Talent Development Centre

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The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about career planning.

So, Now What??!

So, Now What??!

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

I’d like to begin by stating that this is purely an opinion piece. I’ve no better access to information than most other people (the information I’ve reviewed comes from internet sources and my own discussions with contractors, consultants and clients) but, I think, that this may be the point. I don’t know what’s coming next, no one does. Many say they do… but they don’t. So in this COVID-obsessed and stressed out world, what is one to do?

There are very few people in this world who truly love and embrace change. (And no, I am not one of them!) Sure, many of us can appreciate the concept of change being needed for progress to occur, we may even agree that it could be a good thing. But it rarely “feels good” when we are in the middle of it. And, boy! Are we in the middle of it now!! Everybody has everything in their lives turned on its head right now. Sure, we’ve made accommodations and are in the process of defining our own “new normal”, but the truth is that the way things are today aren’t the way they are going to be in 6 months from now, nor will they ever be the same way they were before! It’s a scary thought for most people — the “future normal” is unknown.

Wait a minute… the future has never been known… how is this “new” in any way? What is different now, is the scope of the changes that we are facing. Too much of our lives have been changing too drastically too quickly and it will continue to do so for some time to come, for the foreseeable future, actually. I guess hyper-change IS the new normal. Or, to put it oxymoronically, un-normal is normal. And we would do well to get used to that idea.

So, back to the original question: what do we do now, today, to set ourselves up for success in this “oxymoronical” (not a real word) time. I don’t know (for sure). But here are a number of ideas that have shown to be useful when living in times of great change:

  • Accept that you cannot stop change. Your plans, whatever they were, may no longer be possible to accomplish — at least in the way or time frame which you’d intended. If your situation has created an insurmountable obstacle to your plans, stop trying to fight it. Your time and energy would be better spent focusing on something else, something that will lead to positive results for you.
  • Be flexible. Look for ways to adapt your plans so that your goals might still be met. Look for a “Plan B”. Expect that you might need to look for a Plan C, D, E…
  • Be engaged. As much as you might want to hunker down, withdraw and ride it out, these massive changes will continue. Unless you are retired, with everything paid off and have a sizeable, well-hedged nest egg, you are not going to be able to “sit this one out”. “Group Think” is real and it is a powerful tool for you to use to keep current. Working your network of family, friends, colleagues, etc. will help to keep you abreast of the changes as they happen and provide ideas for making the accommodations necessary to limit the downside and maximize the opportunities.
  • Limit the downside and maximize the opportunities. As we all know, change does not need to be a negative thing. Although it can be uncomfortable, there will be both opportunities to take advantage of and pitfalls which we’d like to avoid. Being “opportunistic” might not always have a good connotation; however, in times of great change, it is an approach one should embrace.
  • Give back. As bad as we might have it, others have it far worse. Helping others in need is a great way to do good while attaining perspective, lifting your spirit, and generally feeling better about yourself (and your own situation).
  • On the career side, if you find that you have unwanted-but-extra time on your hands, investing in your knowledge/skills through training, reading, networking, etc. often pays a good return. If you don’t have the time or wherewithal for a formalized course/certification, there are many free sources of information and training available. As well, there are user groups (albeit virtual these days) that you can join. Not only are these a great networking opportunity, they are also great places to learn!
  • Try something new. If you’ve ever thought to yourself “I always wanted to… ??, but never had the time“. Or, “Someday, when the time is right, I’ll try to… ??“. Maybe now is the time. You may find a hidden talent or something new that you love to do and the rest of your life may be richer for it. Learn a new language! The direction of macro-changes suggests that globalization will continue unabated and being bilingual or multi-lingual can be a real advantage.
  • Do some soul-searching. Most of us have been “running hot” for a long time. We’ve had our heads down, and pushing forward with our careers/lives/relationships/etc. When evaluating your opportunities, it is a good practice to challenge your own goals, philosophies, and ideals. Is what was important to you 10 years ago still important to you today? If you take time to peel back that “onion”, you might be surprised to find that your priorities are due for a change. What Color Is Your Parachute? is an old, tried-and-true, self-help book meant to guide people through a career change; but it contains excellent exercises that helps one to identify what is most important to them and set goals and priorities and make new, better-fit life plans. Resources such as this book (and countless internet sites) are valuable as guides to your self-awareness journey.
  • Exercise and take care of your health. The benefits of this go without saying… so, I’ll only say this: Regardless of the amount of change facing you over the coming months and years, attending to your physical and mental health will never be a wasted effort.
  • Take time to read — news sources, industry articles, biographies, editorials, training literature and whitepapers. Listen to podcasts on subjects of interest to you. It doesn’t even have to be career-related; it can be of general interest to you or hobby-related. Try to choose things that engage you and stimulate your mind… and minimize your time watching mindless TV shows, the black hole that can be YouTube, etc. because, in these, you lose hours of your life and come out no better for it.

