Information technology is a highly competitive industry. But rapid developments in tech and the steady global transition to digital mean that the demand for IT pros is high — so it’s a great field to work in, now and in the future. Still, those who work in IT can’t afford to rest on their laurels, especially since technology changes so quickly.
Perhaps more than any other industry, IT pros must work hard to stay in the game. And while there are many career paths and ways to succeed, some IT career strategies are universal. These three tips will help you stay on track and enjoy a long, fulfilling career, no matter where your IT trajectory takes you:
Be proactive in professional development
Keeping up with the pace of technology is vital to your success as an IT professional. If you’re not staying actively informed about changes in the industry, new platforms and applications, and other changes that could affect your role or career, you will fall behind — and other IT pros will be waiting to take your place.
When it comes to professional development in your current career, don’t wait for your employer to offer opportunities. Stay informed about major updates or replacements for the tech you’re currently using, and when they roll out, get dates and costs for training programs and make a proposal to your supervisor to enroll you.
Many employers will appreciate the initiative and pay for part or all of the training. But if yours refuses, it’s a good idea to get the training on your own dime, if you can. Community college classes and online courses are often affordable. Why should you pay to benefit your stingy employer? Because you’ll need to stay up-to-date on your skills, so you can look for a better job.
Choose to be friendly — even when you “shouldn’t”
Nearly every IT professional has faced a situation like this. You get a request for something that is clearly impossible to accomplish with your current resources — and you find out that the person who made the request is a clueless executive who gets paid six figures to make ridiculous demands that can’t be met.
- Calmly explain why the request can’t be met (in non-tech terms) and offer an alternative that will accomplish something similar, or a list of resources you’d need to get the task done as requested
- Rant and rave in private, and then send off a tech-term-laden email that basically says no, but in fancier words, and hope it confuses the exec enough to either think something will happen eventually, or drop the issue
- Quit on the spot and find employment in a company that isn’t run by clueless, overpaid non-technical people
You probably know that the answer should be A (and that C is hard to come by), but it’s not always easy to be nice in this type of situation — and you may not know why you should. The reason to always take the friendly and approachable path lies in the importance of soft skills to your career.
Early IT professionals could get away with being antisocial, perpetually late, and confusingly eccentric, because no one else could fix the mystical computer problems. But today’s professionals are more tech-savvy overall, and IT pros who have great soft skills — in other words, the ability to work with people just as well as machines — are highly valued and sought after. They earn more money, too.
Never stop networking
Networking is something you do when you’re looking for a job, not when you already have a healthy career with plenty of opportunities for advancement, right? Afraid not. If there’s one secret to long-term success as an IT pro, it’s continual networking.
The more people you’re connected with professionally, the easier it is to find opportunities, or take advantage of them as they arise. If nothing else, a thriving network will help you get that next promotion, or make a lateral move within your organization when you discover a better career choice. Worst case, maintaining an updated network is a safeguard against downsizing, business failure, or unexpected personal disruptions.
At the least, make sure you’re active on LinkedIn. Keep your profile current, and update your online presence and your working resume whenever you have something new to add. You can also network casually through other social networks, business events, or even informal online gatherings with your IT peers.
No matter what type of IT professional you are, follow these tips to keep your career healthy, thriving, and moving forward. If you want to learn more about how to boost your career, or be placed in an new position within a top IT company, contact The Armada Group today.