My 3 Biggest IT Career Mistakes

We’ve all made mistakes in our careers. It’s OK, nobody is perfect. I’ve made a few, and I’m far from perfect. I’d like to share some of them here, in the hope that you don’t make the same mistakes.

Career Mistake 1 – Not Asking Enough Questions

The first mistake I’ve made in my career is not asking enough questions. It’s something that I realised I did earlier in my career. I was making assumptions about certain things that didn’t end up being true.

I started as a support developer and sometimes assumed that code worked a certain way. When it turned out I was wrong, I had wasted time and effort in getting there. If I had have asked someone who knew about the system or the business rules, it could have saved time.

When I needed to develop solutions or determine what the problem was, I needed to ask questions. I asked other developers in the team, and even some of the users. A lot of the time it turned out OK, where I asked the right questions. Sometimes, it could have gone better, mainly because I didn’t ask enough questions, or I didn’t ask the right questions.

I don’t think there’s such a thing as a stupid question in this kind of role. I think that it’s alright to ask questions that may seem stupid, but aren’t so bad if they help you get what you need. It’s better to ask a stupid question than to make a stupid mistake.

Remember this when asking questions, or when you think you don’t know enough about something. If you’re new, it’s OK to clarify things or to ask the same thing twice, in case you forget.

Career Mistake 2 – Taking On More Than I Could Handle

I like to think I’m fairly efficient at my job. When I was younger, working in a job before my IT career started, I was pretty quick at what I did. I thought these skills and attitudes would carry right into the IT industry.

When I started my first IT job, I took on a few smaller tasks, then a few more, then even more smaller and bigger tasks. Things were getting done, sure, but some other things were lagging behind.

My manager didn’t know why. I told him I was able to get the work done, they weren’t things that would take too much effort or complexity, but they just didn’t get done in the expected timeframe.

After some analysis (and in hindsight), it seemed I had taken on more work than I could handle. My manager also realised this too. I believe this happened for two reasons:

  • I overestimated the amount of work I could actually do. If I could realistically fix 4 defects per day, I would try to take on 6 or 8 and aim to get more done. I would end up fixing 3 or 4 and the remaining ones wouldn’t even get looked at.
  • I underestimated the amount of effort involved. If I thought a defect would take 2 hours to fix, it actually took 3. While it might not seem like much, this margin eventually added up, meaning I was not getting everything done that I thought.

Being able to know your own workload is a skill that I’ve learnt along the way. It’s something that comes with experience, and we’re all prone to do this at some stage during our career.

Career Mistake 3 – Not Networking Enough

I can sometimes be a bit of a solo person when it comes to my career. Well, I used to be, actually.

I thought that I just needed to work hard and do a good job, and things would happen. This isn’t entirely true.

Sure, working hard and doing good work is a major part of career success, but another part of it is getting to know people, also known as networking.

I didn’t do enough of this when I was in my early career. It was partly because I didn’t think I needed to, that I didn’t know how, and that I’d rather get the work done than meet up with people.

It’s something I’ve since improved on, but realizing it’s a common thing now actually helps.

I heard a saying when I was younger, which was “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. This can be attributed to our careers and the success we have. Knowing things and doing work is important, but getting promotions and new jobs can also come down to knowing the right people. It’s often an area of our careers that goes neglected, until we really need it.

I would suggest getting some experience talking to others and networking, which can really improve your career in the long term.

Well, there’s a few of my career mistakes that were made in the early days of my job. What other mistakes have you made? Share them in the comment section below.