IT career mapping done right

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Here are six key components of a thorough career map, according to Clarke:

Historical plotting. This is a list of the job functions you've held, with competencies (not just responsibilities) identified for each one.

An aspirational look. "This is where you get to play and incorporate what you want," Clarke says, adding that she tells people to start with industries they're interested in, then zero in on functions and then roles.

A skills gap analysis. This is a comparison of the competencies you currently have and the ones you'll need to acquire in order to do the things on your aspirations list.

A plan to add competencies. This is where you identify the projects, classes or experiences that can help you close the gap between the skills you have and the ones you'll need.

A target list. Research companies you'd like to work for, or at least want to know more about. If you intend to stay with your current employer, it's still helpful to think about your company's competitors, so you better understand what your own employer will need to compete in the future.

Networking goals. Identify the individuals you want to meet or get to know better and commit to reaching out to them every quarter with a specific goal in mind, Clarke says. Are you seeking a mentor? Hoping for more information about a company in general? Interested in a particular job within a particular division? "I'm suggesting a framework for very strategic networking," says Clarke. "Consider what you want from these people."

Benefits to the company include improved succession planning and a vibrant workplace of challenged, engaged employees, Keefe says.

For the company, there can be a downside to career mapping as well, he warns. One employee, a midlevel IT manager, realized after he'd completed the mapping process that the company didn't have the position he aspired to. So the 10-year employee, whom Keefe says he saw as a future IT leader, joined another company where he could gain the skills he needed to do what he wanted, which was run a manufacturing facility.

Management has homework, too

IT leaders who use career mapping say organizations can't rely just on employee input if they want the program to be successful. Company leaders must also go through the exercise, with the goal of understanding and articulating the requirements of different positions and then outlining the skills and experience required to do each job.

That process "helps the organization answer the question, 'What kind of talent do we need?'" says Caela Farren, president of MasteryWorks, a career and talent management consulting firm in Falls Church, Va.

Farren's firm works with companies to identify the core competencies required for particular positions, the positions that will be key for future growth and development, and any new positions that will come into existence -- plus the skills and accomplishments that will qualify people for those jobs.

With that information all articulated in one place, managers can easily identify what staff resources they'll need going forward and whether they have that talent in-house or have to seek it elsewhere.

Win-win for organizations, employees

Corning, one of Computerworld's Best Places to Work in IT 2012, embodies the maxim that career mapping is equally beneficial to the company and the employee.

The Corning, N.Y.-based glass and ceramics company had previously compiled information about positions and their requirements, succession planning and employee profiles. But the company enhanced this data three years ago with the launch of My Development, a portal for salaried employees, who make up nearly half of Corning's total worldwide workforce of 29,000.

The internal website gives people more control over, and more accountability for, developing their own advancement plans by allowing them to explore career opportunities at Corning, say IT and HR officials.

The program organizes careers by 10 job families (including finance, human resources and IT) and then by role (for IT, roles include "provide reliable utilities" and "identify and deliver the appropriate IT capabilities for success in Corning's businesses"). These lead to listings for specific positions, such as operations team leader, senior analyst or site leader, along with the skills, requirements and experience needed for each.

The program asks employees numerous questions, such as whether they're willing to move, go back to school or travel. Managers are encouraged to work with employees to compare the online assessment with their own observations of and expectations for their charges.

"It gives workers the tools to take control over how to prepare for their next roles, and from a company perspective, you're building a pipeline," says Bill Thorpe, HR manager for IT, who notes that workers aren't required to participate but are strongly encouraged.

Now three years old, My Development is giving clarity to both workers and management about who could possibly move where with what training. As IT manager Jennifer Alvernaz puts it: "It educates you about what the possibilities are."

This story, "IT career mapping done right" was originally published by Computerworld.

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