overcome any hurdles along the way."

On the other hand, leaving a project halfway through a cycle could reflect an attitude of quitting when the going gets tough, she said.

She added that one should be keen to take on new challenges such as project management which can expand one's scope and work experience and open up doors to management and consultancy positions.

Lim pointed out that besides taking on team leader or mentoring roles, having hybrid skills that blend technical and non-technical expertise such as business and other soft skills, are also important for mid- to senior-level professionals.

3. Expand your network
ICT professionals should make an effort to expand their professional network, advised Koh. "A wider network means greater opportunities."

One way, he said, is to start with the team and department one is directly working with and then across other functions and departments in the company. Finally, extend the network to other professionals in the industry by attending conferences and networking events or joining trade associations.

He added that online networking platforms or communities of special interests are other ways to expand one's network.

Seah urged IT professionals to also participate actively in tech forums and share knowledge freely on the Web. "This will not only help you get noticed and recommended, but also act as proof of your expertise," she said.

4. Regional exposure
Lim observed that with companies increasingly globalizing their operations, employees with regional exposure, excellent communication skills as well as the ability to bridge cultural gaps--for instance, by being fluent in a foreign language--would be in high demand.

Regional exposure does not necessarily mean a person must have worked in other countries, she added. As many organizations base their Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore, those working in the city-state would have an advantage in terms of opportunities for regional experience and exposure, Lim noted.

5. Stay current
Seah highlighted that IT professionals should understand how emerging technologies and trends impact their current skill sets. For instance, with increasing cloud migration, having knowledge of that domain and how to scale effectively will prove valuable. She also advised attending refresher courses to ensure one's certifications are kept updated.

Koh added that staying attuned to trends also applies to both the industry and the job market. It means "being aware of the opportunities that are available in the market, while actively marketing oneself as a potential hire". For example, the resume should be updated to market oneself and placed online so it can be discovered.

"You cannot make an informed decision about your career path if you do not know the market. So keep updated on the relevant economies, industries and business ecosystems, as well as job market trends and salary reports," he advised.


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