Are you a young IT professional? Would you like to get a head start on your IT career? Have a read of this article – I’ve put together some tips that should help young IT professionals get ahead in the information technology industry.
1. Develop A Long Term Goal
So you’ve started in the IT industry – well done! You might be straight out of university, or working as an apprentice-type role while still studying. In any case, one of the most important things that young IT professionals should do is set some long term goals.
Why should you do this? Because it’s hard to know where you want to go if you don’t know how to get there. Think about what you like doing in your job. Is it developing, documentation, talking to people, testing, planning? This might be hard to work out if you’re new, but you might have some idea. If not, think back to what you enjoyed most at university and expand from there.
The good thing about being a young IT professional is that you have a lot of time to decide what you want to do. When I started, I remember I had about six or seven ideas of areas I wanted to get into – Java development, database administrator, project management, business development, and a few others. Since then, my roles have changed and it has made finding a suitable long-term goal even easier.
2. Find A Mentor
A great way to improve your IT career is to find a mentor. A mentor is a more experienced IT professional, who possibly works in the same company as you, and is able to offer advice and guidance for your job and your career. Ideally it’s someone who works in the same area you do, or the same area you’d like to get in to, so they have first-hand experience to offer you.
There are probably two ways you can find a mentor – you can ask your employer if they can suggest anyone, or you can find someone yourself and ask them directly. Both have their pros and cons. If you’re able to get someone to be your mentor, that’s a great step in the right direction, and hopefully they can give you the guidance you need.
3. Learn To Express & Communicate
When I started working in IT, I found that there are a lot of different kinds of people in the industry. Communicating with different kinds of people isn’t something they teach you in university (well, they didn’t when I was there). You get comfortable speaking to other university students and teachers, but when moving into your first full-time role, the transition can be challenging.
You’ll need to learn how to express yourself and communicate at work, to all different kinds of people. This is something that comes with experience, but as you’re starting out, the one thing that helps is practice. Don’t shy away from situations and times that you can speak to and interact with other workers. Developing your communication skills and learning to express yourself early in your career will reap benefits later in your career – an IT professional with great communication skills is worth their weight in gold!
4. Keep Learning
The IT industry is always evolving. New technologies are being released, new systems are being implemented and new uses for technology are being created. One way to improve your IT career as a young IT professional is to keep learning. If you expect that your university degree is the last qualification you earn or the last thing you’ll learn, then you might not get as far as you can in your career.
There are many qualifications out there that cater to all kinds of practices and technologies. Getting a qualification is a great way to enhance your skills, stand out from the crowd and even get a pay rise.
However, getting a qualification isn’t the only way to keep learning. There is so much information available out there on the Internet that you can learn a lot of things for free. Learning a new programming language, enhancing your skills in a current one, learning best practices for business analysis – these are just some of the things you can learn as an IT professional. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power, and as you learn more your ability to do your job will increase.
5. Act Responsibly
As a young IT professional you’ll probably be working with a lot of people who are older and more senior than you. This is quite different from your university days where most people were a similar age. This means that you need to act mature and responsible at your job. The kind of behaviour that was appropriate at university or at your part time job may not be acceptable at your new job. There is a common thought that young workers these days are immature and have no respect for elders. It’s your job to prove them wrong by acting responsibly and mature. You’ll get noticed as someone who is committed to working well and knows how to behave at work – another tick in the box of being a great IT professional.
6. Create A LinkedIn Account
The final tip I have for IT professionals is to create an account on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a social network for professionals – it’s kind of like Facebook for your career. It’s a great way to put yourself out there and to keep in touch with all the people you’ll meet in your career. The people you meet in your career are one of the most important parts of your career in the IT industry, and as a young IT professional, getting started early is a great idea.