- BE ENERGIZED – Keep your activity levels high. Now is NOT the time to become lethargic or complacent. The people who report to you model themselves after you. The more you accomplish, the more they will accomplish. The harder you push yourself, the harder they will push themselves. Younger employees are sometimes seen as being more energized than older employees – prove them wrong. Exercise daily, at least 30 minutes each day. Watch your diet and your weight.
- BE A MENTOR – You have a responsibility to train and motivate the people that work for you. The knowledge you possess is not your own. It should not be guarded and kept secret to increase your job security. The more knowledge you give away, the more that will come your way. You will be seen as the “go-to guy” and a subject matter expert on a wide variety of topics. Your younger employees will respect and appreciate the knowledge and experience that you possess and will tell others of your accomplishments.
- BE A STORY TELLER – People want to learn from your experience. Over the course of your career, you can probably recall all sorts of situations where you, or someone you know, had faced adversity and overcome it with a brilliant idea. That kind of relevant experience is what makes older workers valuable for the organization. It’s particularly encouraging when younger people are caught in the middle of projects that have stalled, derailed or been hijacked. They need words of wisdom in an anecdote they can understand.
- BE A DOER – Just because you’re in management, doesn’t mean that you should bark orders through a bullhorn while your underlings carry out your wishes. Good leaders are in the trenches, working side-by-side, to get things done and the ball into the end zone. Your superiors will appreciate that closeness with your team and you will appreciate the knowledge you gain from being in close to the action.
- BE A LEARNER – Whatever your age, whatever your industry – the minute you stop learning, you start losing a tactical advantage over younger employees. Don’t be bypassed by technology. Don’t be put out to pasture for hanging on to an aging skill set. Take on online class. Buy a book and self-teach yourself something new or enhance your knowledge in your chosen area of focus. Don’t fall for the old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.
- BE ENCOURAGING – Far too often, I see people who are discouraged and losing their way in their careers. Be there to listen and guide people through difficult times. Make sure though, that person is really following their calling and not just working a job. If you do what you love, you’ll never work again. If they aren’t following their calling, you should encourage them to follow that call and then they will find happiness and fulfillment.
- BE A LEADER – By far, the most inspiring thing an employee can be is a leader. But are you a leader? Do people follow you? Are you resting your laurels on a job title or do people really believe in you? You have to be the kind of person they want to be. You have to be someone they look up to.
- BE FEARLESS – My favorite saying is what I try and live my life by – “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”. You have to believe in yourself to the point where you become invincible. When I stepped off of Parris Island quite a few years ago as a young Marine, I felt bulletproof. In many ways, I still feel that way!
In 2009 I wanted to augment my skillset by learning Java. I have been a self-taught programmer since the beginning of my career and I had the fortunate experience of working with a bunch of Georgia Tech grads who taught me the value of higher education and learning to do things “right”.
I decided to go back to school to get certified in Java. Once I arrived on campus, I soon learned that I couldn’t just “cherry pick” classes. There were prerequisites and programs that had to be followed. Before I knew it, I was involved in a two year journey to obtain an Associates degree in computer programming. Once achieved, I completed a Bachelors in Information Technology with a concentration in Web Development.
In the IT world, we all are life-long learners. If not, you’ll be swept away by the rising tide pretty quickly. I think there’s something within our community that makes us want to learn and try new things. It ceases to become work, and we strive to learn more.
Education has always been the area of greatest resistance for me. I’m not sure whether I had a bad taste in my mouth from my first experience with college when I was young, but going back to school later in life changed my entire outlook on a formal education, along with its benefits and merits.
Certifications are also easy to look down on for those that don’t have them. It’s easy to pass a test and not possess any working knowledge of a technology. But certification coupled with experience, can be a fearsome adversary when compared with other candidate for a job or a promotion.
My final thoughts on the subject of professional development is that one should always go after subjects that interest you. If you’re wanting to pick up a certification or class because you think it’ll bring you more money, that’s the wrong reason. If you don’t have a genuine interest in the subject matter, chances are you won’t do that well in the class and it won’t achieve the higher goal of educating yourself.