Here are some links to websites that share ideas on how to cope with change. They are good “reads” and can augment my own list here:

That’s my list for coping, Mid-COVID – August 2020. As I said at the beginning of this blog post: this is an Opinion Piece and I am the world’s leading authority on my own opinion. I’m sure you have your own advice to add to this list… and maybe even counter points to argue! I’d be pleased to see you share your own ideas with our readership by leaving a comment below! In the words of the great and wise Red Green: “Remember, I’m pulling for you. Were all in this together!”

Take care, stay well, be strong… and thrive!

Are You Keeping Up Compared to Other Developers Around the World?

Are You Keeping Up Compared to Other Developers Around the World?

The Stack Overflow 2020 Developer Survey was released this Spring and, as usual, delivered tons of statistics about developers, what they’re working on, how they’re thinking and where their future is going. One chart they published is of particular interest to any developer looking to remain competitive in the job market.

Stack Overflow asked developers how frequently they learned a new language or framework and the results were a testament to how fast innovations are happening in tech. Around three-quarters of all respondents — professional developers and hobbyists — learn something new at least once a year, and around half of those people said it’s closer to every few months.

Stack Overflow Survey Results: How Frequently do developers learn a new language or framework?
Stack Overflow Survey Results: How Frequently do developers learn a new language or framework?

What is Learning?

Learning can be as extensive or as simple as you’d like, depending on your goals and time available. As long as you’re expanding your mind and putting something into your brain, you’re making yourself more valuable to future clients. For example:

  • In the case of this Stack Overflow survey, respondents are saying they learn a new language or framework. We’ve shared loads of resources with suggestions on where you can pick-up these new skills.
  • You can also force yourself into learning as you go by taking on new challenges that require you to do some research and solve different problems. The Stack Overflow survey also summarized where developers turn to when they need to solve such problems.
  • There are tons of skills you already have, but might have gotten rusty. If you maintain a certification, you’re forced to keep up on skills, but how many others did you learn a few years ago and haven’t used since. It’s great to go back and refresh those every once in a while.
  • At the other extreme, some professionals look to get into a brand-new field of work which often requires more formal training. That comes with more financial and time investment, but pays off.

The Next Step is Getting There

Regardless of what you want to learn, nothing is going to happen unless you create a plan that will put you where you want to be. A high-level roadmap might be:

  1. Decide exactly what you want to do. Maybe it’s based on in-demand skills or just something you’ve been interested in picking up. Pinpoint exactly what it is you want to learn and where you want to be.
  2. Find Out What You Need to Get There. If you’re looking to expand on a language you’re already familiar with, a few websites and weekend exercises may suffice. As noted above, if you have a more ambitious goal that requires extensive learning, you’ll need to investigate formal training.
  3. Build Your Timeline (with milestones). Knowing what to do is one thing, but doing it is a whole other challenge. Create a schedule of when you’ll learn what, including milestones to keep it from being overwhelming. Now you know when to set time aside to learn and ensure you’re on track to accomplish your goal.

Learning is such a valuable and necessary task for an IT professional who wants to keep up in a fast-pace, innovative world. As the chart above shows, the majority of your competitors are developing their skills so if you’re not, then you’re quickly falling behind.

The Growing Skills Gap, The Pace of Change… and the Critical Importance of Chosen Assignments

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

The Growing Skills Gap, The Pace of Change… and the Critical Importance of Chosen Assignments

There are several factors that work together to create a “skills gap” within the labour market in Canada (and worldwide for that matter). Local gaps can occur in any market based on competing projects using similar technology that eat up available resources; or, perhaps, a company wants to try something new-to-the-region and existing tech-professionals just don’t exist in that location. These gaps happen all the time and are, typically, short-lived as labour is quite mobile. However, our industry is noting a growing technological skills gap in general. This is across multiple regions and, in fact, around the globe. The aging workforce (baby boomers retiring or about to retire) – coupled with – too few young people to replace them – coupled with – not enough students taking the STEM education needed to fill new roles -coupled with – an explosion in tech-related jobs… all work together as a “perfect storm” to create a growing and pervasive technology skills gap.

But there is still another reason, one that I wish to highlight, and it is one that effects many contractors and consultants: The pace of change in technology. Technological change has never been faster. There are a multitude of new technologies that didn’t exist even a few years ago. And there are more areas of specialization/differentiation within the tech industry than ever before as both the breadth and the complexity of technology increases. It has gotten to the point that people either can’t keep up or don’t wish to keep up anymore. After all, there is just so much change that people are willing to tolerate. And when someone learns and masters a new skill, they want to reap the return on their investment of time and money vs. immediately throwing more time and money into learning something else. Most people who choose to make technology the foundation for their profession understand that life-long learning is a must. But as mentioned above there is always a limit… whether it be physical, mental or financial, exhaustion will always catch up.

