How To Plan For Career Success


On of my readers needs help with putting together his career advancement plan. I posted the information I provided to him below. If you have any question about this or about your career, post it as comment at the end of the post and I would answer it for you.

  1. Set a SMART Goal

    Begin by creating a comprehensive end to end career roadmap or plan.

    Your career roadmap needs to include a SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goal) That means that you need to define an end objective (for example, mastering business analysis or learning computer programming or improving your software testing skills) and a timeline for achieving it.

  2. Follow a Strategy

    Then you need to have a strategy for achieving your career goals. Your strategy is the “how to achieve your goal” part. So without a good strategy, you are not going to achieve your goal, no matter how hard you try at doing so.

    Your core career strategy needs to include: “gaining the requisite knowledge, skills and experience” needed to advance in your career as well as soft skills like “technical presentation / interviewing skills”.

  3. Execute your Strategy

    You need to define the specific tactics that would allow you to achieve your strategy. Your tactics is more like a day to day plan that you would carry out that aligns with your strategy. Your tactics is the execution part of the plan and if you don’t execute your strategy well, all the goal setting and strategizing in the world won’t help you.

How to Follow Through On Your Career Strategy

How do you ensure that on a daily or weekly basis, that you will get the knowledge, skills and experience required to succeed in your career?

To ensure that you succeed in your career, you need to define:

  • How you will gain the requisite knowledge

  • How you will gain mastery and turn your knowledge into skills

  • How to gain hands on, real-world, experience. Note that without experience, you won’t get be able to transition to new roles or get hired or get promoted

Here is some more information on how to gain more knowledge, skills and experience … which is required for IT career success:

  • How To Improve Your Knowledge:

    Would you use books, free website content, onsite technical training, online training, coaching or mentoring services, newsletters, etc. You need to come up with what works best for you based on your work, family and budget

  • How to Turn your Knowldege into skills:

    Note that knowledge and skills are not the same. Knowledge is theoretical and skill is practical. You must turn theoretical knowledge, education, certifications, etc into practical skills to succeed in your tech career

  • How To Gain Hands On Experience:

    The most valuable asset in your career is your hands on, real-world, experience. IT careers unlike careers in law, medicine and some other professional disciplines put more emphasis on experience than accrediattion.

So, before you do anything, you need to make sure you have defined the specific steps you will take to get your hands on experience. Also, not every experience is equal. Employers give more weight to experience gained in some specific ways compared to experience gained in other ways.


This is a hot topic. Tech workers are worrying if their certifications, degrees, education, would hold up in the current economic climate.

There seems to be two schools of thought. One school asserts that certifications and educational degrees are everything. The other school asserts that certified tech workers may not necessarily have the experience to back it up and that certifications don’t matter anyway.

There may be a better way to answer this question. Instead of worrying about your certifications, educational qualifications, etc. focus on a developing complete, end to end career plan. In a complete career plan you may get additional certifications and educational qualifications as long as you do not neglect the core essentials needed for information technology career success: knowledge, skills and experience.

So, I want to know hear from you. Was this post helpful? Do certifications, degrees and educational qualifications matter? Does knowldege, skill or experience matter? If you have a question or concern I can address, post it as a comment at the end of this post and I will answer it for you.

11 Responses to "How To Plan For Career Success"

  1. Brian P   March 4, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Hi again Kingsley,

    After a couple of classes and extensive research on the internet, I’m starting to get a real feel for databases and how they work.

    I have the book SQL for Dummies and am not finding it very helpful.

    I’m just about ready to order your SQL Boot Camp but I have one question. After completing the boot camp, how much more time and research do you think it would take to become knowledgeable and skillful at SQL Server 2005/8?

    One more quick question. Do you think that it’s true that Excel is more geared toward small business, Access toward medium-sized business and SQL Server 2005 more toward big business i.e. national or international companies?

    Thank you again for your help! I’ve already opened a LinkedIn account
    and become a member of quite a few groups and established a connection with someone. I’d like to connect with you as well if that’s a possibility.

    Best Regards,

    Brian P

    • Kingsley Tagbo   March 4, 2009 at 10:53 am


      I would be glad to help you with that question. I would say that after completing the SQL Boot Camp, you may start applying for SQL Developer Jobs immediately.

      There is no more time to waste in the current job market. Part of what you need to do is to get trained and to get your skils up to par … the other part is to market your skills relentlessly. Both parts are important and need to be done … though in the right order … [get training] –> [apply for jobs]

      Excel is not really a factor in most of the IT Jobs. It’s taken for granted that you know Excel. Except if you are pplaying for Office Administrative Jobs / Secretarial Jobs, Excel is taken for granted.

      Now, there is another feature in Excel that most job seekers don’t know about. It is Excel Automation. Excel has a programming backend that you may learn and is in-demand in Financial Analysis Jobs and Financial Programming Jobs especially in the East Cost / New York Area.

      The Microsoft Access market is gone! 10 years ago, when I started my consulting career, there was a really big customer base for Microsoft Access. There were lots of contract and full time job postings utilizing Microsoft Access skills. But that market is now really gone and it’s been replaced by Microsoft SQL Server customer. You may still get pockets of demand for Microsoft Access skills, but you are going to get even more demand with SQL Server skills.

