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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.


Lack of interpersonal skills

Recruiting software provider iCIMS recently released a report on soft skills that surveyed 400 human resources and recruiting professionals. Those hiring deemed soft skills in IT more valued than hard skills by 18 percent.

“As a boss, I’d estimate that 90 percent of our performance issues involve interpersonal weaknesses, and most of those aren’t an ability deficit,” says Excella’s Cooper. “It’s simply that the employee doesn’t realize the effect he’s having on his teammates or stakeholders — in spite of hearing this feedback in many forms. The true value of an IT professional is a powerfully lethal combination of deep technology expertise and the human ability to feel and articulate the impact of the solution being created. When an employer recognizes this combination in an individual, they’ll reward it handsomely.”


Failing to adapt

Steven Boyd, a mainframe programmer at hybrid IT service firm Ensono, says the willingness to change can make or break a team.

“The environment can be stressful and no one wants to work with someone who doesn’t understand the importance of camaraderie and growth,” Boyd says. “Technology is constantly changing, and while technical skills are valuable, soft skills are much more noteworthy to businesses in the long run. Technology grows over time as we do because a large part of technology is adaptability. These are not skills locked to being a programmer or IT professional yet are essential to a technician's career.”


Pursuing post-grad education without focus

Asked about the value of post-grad education, nearly every IT pro interviewed said the same thing: It’s not worth the money unless you’re absolutely sure why you’re doing it and what your return on investment will be.

“If you’re just pursuing post-grad to increase earning potential, you should do some research to confirm that it will materialize,” says Josh Collins, a former senior technology manager at Bank of America and now tech architect at Janeiro Digital. “Many employers and industries value experience over education. Have a good picture of that before investing.”


Wandering away from a training opportunity

Abandoning a company that’s actually helping boost your career with training is the career-killing flipside of staying too long in a job without a clear career trajectory.

About two thirds of those in computer programming and IT say they need ongoing training and skills development to get ahead, according to a 2016 Pew study.

“If you find an organization that invests in your growth take advantage of it,” says Janeiro’s Collins. “Because many do not. Whether training or stretch-goal projects, these are ways to increase your long-term skills and value and challenge yourself in a meaningful way.”


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