Information technology is one of the most misunderstood areas out there. Most counselors and therapists have no idea what any of the job titles mean, and even career counselors can be surprisingly clueless when it comes to IT careers. It’s a shame because while it may have been true in the 1990s that someone could succeed in IT without trying, that’s not so true now.
Based on the recent experiences of people I work with in therapy, as well as my own brush with IT recruiting, here are a few pointers that will help put you ahead of the competition and keep your career on solid footing:
- Be friendly and approachable even if you think the person you are speaking to is an overpaid dope. Yes, it is annoying to get ridiculous requests from someone who clearly has no idea what he or she is talking about. Yes, it’s unfair that the same person has a corner office and a six-figure salary when they don’t do anything all day. Welcome to the realities of working as a professional in a large organization. I’ve been through it too, and I’m not even in IT, so there you go. It’s important to keep in mind that the stereotype of IT professionals is socially clueless men who come in late every day, shower rarely, and make crude jokes about women. Fair? No, but neither is the myth that all women who have babies give up on their careers.
- Proactively request professional development opportunities. If an application or platform that you use is undergoing major updates, you need to be kept abreast of those updates. Find dates for training, price it out, and go over it with your supervisor. Emphasize the reality that the company’s security and productivity depend on a solid and current IT infrastructure, and that means investing in regular professional development. If they say no, try your local community college’s continuing education program. Why spend your hard-earned money on classes after work that might benefit your tightwad employer? In the end, if that same employer’s questionable business practices end up putting them out of business, you need to be able to find a job, and you’re not going to do it with last year’s technology.
- Constantly network with people. Some of it can be online. Depending on what you do, you might even be able to get some networking in during board-game meet-ups, Dungeons & Dragons games, or even fantasy football. The idea is to have the career equivalent of a “go bag.” Update your résumé whenever you have a new project to add. Join LinkedIn and keep it current. Always have an eye out for what is going on in the marketplace. This will make it easier for you to negotiate raises and promotions, and, if necessary, find another position.
- Post your résumé on appropriate websites if you seriously want to get another job. A terrific LinkedIn profile can be effective on its own, but another gold mine for IT is Dice. You can also check out a compilation from The New York Public Library. The key to using any job board is to find a search that works well for you and subscribe to alerts. Posting a résumé is also helpful, preferably with an email address that you set up only for job-search inquiries. If you include a phone number, brace yourself for calls from Aflac and every other random job out there. Dice is better about that than Monster, but they’re still pretty bad.
- Make your résumé human-friendly. I know we’re all terrified of applicant tracking systems and how they “weed out” the “undesirable” candidates. If you are preparing for your job search, what you’re really afraid of is that they will filter out qualified candidates and miss you. Anything can happen, but I don’t think this happens as often as people think. Skills are important, and you should highlight them in your résumé. Soft skills like being friendly and organized are also important. It’s also important to be clear on how you used your valuable skills to make a difference in the bottom line. How did you help save time, save money, or save other resources?
Stay mindful of the good work you do. If other people notice and give you credit, that’s a bonus, but the important thing is to know that you are making a contribution, you’re documenting the contributions, and you are keeping your skills current.
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