Why don’t most IT professionals don’t get what they want?

Because they don’t know what they want.

Think I’m pushing it?

Does it feel to you like I’m being a bit heavy handed?

OK. Go ahead.

Ask yourself:

What do you really want from your professional career?

What do you most want to achieve for yourself in the next 12-18 months?

If you’re like most IT professionals you were about to answer something like:

  • I want to successfully transition my key infrastructure to the cloud
  • I want to come up with a way to effectively deal with my security challenges
  • I want to find a way to finance a major infrastructure upgrade

But these responses don’t really answer the questions I asked.

That’s because the questions I asked was about YOU and your professional career, not about your department or your company. It turns out that answering these questions is much harder than you might think.

Don’t worry, you’re in good company

If you’re struggling to identify what you really want from your professional career, you’re not alone.

In fact, it’s been my experience that this is a very difficult question for nearly all IT professionals to answer. Time and again I have seen very thoughtful IT pros rattle off their department’s key objectives and initiatives-initiatives that serve the real needs of their users, stakeholders and organizations. Yet, when asked to articulate their own professional needs and wants, these same IT pros often stumble.

So, what gives?

After many years of researching this phenomena and seeking answers within the IT community and beyond, here is what I have learned:

First and foremost, the challenge of identifying your own career objectives is not purely an IT phenomena. It may be a little more pronounced with IT professionals, but it’s a pretty common human characteristic.

Most people have difficulty expressing what they want professionally. They simply are not in touch with what they really want.

Here’s why:

  • It’s easy to convince yourself that your company’s needs and wants are your own. Your company’s management works hard to inculcate the company’s goals and objectives into your blood. It’s only natural that achieving these objectives would become important to what you want professionally. After all, your professional life is largely bound up with your company.
  • People favor a reactive, problem-focused view of the world. Expressing your goals in terms of solving the most pressing problems that surround you makes you feel relevant. It makes you feel like you are a team player who is well aligned with your company’s strategy-which you are. And that feels good.
  • It can be very scary to really want something. Once you say you really want something for yourself professionally, you run the risk of disappointing yourself. It makes you vulnerable to failure in your own eyes. And that’s stress inducing. So, you avoid the issue. Or more precisely, you sublimate your professional wants and needs to those of the company.

I’m not preaching revolution against the corporate executive who’s taken over your ambitions and put them to work for the company. I am trying to draw your attention to the fact that if you want to prosper professionally then the first, and most basic step, is to have your own professional goals-independent of your employer’s goals.

Know exactly what you want to achieve for yourself.

Know what you are working for beyond just serving the needs of your company.

Now comes the hard part

Don’t worry about being selfish. What you may not realize is that once you get clarity on your professional goals, it energizes your work for your company as well.

To help get you started on this process, and to further stimulate discussion on this topic, click here for a list of the most common items we’ve heard cited by IT professionals—from front-liners to CIOs—when answering the question “What do you most want from your professional career.”

Take a moment to review the list and cast your vote for your top three choices. We’ll publish the results in B2C in July so you can get a perspective on how you compare to the broader IT community. Who knows, perhaps if enough people participate I’ll have to withdraw this article because we will know what IT professionals want — which is surely the first step to getting it.