Career Trap #1: Believing that up is the only way.
A lot of IT people make this assumption. It’s easy to make when you haven’t explored the alternatives. When it comes to career progression, one of the common traps that we can fall into is believing that vertical career progression is the only way to success. Of course, if you’re just starting out in IT – like on a help desk — up may seem to be the only way, but as you progress further in your career you may find plenty of opportunities where moving into a lateral position within your organization or taking what might appear to be a step back may actually profit you more than moving directly vertically. There are also other times when the best thing for your career may be leaving the organization all together.
Don’t believe me? Take the instance of a mid-level developer who in five years aspires to be the manager of the group. All is fine if the group consists of just developers but what if it’s a mixed group of developers, BSAs, and project managers? Will just having development skills and working really hard get him there? To effectively manage, you should be familiar with how the work is done. Might moving into one of these other roles round out his experience and make him a better candidate for managing this type of team?
How to Beat It:
Map out where you want to be in five years. What experiences will you need in order to be qualified for that position? Now work backwards. How are you going to earn that experience? Do you need to broaden you exposure? Do you need to work with different technologies? Do you need more experience managing complex projects? Does the position you’re seeking require that you not only have knowledge of your current function but other functions as well?
Career Trap #2: All Roads Do Not Lead to Management.
Another common career trap for IT pros is believing that the only way to a high salary and title is a management career path. Wrong! First of all, not everyone is cut out for management. Don’t believe me? There’s a crazy statistic that says that 40% of all new managers fail in their first year. The number reason why? They shouldn’t have pursued a management career in the first place! So why do people fall into this trap? First of all, they haven’t explored the alternatives. They don’t clearly understand what other IT careers are out there. This is more than the case of the developers don’t speak to the network engineers. It’s highly likely that their managers haven’t had a career conversation with them to help them explore other options. Or the organization that they work in does have a broad spectrum of these jobs. Technical career paths are becoming more and more important as technology evolves and we need more specialized technicians.
How to Beat It:
Find out whether you’re cut out for management. Are you willing to leave your technical skills behind? Will you get just as much job satisfaction out of helping someone else succeed as you did from your own personal accomplishments? Read up on what it takes to be a manager but most importantly, ask yourself, why you want to get into management. If it’s just about the title and the money, there are easier ways to achieve these! Also, learn more about other career paths in IT. If you’re a developer talk to the network engineers. If you’re a network engineer talk to security specialists. The more you know the better career decisions you’ll make.
Career Trap #3: Not keeping your skills fresh
So if management is not for you does that mean it’s ok to just keep doing what you’ve been doing? NO! You can’t just stick your head in the sand and expect that all will be fine with your career. You have to keep your skills current. I get very frustrated when I read job board message boards where folks are complaining about the lack of jobs out there. The reality is that there are certain IT skills that are HOT and others that are NOT. The best way to ensure that your position doesn’t get cut or outsourced is by ensuring that you keep your technical skills current or build new skills into your bag of tricks. If your company isn’t using the latest technology then find another one who is. Don’t stay stuck in the same position for more than two years. Your skills will get stale and it will become that much harder to leave when you finally realize that a new generation of technology has passed you by.So speaking of those hot skills. Have you checked out the list of hot positions? The reality is that the most sought after positions in IT today are part technical, part business. Positions like business systems analysts, relationship managers, and project managers are a hybrid of technology skills and people skills. What makes them sought after (and highly compensated) is that they bridge the gap between IT and the business and are critical for shaping the image of IT to the rest of the organizations. The help business users “get it” and they are highly rewarded for it.
How to Beat It:
If you want to move ahead quicker make sure you develop not just your technical skills but your interpersonal and business skills. That means developing your ability to deliver a technical presentation to a business audience, facilitate a meeting, lead and collaborate on large project teams, building support for your ideas, understand the business and industry that you’re in, and be able to build a business case. There isn’t a set way of developing these skills. There are some courses that you can take but most of these come skills are developed as a part of the projects you work on. Make sure you are getting that exposure as a part of your long term plans.