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The networking career market is constantly evolving. New tools and technologies are always emerging, and it's important for every networking professional to get up to speed with those technologies.
But some key drivers for networking career success remain stable. These are perhaps more important than the year's latest tools because they build a mindset and a value proposition that can help network pros continue to grow their careers year after year.
In this article, we discuss one essential skill that companies are looking for in 2020 and beyond. That skill may very well surprise some network pros because it's not technical. It's the ability to think in terms of real business value -- to be constantly focused on what networking technology and expertise can deliver for the business.
Why business value is important for a successful networking career
Many people in the industry may have a deep technical toolbox, with the skills to do a job well and quickly. But, without the business vision, without the sense of the effect of their work, it can be difficult for network pros to advance in their career. The ability to see business problems, develop answers and communicate the value of those results is a major differentiator that will make employees stand out from the competition.
That's why I always recommend to my IT resume and coaching clients that they begin thinking in terms of how their work on the networking side affects the business. Does their work streamline processes? Does it reduce costs? Does it make the lives of users easier?
In my experience, the professionals who are always thinking about results get noticed. They get selected for interesting projects, and they're much more likely to get tagged for promotion.
Challenge, action and result
So, how do network pros focus on business value? The mindset is the same for hands-on networking professionals or those in middle or senior leadership -- and it can be summed up in the acronym CAR. CAR stands for challenge, action and result. Most networking professionals focus on the A -- the actions they perform. That's natural; networking is a tough and complex job, and the actions one takes have to be well thought out and well executed.
But employees that think in terms of the challenge they're addressing help bring the project into focus and clarify the business objectives behind the current network initiatives.
Focusing on the results is critical for a number of reasons. The first reason is that being aware of results is valuable when talking with management. Management's concern is what the current project accomplished, so it's good to have that information clear and at the ready.
Beyond that, this CAR mindset -- especially an awareness of results -- is a skill pros will need to advance their own networking careers. Yes, they'll be interviewed on their technical chops, especially for hands-on opportunities. But employees will stand out from the competition when they're able to discuss how their work has aligned with strategic business goals.
While strong technical abilities are necessary, employees committed to growing their networking careers should move beyond the technical and begin thinking of how their work makes a real difference to the business. Thinking about the effect they've had will make it far more likely that they'll have interesting work in their current jobs, with the ability to move into new opportunities -- whether they want to stay in a hands-on technical role or move into leadership.