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20 ways to kill your IT career (without knowing it)

Paul Heltzel | Dec. 5, 2017
In the fast-paced world of technology, complacency can be a career killer. So too can any number of hidden hazards that quietly put your career on shaky ground — from not knowing your true worth to thinking you’ve finally made it.

“IT professionals are in high demand — it’s a candidate’s market out there,” Collins says. “And you should know that it’s much easier for employers to retain a current employee rather than hire and train a new one. Get educated on current salaries for your position in the marketplace and how direct competitors are compensating employees.”

 

Failing to understand the business

More than one of our IT pros say those in the tech sector hurt their careers by failing to learn the basic principles of the business they work for.

“It’s critical to understand how what you do on a day-to-day basis affects the entire [company],” says Matt Eventoff, who teaches communication skills at Princeton Public Speaking. “How does it advance the enterprise's goals? How does the actual business function and how does what you, or what your team does, impact it?”

 

Forgetting who’s writing the cheques

Another business-related tech pitfall: a lack of focus on the customer. And in some cases, the customer might not be who you think it is.

“Every IT job has a business stakeholder sponsoring it,” Cooper says. “Yet often IT professionals neglect to cultivate their relationship with that cheque-writer, who probably works in a different building, a different division, or even a different hemisphere. If you can get the business to value you — or even know you — in addition to being a star with the technology division, you’re going places quickly.”

 

Trouble with non-tech staff

IT folks too frequently can’t easily express their plans for new tech spends, or allocating resources or people, says Eventoff.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with IT professionals at many different levels, from many, different disciplines,” Eventoff says. “If you’re speaking to someone who doesn't get deep into IT, it’s crucial that you not only know what’s important to that person, but how does what you’re suggesting impact that person, or the enterprise.”

Make sure you can explain yourself with clarity and precision, Eventoff says. “Will they ‘get it’ right away? This is a fairly easy one to pressure test — take something you’re working on that’s important, find a colleague who is not in IT, and explain it. If they get it, you’re on the right track.”

 

Staying in your comfort zone

Some IT pros never explore territory outside of technology. “You have to be able to reinvent yourself and shift from being more tactical and task-driven to being more social and participative,” Box’s Chapman says. “A failure to make this shift will end up with you hitting your IT career ceiling.”

“In any organization there are individuals who are working on different subject areas. Meet them,” Eventoff says. “Help them with technology-related questions and — if you have any time — offer to help them when they need it. Having colleagues outside of your own area that can vouch for you can only help.”

 

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