5 Career Tips for Information Technology Professionals

hands on a keyboardInformation 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Amy Armstrong, LPC, therapist in Denver, Colorado

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • dirk

    dirk

    August 11th, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    I work in IT and you are right that there are times that there are people that you have to help that you actually wonder how they put their own shoes on in the morning.
    sigh… it can be a real challenge when they NEED your help but it is hard for them to actually WANT that help and to be appreciative of it when you give it to them.
    it is all about smiling and being the person that they feel the need to come to- more job security for you :)

  • Ollie

    Ollie

    August 11th, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Sometimes you have to learn to speak in real people terms, not just geek terminology that no one will understand anyway. I think that when you can do that then you seem knowledgeable as well as approachable. That is what will help you not only ingratiate yourself with your co workers but it can also show them that you are more than just the guy who can fix your computer.

  • celia

    celia

    August 12th, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    A big “yes” for employers is to have employees who seek out new and exciting ways to teach themselves new things.
    You could be doing this for selfish purposes, of course, but it is nice when it is also for something that could be beneficial in your current job position as well. Find ways to learn and to grow, this will not only help you advance professionally but it will make you even more valuable where you are right now and might also give you some wiggle room if and when the time comes when you are looking to possibly change career trajectories.

  • lazydaisy

    lazydaisy

    August 12th, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    I wish that ability to talk to other people and netwok came pretty easily to me, but I am not one of those people who is generally up for idle chit chat. Does anyone have any suggestions how I can do this and get my name and face out there having to do something that doe snot make me the most comfortable? The problem is that I know that since this isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, I never come across exactly like I would like to and so I never really feel like I have made the best impression that I could had I been in a situation that didn’t make me so nervous.

  • Bill A.

    Bill A.

    August 13th, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    I would not think that this would be a career path that would need any kind of job suggestions at all. I feel like if there is any field that is always looking for more and more workers it is definitely in those where someone is super computer savvy. That’s just the way of the world today and I think that if you are a real tech guru thaen you should have very little problems when it coems to lading secure employment opportunities. I guess that still doesn’t mean that you can go around being a real jerk and that people will still want you around or appreciate you… but there is some job security there knowing that no matter what kind of workplace you are in, there will typically always be computer problems that need to be fixed.

  • otis

    otis

    August 14th, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    don’t think that any of these suggestions are relevant only to IT pros…

  • Corrinne

    Corrinne

    August 16th, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    Well the one thing that I have learned over the years is that you don’t want to pigeon hole yourself into one specific corner. You need to leave all of your options open. There will be those things you are good at and other things where you are not, but you should always leave yourself open to some opportunities.

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