10 Tips on How To Improve Your IT Career

So you work in IT, but you want to know how to improve your IT career? You’d like to know how you can stand out from all of the other people who work in the IT industry? Well, there are a few ways you can do this. Have a read of some ways you can improve your IT career.

1. Set Career Goals

One of the quotes you may hear from Earl Nightingale is:

“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.”

Earl Nightingale

This means that by setting goals, you can realize where you’re trying to go – in this case, where you’re going with your career. Take some time to think about what your goals are for your IT career. This could involve

  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What would you like to be doing in the next one, five, or ten years?
  • Do you want to be managing people or a team?
  • Do you want to be doing a technical role (e.g. developer), a people role (e.g. business analyst), or something else?

If you haven’t made a long term career plan, have a read of this post on Why You Need a Long Term Career Plan in IT, and some examples of long term career goals in this other post.

Don’t just think of them – write them down. Write them in a place that you’ll remember them and be able to look back on them in the future. This is so you can see if you’re on track or not, which brings me to the next point.

2. Regular Self-Reviews

Most companies perform regular reviews with their staff. This isn’t just for pay raises, it’s to help with their development and see how they’re going with their job.

It’s a good idea to do your own self-reviews on a regular basis. Review your goals for your career, both long and short term, and see how your progress is matching up to that. If you have several goals, work out how you’re going against each of those goals. This can be done regularly, depending on how short or long term the goals are – perhaps every few months for short term goals, and every two years for long term goals.

Don’t be afraid to be harsh with your review. The more realistic and unbiased you are, the better the review process will be. If you feel you haven’t improved your people skills in the last six months, for example, you may want to take some action with that by getting training or getting more experience.

3. Make Yourself Known

Your boss will probably know how you work and how good you are at your job. They should – as they’re the one you’re doing the work for. However, a great way to improve your IT career is to get yourself known to other people in the company:

  • Your boss’s boss – Make sure they know who you are, what work you’re doing and how well you’re doing it. This will help with recognition and any future promotions.
  • People in HR – it can be hard for human resources to know each and every person in the company, especially if it’s so big. Make yourself known to them, so when they’re discussing your file or your progress among themselves, they know more about you.
  • Other managers – get yourself and your work known among other teams and other managers. This can be done if you’re also doing work for other teams, but if you’re only working on the one project, it can be a little harder. Try talking to them and getting them to know you if you see them around the office.

4. Find a Mentor

One of the best ways to get where you want to be in your career is to have someone who’s followed the same path to give you guidance on how to get there. This is most likely someone senior in your company or your industry, who’s doing the same thing that you want to do in your IT career – whether it’s a senior project manager, senior developer, support team lead, or anything else.

Introduce yourself to them, ask them questions about their role, mention you’re interested in progressing your career. Ask them for advice for what you can do to improve your IT career. Depending on the individual, their level of co-operation may vary. Buying them a coffee to talk about it is a big help!

5. Cause of Procrastination

We can’t all be productive for every minute of the day. However, sometimes when we have work to do, we mentally distract ourselves, putting off this work until we feel like doing it. This is known as procrastination. It’s pretty common, and there may be times when you do it as well.

The key to getting past the procrastination is to work out why you’re doing it in the first place. Why are you putting off doing something that should be done? Is it too hard? Are you not the right person to do it?

6. Know Your Value Outside The Company

It’s helpful to know what your value is in the IT industry – that is, outside your own company. Knowing what other companies think of you is a good way of knowing your own value. There are several ways you can do this:

  • Find out what other people with similar experience and skills to you are being paid. This can be done by searching job page (not at your work though!) or asking job forums.
  • Getting interviews with other companies. This may be hard to do while you still have a job, and may not always work, but it can be a good way to know what other companies are willing to pay you.

7. Make Lists to Keep Organized

How do you ever know what you need to do, if you don’t have a record of it somewhere? It might be a good idea at the start to go by a few emails you get or what your boss asks you to do. But the best IT employees use their own organisational system or set of lists to keep track of what they need to do.

The type of lists you use will depend on your preference and your job, but a simple To Do list should be enough to start. Many email programs contain a list system (such as Tasks in Microsoft Outlook) that you can use. Even a notepad or an Excel file can work.

8. Join LinkedIn: A Big Way For How To Improve Your IT Career

Social networking is a big thing these days. You may be on Facebook, or Twitter. Another great social networking site for professionals is LinkedIn. Essentially, it’s like Facebook but for professionals. You set up your profile, add your education and work experience, and connect with people. Reasons to do this include:

  • You can keep up to date with your current and former co-workers
  • It’s like an online resume – potential employers can find you based on your experience
  • You can find jobs via LinkedIn as well
  • Other people can offer you recommendations – publicly writing how good you are at your job. Which you are! Or, you will hopefully be if you’ve been reading the articles on our site.

9. Join A Group Or Association

Many industries and sub-industries in the IT world have associations or interest groups that people can join. They can be groups based on specific technologies (e.g. Microsoft SharePoint), based on specific sub-industries (Business Analysis), or workers of a certain area (IT Workers in Chicago).

Joining these groups will not only connect you with like-minded individuals, but you’ll have access to a lot of information, from both the organisation and the people inside it. This will be a great benefit to your career.

Personally, I’ve joined a few newsletters/groups that I’m interested in, such as Oracle developers and Project Management groups. There are a lot out there – have a look around!

10. Get Additional Qualifications

Arguably the best tip on how to improve your IT career is to obtain more qualifications. These should be in the industry that you’re aiming to improve in, but general qualifications can help. Project managers, security and networking professionals, and even specific technology developers all have a range of qualifications they can obtain.

They usually involve studying the course material, enrolling in an exam, paying a fee, and then (hopefully) passing the exam. Depending on the courses, the fees may vary. But, in the long term, you should make that money back, both in benefits to your employer and future pay rises. People with extra qualifications usually get paid more – both from their current employer, and if they decide to change employers.

Well, that sums up the top ten tips on how to improve your IT career. If you have any further tips to add, post them in the area below!