5 Ways to Advance Your Career with Innovation

By Pam Baker

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The familiar refrain "reinvent yourself" has never been more sound for those in search of career advancement today. Fortunately for the CIO, reinvention is a relatively easy thing to do given the innovations IT wields every day. It's a matter of looking at those technologies differently and seeing them as much as a means to promote professional achievement as they are to improve the company's efficiencies and profitability.

"It has never been easier for CIOs to be viewed as thought leaders in their respective industries and move from positions of relative obscurity to highly desirable," said Nicholas Kinports, Digital Innovation manager at Maddock Douglas, an innovation initiatives firm with a client list that includes 20 percent of the top 100 global brands.

There are as many ways to use technologies to build your visibility, credibility and promotability as there are technologies. But here are five ways to get you started while you think of other creative means to highlight your work and build your personal brand:

Get social - Social media allows you to come out of the data center and face your public. It is the surest way of building your professional brand and name recognition. It is the first step to being publicly recognized for a job well done. "As CIOs move to implement innovative social technologies they should be aware of opportunities to self-invest through social networks, blogs and micro blogs, speaking opportunities and communities," advises Kinports.

One good example of a CIO that has used social media effectively is NASA CIO Linda Cureton. Her blog is at www.nasa.gov/ocio and her Twitter handle is @curetonl. She also has a strong presence on LinkedIn. Cureton was recently promoted from CIO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center to NASA's global CIO.

Tend your keyword garden - Opportunity not only knocks, it searches for you -- literally. Your current employer and prospective employers are likely using keywords to search for leaders in your field. Make sure your blogs, social media, online community involvement, LinkedIn professional bio and other online posts include keywords that help you rise to the top of search engine results. This validates your credentials as a leader in your field and raises your visibility. Search engine results often play heavily in the decision to offer any given individual a promotion or new job position.

Support the memory - "Support is the lens through which everything else in IT is judged, especially the CIO," said Nathan McNeill, co-founder & VP of Product Strategy, Marketing at Bomgar. "Even if a CIO delivers 'five-nines' availability and reliability, if his or her support services are poor, that's what people will remember."

Indeed, look at the entire IT customer experience to determine what people inside your company think of you. These are the people who will speak the loudest -- for or against -- your advancement at this or your next employers' (you aren't the only one that changes jobs). Word gets around, in other words, so it's prudent to know what that word is relative to you. Work on making sure customers' memory of you is rock-solid. As it always has, reputation matters.

"Users don't care about aggregate uptime if their specific issues aren't resolved quickly," explains McNeill. Focus on keeping customers happy and making sure they know you personally.

Deploy "unexpected" innovation - Innovation doesn't always mean inventing something completely new. It can be something as simple as applying systems and tools within an organization that has never used them to improve how a department performs. "Even in the least technologically innovative of enterprises, a Rock Star CIO has the potential to be the Jason Kidd of organizational assists," explains Alora Chistiakoff, Digital Business strategist at The Indigo Heron Group. "While he can't fix anyone else's department, he can help make his peers across the organization successful in all new ways -- and then use their success to sell himself as an innovator and team player to his current or next employer."

Promote innovation - NASA's Cureton, like most CIOs, proactively stays on top of innovation in IT technologies outside her company walls. But she doesn't stop there. "Some of our most cutting edge IT efforts can be found incubating here at the Centers," she said. "Under my watch I'd like to see us do a better job of making sure those best projects and practices percolate to the top and get shared across the agency."

By promoting the innovative works of others and of the organization, you build a reputation for yourself as a leader and team player. Further, by staying ahead of emerging technologies, before your organization actually uses them, you become the go-to-person for guidance on future corporate decisions. This furthers your visibility and standing as a leader.

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker's published credits include numerous articles in leading publications including, but not limited to: Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers. She has also authored several analytical studies on technology and eight books. Baker also wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making. Baker is a member of the National Press Club (NPC), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and the Internet Press Guild (IPG).