For the consulting industry, this is both a blessing and a curse. “Where there is confusion there is profit… for the wise [person]”… new and unfamiliar tech keeps both demand and rates high. But it is also very easy to become out-of-touch or even obsolete. In Calgary, when the O&G industry turned around a few years back, many IT contractors found themselves out of work or they took lesser level roles to keep working through the economic downturn. When the market began to come back a year-and-a-half to two-years later, there was a surprise that we did not expect. While many people’s professional development went on hold for this time, technological advancement didn’t wane. We discovered that a skills gap had developed… and the skills/experience that employers were wanting, few local people had. It was a scramble for the local market to re-tool, re-educate and come up to speed on these newer technologies.

The lesson (or one of the lessons) in all this, for IT consultants/contractors, is in understanding the importance of the work that you choose. By carefully choosing your next project, one that leverages leading edge application of technology – in an area where you wish to grow and develop – you are able to keep your skills current. Through great projects, you continue to build your resume remaining relevant and highly employable. Given the reality of a growing global skills gap, contractor rates will be strong… as such, I believe that the kind of project, the nature of the work and the technology stack to be leveraged will become even more strategically important to contactors when evaluating and choosing new assignments.

Do You Have a Plan?

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on April 1st, 2017

Goals quote by NightingaleGoals can make a big difference in your life.

If you have no real plan for your life then here are a few thoughts for you.

  1. If you don’t know where you are going, then you might not like where you end up.
  2. If you have trouble defining where that end point should be, or what it looks like, then pick a point along the way! e.g. If you don’t know what your career will look like in 10 years, then decide where you would like to be in a year.
  3. Aim big. If you shoot for the stars you might not get there, but you will go a long way towards them. If you aim for the roof, you might not even get there!

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”   Bruce Lee

  1. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! So … plan your strategy for success in small bits, it will make it easier to achieve.
  2. Review your plans regularly, make sure you are tracking to plan and adjust accordingly.
  3. Get help! Find a mentor/mentors, people that will help you.
  4. Treat your life seriously … you only get one shot! So, make sure you do what you want with it … and make sure you enjoy it!
  5. Fact: Hard work and good planning will get you a LONG way! If you apply some smarts to that formula you will rock the world!

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”  Nelson Mandela

  1. Its not all about you! Sometimes you get more by giving. You will need to figure this out for yourselves, but my advice is to “give” as much as you can.
  2. Every day is the start of the rest of your life, if you are late starting on your journey that’s OK. Just start!

“I do know that when I am 60, I should be attempting to achieve different personal goals than those which had priority at age 20.”  Warren Buffett

Goals don’t have to be hard … but you really should have some.

“To live a fulfilled life, we need to keep creating the “what is next”, of our lives. Without dreams and goals there is no living, only merely existing, and that is not why we are here.”  Mark Twain

Life After Graduation — What’s the Next Step? (Infographic)

You’ve just graduated from University or College and might be unsure to what path you should take next and how you need to go about prepping your application for that dream job. Or maybe you’re itching to travel and not ready to head into the nine to five world straight away. Whatever stage you’re at in deciding your career route, the below infographic by Essay Writing Service UK outlines some key advice on choosing your next path and the options available, as well as what each of those options might entail.

Whatever industry you’re looking to make your mark in (whether that might be now or later on), there are a couple of different routes you can take to get there to enhance your employability and improve your overall experience. From taking the time to go travelling or delving into self-employment if you have the confidence, to continuing your study for further knowledge or carrying out an internship with a company to get your foot in the door.

You need to be aware of your employability and understand that your personal profile can make or break a job application, even if that job application is for working abroad or a temporary part-time job. The below infographic outlines some of the tools you should be using to enhance your employability. These include your resume/CV, your online presence within a booming digital world, as well as some extra considerations you should be thinking about.

In regards to the application process, each individual job application should be tailored towards a specific industry and job role. For example, outlining technical skills and experience should become more of a priority in an IT job application whereas visual representation and portfolio design might become more of a priority for a creative role application.

Whether you’ve already got your nine to five all booked in or you’ve got your heart set on going travelling for six months, discover the tools you need to step into the right direction of your future career today…

Life After Graduation -- What's the Next Step? (Infographic)

Life Long Learning

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on September 21st, 2016

learning quote from Brian Herbert

When did you last take some training?

When did you last invest in your own career?  (Forget about what your employer does.)

Do you have a personal training plan?

Do you have a career plan?

Do you understand how your industry is being affected by technology, by regulatory change and by global competition?

Can a call centre in Africa do a part of your job … for a fraction of the cost?

Can a robot replace you … or some part of what you do?

Is your company being overtaken by disruption?

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  Henry Ford

Take control of your own destiny, because life has a way of happening:

  • have a great attitude (its all in your head);
  • have  a good work ethic (anyone can do this, but many don’t!); and
  • have great skills.

Take advantage of every training opportunity possible AND invest in yourself!

“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.”  Brian Tracy