Tech career success depends as much on a worker’s ability to navigate multiple and varying job opportunities as it does on the acquisition of technical skills, according to a recent study conducted by a national consortium of workforce, research and academic institutions.
As technological change fuels demand for occupations requiring information and communication technologies (ICT) skills, the U. S. talent gap continues to grow, and employers report an inability to find the workers they need to fill their open positions. While most of the attention is paid to technical skill acquisition, such as learning new programming languages or mobile application platforms, mobility — the ability for workers to navigate a complex series of lateral and vertical opportunities in the maze of ICT employment — has at least as much to do with non-technical foundational skills and characteristics as it does technical proficiency.
The study, “Bridge to Career Success,” led by NOVA Workforce Development, the Economic Advancement Research Institute (EARI), and San Jose State University’s Department of Anthropology, presents important new findings about the characteristics developed and activities conducted by successful ICT careerists. The findings were developed through a rigorous research process that included both a survey of over 100 ICT professionals from various stages in their careers and deeply qualitative interviews with 17 exemplary employees, all to discern the strategies they have employed to remain relevant and mobile in their careers.
“These career navigation skills and characteristics are often differentiators between career success and failure,” explained NOVA Director Kris Stadelman.
This research was funded by the Creating IT Futures Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the global information technology trade association, CompTIA.
The research suggests that while ICT technical skills are necessary, they are not sufficient for long-term employment that pays a sustainable wage. Rather, the most successful ICT career navigators have honed several important characteristics and skills, enabling them to translate and communicate information across groups within and outside an organization, such as customers, engineering teams, and marketing departments. These professionals, termed “bridges,” are invaluable to their organizations and are highly mobile, which allows them to remain consistently relevant, employed and satisfied.
Bridges are noted for several important activities, including networking, self-awareness, organizational reading, relationship management, and mentorship. Through these activities, they develop and demonstrate key characteristics such as positive attitude, personal initiative, passion and curiosity, strong work ethic, teamwork, leadership, flexibility, and adaptability. These characteristics are acquired through exposure, experience, and social interaction, the research suggests.
While the research includes important information for anyone interested in ICT employment success, it is especially critical for lower skilled workers, who have the greatest need for enhanced mobility. This research study is a call to action to education and training providers to focus on these key characteristics and skills to better serve their constituents.
NOVA (North Valley Job Training Consortium), based in Sunnyvale, CA, is a federally chartered agency offering customer-focused workforce training and development services in Silicon Valley (www.novaworks.org). Massachusetts-based EARI is a non-partisan applied research institute focused on economic mobility and the 21st century world of work (www.eari.org). San Jose State University’s anthropology department conducts extensive research around the relationship of technology and organization to work and skills (www.sjsu.edu/anthropology/).