In today's economy, it's important to stay current in your industry. Keeping up with the latest trends and technologies is important if you already have a job, and it can be crucial if you are looking for work.
How can you stay current when the world of IT field is continually changing? Don't fret. CIO.com is here and ready to arm you with the knowledge and resources you need to help you use your time wisely.
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Keep in mind that it's important to both learn broadly about your industry in general, but also keep a narrow focus on your specialty -- the market is too large, with too many workers to just know a little about everything these days. There will always be a need for specialties within the IT industry -- specialization is not just for doctors and lawyers.
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1. Stay current with industry news
The days of manually searching for news on a specific topic are, of course, over. Today you can easily set up email alerts that will notify you if new online content is available and you can filter the info so that it alerts you only for news items on a specific term, rather than alerting you for other web content on the entire subject.
One good source for alerts is Google Alerts. To sign up, you simply visit the Google Alerts page, or sign into Google and search for any news item. At that point, you will have the option to add that search to your alerts. On the alerts page, choose the keyword or phrase, as well as what content you wish to be alerted about, as well as frequency at which you want the alerts sent.
You can set alerts to be delivered to you daily, via individual alerts for each item or via a roundup email that presents you with all the alerts on a daily basis. To keep the number of alerts manageable, you will want to limit it to news, rather than web content, unless your topic is rarely mentioned on the web.
Google Alerts will help you stay informed about, new products, services or upgrades, and anything relative to the technology you are focusing on -- such as changes in industry standards and, acquisitions. All of these types of things keep you current in the industry, and could help you answer deal breaking questions during interviews or evaluations.
2. Conferences, boot camps, and classes
Along with staying current via the news, attend classes, boot camps and conferences. Books can provide you with additional education, but classes are more well-rounded and will carry more weight. You can't really add, "I read a book" to your resume. Conferences not only expose you to updated information, they also help you to meet leading authorities and vendors in the IT industry as well as network with your IT peers.
Here are a few websites that provide links to industry conferences and events.
You can often find classes listed in your local newspapers, as well as on college websites and even social networking sites.
As a recent CIO article pointed out, "certifications indicate to employers that you take your job seriously and that you are knowledgable on the respective technology." By selectively choosing certifications applicable to your area of expertise, you can remain up to date and continue to add to your list of qualifications.
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4. Online user communities
Online user communities have long been a useful tool for the IT professionals. Back when the Web was in its infancy, many technology professionals used them to learn about the latest techniques and tools for developing websites. Now they have morphed from simple Usenet groups to full-fledged online communities, with topics ranging from database development to cooking to consumer electronics.
Particularly useful for developers seeking advice from their peers, user communities are also an effective way to stay current with the latest trends and techniques for your particular area of IT expertise. Most communities have discussion forums, FAQs, knowledge bases and some even have job boards and resume posting services. With the variety of topics covered by the myriad of communities, they are a useful tool that will help you stay current in your field. Here's a few to check out:
5. Industry magazines
Fortunately for professionals, industry magazines are either cheap or free -- most simply require you to fill out a short qualification form. If you, qualify, you get the printed and/or digital magazines sent at no cost. Filling out the qualification form often allows you access to registration-only portions of online publications as well as white paper and ebook downloads. There are several publishers that offer hundreds of free subscriptions -- and they cover just about any segment of the IT industry. Here are a few to check out:
6. Industry blogs
The Internet is full of people wanting to express their opinions about pretty much any topic you can imagine, so it's no surprise that there are plenty of blogs written by and for IT industry professionals. Blogs are a good way to stay current about specific topics, companies or segments of the industry. There are so many to choose from, we've listed a few popular blogs here to get you started.
- Microsoft Community Blogs -- Microsoft blogs written by their employees on various Microsoft technologies
- Google Blogs -- The official Google blog
- Oracle Blogs -- Oracle and industry-standard technologies
- Read Write Web -- Web product and trend analysis
- Adobe Blogs -- Adobe technologies such as Flash, Reader, Photoshop, etc.
- CIO Blogs -- Over 100 of the top IT leaders in the industry host blogs here
- Technology Review -- These blogs from M.I.T. cover everything from general computing to development
- Slashdot -- Geeks news from the self-professed geeks themselves
7. Social connections
Obviously, social networking comes into play when you are trying to stay current in the IT industry -- it's a huge part of online life, not just for end-users. With practically every market segment, company and technology represented on social sites like Facebook, Google+ and Yahoo!, along with professional social sites like LinkedIn, social networking can be useful for staying connected to the IT industry and your peers.
Aside from the industry connections to be made, social sites are good sources of industry insider news and hints of technology to come. LinkedIn, for instance, has a professional user groups directory, a jobs area (for prospective employers and employees) and the capability to receive and showcase recommendations from peers in the industry.
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8. Job boards tell a larger picture
Job boards are not just tools for those looking for work -- they also make excellent resources for finding out what skills, certifications, education and experience employers in your area of expertise are actively seeking. If there is an area you are lacking in, there is an opportunity for study, growth and development.
We live in interesting economic times -- but by staying current in your field, you can ensure longevity in your current job, or build your skillset, knowledge and experience for the future.
How do you stay current? We'd love to hear your feedback or article suggestions.
This story, "8 ways to advance your IT career by staying relevant" was originally published by CIO.