      Yes, you can connect with me on LinkedIn … I will send you my private linkedin e-mail address.

      Thank you

  2. Brian P   February 24, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Hi again Mr. Tagbo,

    I’ve been reading a lot about the importance of networking in the job search process.

    I have to admit this is a weakness for me.

    I’m planning on using Linkedin and a new website I just found called but these will probably be better utilized after I’ve completed my training.

    Any ideas or suggestions on how I can get ahead of the game and get my networking started now?

    Thank you again for your help!


    • Kingsley Tagbo   February 27, 2009 at 7:20 am


      That is a good topic and I ought to write more posts about that.

      I already started down that trail with this article titled: “How To Build Your Online Social Networks”:

      In a nutshell, networking is important especially online social networking.

      But networking is especially powerful when you have something of value to offer in other words after you finish your training or at least along with your training.

      Because how online social networking can work in your favor is that it can help you locate or find jobs or hiring managers faster or easier. However, after you find the recruiter or hiring manager or job, you still have to present your skills, resume and experience to them. If those don’t stand up you will not get the job.

      Or if you are hired based on your social networking skills and you still don’t do a good job, in this economic climate, you will still get fired!

      But if you become highly skilled and you use networking to cut down the time it takes to find a job, you stand a better chance of getting hired over other competitors and of keeping your job after you are hired!

      Does that make any sense … do you agree or disagree?

      Your opinion matters … so please tell me what you think

  3. Kingsley Tagbo   February 20, 2009 at 11:45 am


    Yes, that would be conisdered hands-on experience.

    However, there are criteria for evaluating the quality of hands-on experience.

    The hands-on experience that you gain by working on a project where you are also the client is not quite as valued as hands-on experience that you gain by working for someone else (someone other than you is the client or the receiver / beneficiary of your services.)

    So, this would be a good step in the right direction towards getting hands-on experience.

    Please let me knwo if you have any other questions or if I can help you with any other insight.

    P.S. I am still working on your request for help with evaluating your career plan … I will be getting back to you on that soon 🙂

  4. Brian P   February 20, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Mr. Tagbo,

    A quick question about acquiring hands-on experience:

    I was planning on using my experience in the garment industry to fill several tables with data such as Customer Info, Style Info, Customer Orders, Production Orders and Materials info.

    Then create multiple forms, queries and reports to show how the data can be utilized for business management decisions. (Yes, I’ve done a little research on Access and am looking forward to the class beginning in a couple of weeks.)

    If I presented this in interview situations, would that be looked at as a sort of hands-on experience?

    Thank you very much for your help!

    I look forward to seeing the customized career advancement plan!

    Brian P

  5. Clekamaks   February 20, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Thanks a lot for the information. Looking forward to a good study partnership with you.


  6. Kingsley Tagbo   February 19, 2009 at 4:19 pm


    – How To Become A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Consultant:

    Are you going to be implementing CRM processes for businesses or customizing and implementing CRM packages or writing, speaking and conuslting on CRM?

    These are some of the questions you need to answer. You would also have to put together a marketing plan that defines who your target market is amongst other things and how you would end up marketing your services.

    If you want to go the CRM consulting route, you will need a business plan that addresses these questions and other questions like:

    1.) Are you going to provide the CRM consulting services by yourself or
    2.) Hire employees, consultants or contractors to provide the services to clients through your business

    Then you will need a strong marketing plan like I said before that defines your target market and how you are going to reach your market (advertising, networking, cold calling, speaking, etc.)

    Your current accounting background can be an asset if you start networking and positioning yourself to your accounting network as a CRM expert.

    You also have to look at using the power of the web, internet and social media to market your services. You mught even decide to set these up and start building your CRM portfolio before you go into full-time Customer Relationship Management (CRM) consulting. As a general rule, it works better for most people when they start their consulting / freelancing skills on the side first before they go full-time.

    There are other things you need to prepare for: how to incorporate, handle taxes and keep your accounts in other (this is probably a no-brainer for you)

    I would also advise you to know your strenghts and weaknesses as it applied to the business world. As a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) consultant, you or your company will need to be technically strong and to be market savvy at the same time. So, do a SWOT analysis (Strenghths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and come up with a plan to compensate for your personal weaknesses. Because as Sun Tzu said,

    If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

    If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

    If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

  7. Clekamaks   February 19, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Dear Mr Tagbo,

    I have a background in Accounting, and I am thinking of going into consultancy in the field of IT sometime in the near future.

    Some has advised that I acquire training in Customer Relationship Management, CRM.

    Please how does that align with my training in accountancy.

    Though I have researched crm and very much like it.


  8. Kingsley Tagbo   February 18, 2009 at 8:21 am


    That is excellent, you’ve provided us with sufficient information to work with.

    We will review it and get back to you with a customized, career advancement plan.

    Best Wishes

  9. Brian P   February 18, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Here’s a brief outline of my career advancement plan. Can you review and let me know if I’m on the right track?

    Background: 20 years experience in garment manufacturing industry. Data entry, customer service, production planning, materials purchasing. Always interested in how different data from different departments could be better utilized for more efficiency. Presently unemployed and planning to become data analyst.

    : Taking classes at career resource center in Excel 2007 and Access 2003 – will be complete by beginning June. Also planning to learn SQL within the same time frame (possibly with your SQL Boot Camp.



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