Business Acumen: The New Must-Have Skill: Page 2

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Make Learning a Priority

Of course, business savvy isn’t as easy to quantify or certify as technical abilities. So how do you start building this skill set? First, look inside your current company. Many firms provide employees with professional development opportunities, and yours may be one of them. A number of colleges and professional associations also offer accounting and other business classes specifically designed for IT professionals. Talk to your manager about the resources available to help you pursue these courses, such as tuition reimbursement options or flexible scheduling arrangements.

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For the most meaningful learning opportunities, taking the initiative is key. By volunteering for projects that let you work alongside staff from other departments and on projects that fall outside the traditional IT realm, you set yourself apart from IT staff who keep the blinders on. Meeting with managers, and even “shadowing” colleagues, from other departments are other ways to broaden your perspective.

Taking a business-focused approach to all your projects shows that you’re serious not just about the technology but also about its role in the business as a whole. If you’re a developer, for example, you might arrange, through a product manager, to meet with end users to help ensure that your application meets operational needs.

Keeping Your Doors Open

Business savvy makes you eligible for a wider range of opportunities, whether you plan to stay with one company for years or are looking for a new opportunity. Management roles, in particular, require knowledge of business fundamentals, but job seekers at all levels stand to benefit by developing their business proficiency, including at least a cursory knowledge of finance, marketing and management.

A business background can free you from roles that leave you at the mercy of changes in the industry, such as outsourcing. Today’s hot certification might not mean as much in a few years, but business acumen is evergreen. It’s also transferable if you ever decide to pursue a path outside of IT — in operations or sales, for example.

Despite its growing importance, business savvy doesn’t replace the specialized technical skills businesses need from IT professionals. But it does keep those skills in the proper context. Job candidates who know the industry and business, and can demonstrate their understanding of the company’s core processes, customer base and culture, are in the best position to land the best jobs — and to continue advancing throughout their careers.

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