Jacobs Engineering sets up an individual development plan with each IT employee to learn what skills staffers want to acquire and what their project interests and career goals are. The plan is used as a guide for career rotation roles and cross-functional assignments. "This is something we do, not just for college graduates, but for everybody," says Carmody.
Eye the Horizon
What do I need to know before it gets here? "That should be the question you're always trying to answer," says Scott Caldwell, technical services manager at Johnson County Transit in Kansas City, Mo. For example, with the explosion in the popularity of tablets and smartphones, getting up to speed on mobile technology and the way it could be used at your company or in your industry is critical, because it will very likely play a role in every enterprise someday soon, if it isn't already.
"You have to seek out information and make the extra effort to find what the trends are. You want to make sure you know where things are going so you can be there," Caldwell says. "That doesn't mean you have to be an expert in mobile operating systems, but you need to know what it is and its impact on the industry as a whole."
Launching a job search? A good starting point is to draw a career map, which at its simplest is an inventory of your skills, experience and goals. But it should also include much more.
"It's an analysis of your competencies and past work experience, plus a forward look at possibilities," says Ginny Clarke, president and CEO of Talent Optimization Partners in Chicago and author of Career Mapping: Charting Your Course in the New World of Work.
A career map also includes an outline of how to achieve one or more of the objectives you have. This could be a list of roles to move into or projects to get involved with as a means of gaining experience and new skills. "It's like a financial plan in which you look at how much money you have, how much you want and how you intend to get there," Clarke says.
-- Julia King
In the public transportation industry, for example, officials used to buy specialized equipment for buses, but eventually that equipment was no longer needed because it was replaced by tablets. "I can go out and buy a $300 tablet to replace a $15,000 piece of equipment we would have bought five years ago," he notes.