Take your career to the next level

I have been wanting to write this blog post for a while, but i have never managed to get round to it, so i find myself unable to sleep at 3am in the morning so i thought what the heck! So here it is!

Over the past 6 months I have been listening to a lot of personal development material from the likes of Brian Tracey, Jim Rohn and Darren Hardy. At first i was a bit sceptical about it all but then the more i listened to it, the more it made sense.  The fact is, 99% of people do not realise their human potential. We sail through life just doing the same things that 99.9% of the normal public do, we get a 9-5 job paying the average salary, we go to school, college and then university,  and then get a job you hate and then the learning stops and we go into auto pilot for the next 40 years until you collect your pension and wonder what happened to your life.

What I love about the I.T. industry is that you can change all of that you need to do is put the work in and then magic things will happen. Whether you are in networking, storage, administrator or support there are top tier certifications that you can gain which will pretty much guarantee you a promotion, a very nice salary and huge job satisfaction. There is no better feeling that going home at the end of each work day with a big smile on your face because you love your job, its beautiful 🙂

So how do you take your career to the next level? I have surrounded myself with the best of the best in multiple industries to see what makes them tick. What is the difference between average joe earning a average salary working in average job who dreams of being better and the recognised expert in the field who is living his dreams?

1) Pick a subject to specialise in.

I have found the recognised experts tend to specialise in one subject and do nothing else. If you are an all round IT guy, you are never going to be anything better than average. If you want to get ahead, try and specialise in a subject and learn as much as you can about that. For example if you want to specialise in networking, get a job where you do nothing but networking all day long.

2) Set goals and work out a plan

Once you have that specialist position set some goals for yourself on how you are going become better in that area. Look at the top people in that field and see they are doing. It is recommended that you write down monthly, quarterly and yearly goals. For example, if you are in the networking field set yourself a goal of getting a CCNA in the next 3 months, CCNP in the next 12 months and CCIE in 3 years. If you want to specialise in VMware set yourself a goal of getting VMware VCP in 3 months, VCAP-DCA & VCAP-DCD in 12 months, and then VCDX in 3 years. Once you have set those goals, work on them EVERY day. Even if its just 1 hour a day, you’ll be amazed how quickly you will progress if you work on it every day. Remember, short term sacrifice = long term gain. If you spend the next 6 months eating, sleeping and breathing a product to gain a top tier certification then that will propel your career onto new heights for the next 5 years at least. Surely that’s worth the effort? Most people who earn the top tier certs like CCIE and VCDX have put in ALOT of hours. We are talking about 300 hours of study time on top of their 9-5 jobs. I remember reading one story about a guy who had virtually no spare income and managed to earn a CCIE. For 12 months he stayed behind the office and build a lab using work equipment and borrowed colleagues books and stayed at the office till around 3am each morning and then slept for a few hours before doing the same thing again, 7 days per week. He now works for a consultant for Cisco and is paid a very handsome salary. One of the people who responded to a survey put in 16 hours a day for his VCDX. So never say you cant 🙂

3) Learn as much as you can

Immerse yourself in the product. Aim to get the top tier certifications as you gain the experience, participate in the online forums, subscribe to weekly newsletters  about your specific area, attend conferences (TechEd, VMWorld etc) follow industry peers on twitter, start a blog, read product manuals, books, the list is endless!! I always aim to try and learn something new every day. If you want to be best of the best, the learning should never stop. The IT world moves at an absolutely rapid rate. In my opinion, if you do not enjoy or participate in learning new skills then you are in the wrong industry because you’ll be dead in the water in a few short years. Some people will find this difficult though as this can be VERY time consuming. When you have a family, social life and a full time job it can be very difficult to find a few hours per day. Personally i try to use my lunch hour at work, and i listen to educational CD’s in my car on the way to work and on the way home. Personally for me that is 2 hours per day which adds up!

4) Passion

This for me is the most important one. If you do not love what you do, you will not succeed. Period. If you love what you do then success will come naturally. You will want to learn, you will want to better yourself and you will want to go to work every day. If you don’t enjoy your job then why do it? Find something you enjoy and do that. Success isn’t about money, its about enjoying life and being happy with yourself.

I would like to thank Wade Holmes who put their input into this blog post, it was extremely useful, thank you! Wade is a VCDX who is currently working for VMware as a senior consultant. You can reach his blog at and follow him on twitter @wholmes. Hopefully there will be more blog posts from me as i start to practice what i preach!!

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