The interview was tough; the interviewers were hard to read. Turns out they loved you, and you got the job – congratulations! So how do you make sure you hold on to it, and even excel?
If you’re keen to show them they made the right decision with you, and keep your IT career on the up and up, read on!
Getting Ahead in Your IT Career
If you’re an IT professional, you’re already ahead of the game. Tech has the enviable claim of having more jobs than any other industry, and not enough people to fill them. In 2016 1.3 million software jobs were vacant and it’s predicted that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million more jobs in software development than there will be candidates to fill them.
For you, that means if you plan your career well, you can pick and choose where to work. For employers, it makes having quality IT staffing partners a must. Let’s take a look at how you can make the most of your IT career.
The Specialization Conundrum
You will need to consider whether or not you specialize in one technology or work at being a generalist.
The specialist roles can pay a lot more money, but the risk is that technology will move on and leave you pigeon-holed in a now unpopular solution. Being an IT generalist gives you flexibility and keeps you agile in the job market.
Get a Mentor
No amount of technical training will teach you what you can learn in hands-on observation of a pro. If there’s someone on your team or at a partner site who just masters one particular technology, ask them to teach you what they know. Listen to what they tell you, watch what they do, and you’re on a smart path.
By building mentor relationships like this, you open up future opportunities. Next time they’re on a project bigger than they can handle on their own, who do you think they’re going to call? You, that’s who.
Be a Mentor
Early in your career, you should identify people to learn from. But also remember to be someone who passes that knowledge on to someone more junior, to help them climb up. This hones your skills as a leader, builds your influence network now and in the future, and there’s one more chief benefit.
Research shows that when we help others, it actually contributes to our personal happiness. In this way, a healthy mentoring relationship benefits both parties. So, next time someone junior joins the team, invite them onto partner sites or special projects with you and give them the chance to grow by doing.
Schedule Deep Work
While working in IT, you’ve got easy access all day to the internet, and those social media distractions. Try to schedule in a couple of hours each day when all distractions are off, so you can engage in what’s known as deep work. Even better, check out what your chronotype is online by completing a free quiz.
Your chronotype is the time of day you naturally function at your best, and it’s a little different for each of us. A final tip around deep work: be sure to block these times in your calendar so you’re not just booked into work meetings. It’s important you treat this as habitual focused, creative time, and be relatively inflexible to changes to it.
There’s More Than One Office Network
The classic mistake many IT people make is to buckle themselves into the IT area of the company and not communicate with other departments unless absolutely necessary. Instead, take an occasional walk-around, lunch in public areas, get to know what the company does and how other areas make that happen. There are a few reasons for doing this.
You’ll be at your most creative if you seek out innovation opportunities where you cross-pollinate with others who have different expertise to yours. Next, it puts you in a place as that IT gal or that IT guy who is approachable. Next time they want to launch a new app or program, they’ll look for you first.
Another great reason to escape the IT-silo from time to time is to increase your value to the business. By knowing what they’re trying to achieve in the bigger business mission, you can better apply your IT know-how to get them there. That will make you a prime candidate for future leadership opportunities.
Have a Plan
As the cliche goes, you need a map if you want to get to your destination. In terms of your career, where is it you’d like to end up? Consider whether that’s in a particular technology, or in management, and what financial goals you want to achieve in your career.
It’s often easier to plan backward from where we want to end up instead of thinking of the steps starting from where we are. Once you’ve mapped out some possible routes, make a note of the experience, training courses and connections that would aid your particular career progress. Finally, remember that it’s just a plan – sometimes great opportunities in directions we hadn’t thought of pop up, and you want to be open to them not closed-off because of your narrow plan.
Sing Your Own Praises
To get real recognition, it’s important that you take an opportunity every now and then to highlight your achievements. This is especially true for women in IT, don’t be afraid to sing your own praises occasionally. If you get a moment in the elevator with the CEO or departmental head, let them know about an exciting project you’re working on and what it means for the company.
If you’re working as part of a team, be sure not to claim their successes as your own. But you shouldn’t hide your individual achievements as ‘just part of the team’ either. It’s a line you’ll learn to walk with practice, praising the way your team works while pointing out your contributions to its success.
Soft Skills Are Your Secret Weapon
Did you know 70% of the time people with average IQ outperform those with the highest IQ? It took researchers a long time to find out the reason. That reason is that they had stronger soft skills.
Soft skills are the group of communication, social and self-awareness abilities sometimes referred to as emotional intelligence (EQ). It’s one of the most in-demand skills in tech today. How can you improve your soft skills?
You could ask your company if they offer communication or leadership training, and you can look for something similar online. You can also find a soft skills mentor in real life or on TV, someone who has great people skills. Observe how they make eye contact, use body language, paraphrase and ask open questions, and start to imitate these behaviors yourself.
It might feel odd at first if people skills don’t come naturally to you. Keep in mind that while our IQ doesn’t change throughout our lives, you can improve your EQ. Better soft skills will mean more success on projects, easier teamwork, more chance of successfully moving into leadership, and better performance during future job interviews.
Know When It’s Time to Move On
You’ve now got a list of things to be doing at your new job. Collaborating outside the IT silo, sharpening your soft skills, singing your own praises from time to time, being mentee and mentor, and making a career plan. How will you know, however, when it’s time to move to your next career challenge?
Building self-awareness as part of your soft skills toolkit can help. Keep an eye on yourself and notice when you have an extended period of no motivation for the role. If you’re not feeling motivated and you don’t feel like there’s much room for growth within the company, it might be time to at least have a look at what other opportunities are out there.
When that happens, you can get in touch with us discretely at Myticas Consulting to tell us a bit about what you’re looking for next. We can tell you if there’s anything matching your needs, either in the moment or as the IT career jobs roll in. It’s important you know when you’re stagnating so you can make changes and get back to peak performance in engaging IT jobs with real growth potential.
Enjoy Your IT Career!
Congratulations again on the new job. Now you’ve not only got a great new job but some advice for a long and fulfilling IT career. Start as you mean to go on, by making today the day you ask a tech-whiz or soft skills master to be your mentor.
Enjoy every minute of your career, and be sure to build healthy relationships with colleagues from all around the organization. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out more great career advice at our blog today!