This almost sounds like the title for an article in some romance magazine and in a way, one could say the concept of romance does come into play with what the article is all about.

In our case, we, as IT professionals, have two choices to make about our future:

1. We can find a wonderful company to work for and hunker down for the long-term (i.e. retirement).

2. We can continue to sharpen our skills and choose an area of IT that has a deep need for new talent/specialty and then develop that expertise.

The end result of either option are vastly different and affect your professional career in many different ways.

Some choose option 1 and to them I say, good going. Others choose option 2 and that is where I usually find very interesting and very competitive people who are not only rofessionals (such as those who choose option 1) but have that extra spring in their walk and fire behind the eyes. The movers. The shakers. The make-it-happen-kind-of-people.

It really is no secret, those who thrive and survive within the environment of option 2 are the hot professionals of the IT industry.

"But wait." you say. Years ago you jumped head-first into a new set of skills and worked through the midnight oil to hone those skills and became one of those sought-after gurus of a new skillset. The doors were being knocked down to reach you, clients were promising big bucks and recruiters were practically fall over each other to win you over.

The love affair was heady and so very sweet to your wallet and ego. Others had the same idea and then they too went through the entire courtship and found great salaries and benefits.

Then the years just seemed to slip by and all of a sudden you wake up and realize the IT industry has become oversupplied by your type with the same set of skills. Jumping from employer to employer has become harder and winning and retaining new jobs much harder.

That is the cycle of an IT professional:

--> Learn skill set --> Courtship --> Corporate Marriage -->

Deliver baby --> 7 Year Itch --> Irrelevance --> Divorce

Now, complete this cycle, EVERY 12 - 18 MONTHS and you get the picture of what an IT professional endures if they wish to stay ahead of the game and employe new skills into an existing enterprise (if they are lucky to be a part of an innovative division, company).

Those that choose option 1 above will find that they cannot endure another cycle of IT Courtship and eventually ignore the reality of the situation and continue to live within the confins of their fantasy world. There are many (very many) who will hunker down and build a deeper expertise in existing skill set. Those that choose option 2 will look for newer and greener pastures and will find top-dollar and great companies that want to hire them.

If you haven't noticed, the world has changed in profound ways during the last decade. Money is tight and there are fresh faces in the crowd and all of them are by-products of a hi-tech society. You must differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd if you wish to find yourself in that dizzying courtship that some professionals end up in...but how? The awful truth is that garnering new skills will not cut it in this day and age...I'll let you in on a secret.

Build your personal brand.

The world of business is build on the concept of branding. When you visit a grocery store you are bombarded by a myraid of brands, some new and some very well established within the market. When it comes down to choosing your choice of drink, are you going to go with something you associate with greater value or a no-name brand? See the picture?

Developing and building on your personal brand comes with great benefits; implied assurance, lower cost to "make the sale", and higher value.

Your success within your field has helped you to lay the ground work for establishing assurance that you provide customer satisfaction -- you get the job done! You also have developed a level of trust with past clients that you can deliver and this translates into implied assurance when you go to make your next "sale" (job searching).

Personal branding is not a fad and not something you can achieve within 6 months or even a year. Personal branding is a mind-set that accompanies you along your career journey. This journey takes continuing exposure to experience, strategic posturing, passion, thought leadership, and a desire to be recognized as a true industry leader within your market niche.

Experience: its not the number of years within your profession but what you have accomplished within those years. Focus is on accomplishment...let me repeat, focus is on accomplishment...not years.

Thought-Leadership: in other areanas it can be called, "creativity." Have you spawn new ideas within your job? How has it impacted the client? The customers?

Passion: it's not a job, its a way of life. You LOVE what you do and that is part of what makes you HOt in IT!

In the end, when it comes to personal branding building you must consider these stages:

Discover: who are you and what strengths can you leverage with results?

Design: Who is your audience and have you picked the right ones to court and make a committment to?

Deploy: once you have found your perfect "mate" you must deploy your skills in an effective manner and follow-up on your promises.

Deal: complete your promises by delivering!

It doesn't matter where you are within your career: it is never too late to start working on laying the foundation for personal branding!


[About the Author: Phil Robles is an IT professional with over 15 years experience working numerous IT roles within 5 major industries. He is also a business owner (DaVinciWorks™ & SMEOracle™). Phil is an Air Force veteran, has a B.S. Social Psychology degree from Park University, a Master, Information Systems degree from University of Phoenix, AZ, and is currently working on his Doctorate in Management and Organizational Leadership with a specialty in IT Services, University of Phoenix, AZ]

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