3 ways to advance your IT career, and 3 ways to undermine it


This is a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full sort of blog post — featuring three suggestions for how you can get your IT career to the next level and three warning signs that your career is dead in the water.

Let’s start with the good stuff, from CIO contributor Paul Heltzel, who compiled a list of 15 things that IT pros can do to move their careers in the right direction. I’ll just select three of his suggestions, but they’re all worth considering.

  1. Keep an eye out for opportunities. This is a big one, and far too often it is overlooked because we either have our heads down trying to do our existing jobs and miss what’s happening around us, or we’re thinking in strictly linear ways about career opportunities. Remember, there are shortages of skills in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and business intelligence. That means enterprises have a serious problem. Chaos creates opportunities, and that’s the case here. These are problems that need solutions (see below).
  2. If you want it, ask for it. This is related to Heltzel’s first point. Initiative almost always pays off in the long run. It leads to actions and outcomes that could be favorable to the enterprise and the person showing initiative. Let’s say you’re interested in an analytics job at your company, but lack an analytics background. If you express interest in the job, you might find the company investing in training for you. At the very least, decision-makers will make a mental note that you’re eager to learn and do more. That look never goes out of style.
  3. Pair problems with solutions. All enterprise leaders appreciate it when an employee points out a design flaw or process failure. Well, not really; mostly they get annoyed and want to yell at somebody. But if you can present a solution along with the problem you’re identifying, you become a “problem solver.” And they are valuable to any enterprise.

Now here are three ways IT pros can allow their careers to be subverted. I’ve adapted these from a column by Chelena Goldman on money and career advice site CheatSheet:

  1. You’re no longer learning anything new. There may be comfort in the familiar, but make no mistake: In the digital economy, standing still is falling behind. If you’re not learning new skills or expanding your areas of knowledge, you’re making yourself less relevant (and more expendable) every day.
  2. Your pay is the same. This is what they have to put up with in dying industries such as newspapers. However, there’s no reason an IT worker with current skills should have to be stuck at the same pay level. If you’re letting that happen, you’re mismanaging your career.
  3. Your best skills aren’t being used. Stagnating skills and pay are bad enough, but if a person’s most valuable skills aren’t being leveraged, then everyone loses. Which means a bad situation, and bad situations can’t last forever. End it yourself before your employer does.


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