Avoid These 3 Mistakes to Keep Your Career On Track

headMore and more, we see indications that the number of technology jobs is increasing. However, whether you’re  looking for a new job or not, you should be thinking about career planning. It’s an essential component to your longevity and competitiveness in the IT marketplace.

As someone who works with talented tech professionals every day, I see people who understand the challenges of career planning and advancement. But many others make some key mistakes that could hold them back. To help with both your short- and long-term planning, I’ve identified three key traps you could be falling into right now. While I’m at it, I’ve got some tips to help you remedy them.

  1. Trying to be an expert in everything. Expanding your skills is an excellent way to stay fresh and up-to-date in an industry that’s constantly evolving. However, the trend I’ve been seeing from employers recently suggests that specialization is highly sought after in most candidates. So finding an area of interest and pursuing skills there could give you a great boost. Seeking mentoring opportunities or additional training and certification in a specific area (MCITP, VCP and ACSP are some certifications that are in high demand right now) can help make you more marketable, and more like to get hired.
  2. Focusing solely on technical ability. Though technical skill is essential, many professionals make the mistake of focusing all their attention on gaining and honing those skills. In today’s workplace, all professionals—including IT professionals—are expected to have a certain level of business acumen, as well as a high level of interpersonal communication skills. In other words, they’re expected to offer more than tech skills to their team. From volunteering to lead committees to offering basic training to others, there are many ways to improve the overall package of your talents.
  3. Not tracking your successes. Maybe you’re extremely happy in your current position and aren’t actively looking for a new job. Or maybe you’ve put hours into your resume and are happy with how it looks, so you really don’t want to spend any time trying to make it more effective. In either case, avoiding this mistake can have one of the biggest impacts on your career: tracking your IT successes. When your work directly leads to an increase in productivity, a decrease in cost, or any type of improvement within your department or organization, track it with as much detail as possible. Numbers and percentages make the most impact.Now this will undoubtedly help you to stand out if and when you search for a new role.Tracking your successes can also impact your current job. During annual reviews or when you’re asking for a raise, your ability to present concrete data to support your accomplishments and prove your value will help maximize your leverage. So start tracking your accomplishments now, and if you can recall enough detail about previous achievements, take a few minutes and write them out so you’re not scrambling for them in the future.

Career mistakes are common in any profession, but avoiding these will help you make sure your track leads where you want to go.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/marin

4 Responses to “Avoid These 3 Mistakes to Keep Your Career On Track”

  1. David is right on the first one. As a person who has skills in Arcsight, Envision, Loglogic, Rapid7, nCircle, Qualys, Snort/Sourcefire, McAfee IPS, and a host of other products, I am finding it hard to get a job because people see me as a jack of all trades, master of none. Yet, I am certified in these products and others, as well as ISO, and Project Management/ITIL certifications. People just want to hire people with one skill. Diversity is not a good thing in IT right now

    • SometimesAnInterviewer

      I humbly suggest you review how you present yourself in interviews.

      Assuming you really are a non-specialist, there is little you can do in the short term to change, but in most interviews you should be doing most of the talking and you have the ability to steer the conversation toward what you are good at.

      Specialists can talk about a single subject with high confidence and that is generally their advantage. However, like anyone, they can get uncomfortable when taken out of their comfort zone. Displaying confidence is important in an interview. If I see someone fumbling responses, it does not give me a good impression of their general abilities. So, if the interviewer directing questions that reveals that you don’t have deep knowledge of all the software you’ve had to work with, maintain a confident demeanor (note: confident, not cocky). Your task will be to show that your strength is your ability to learn and work with so many technologies and not that you didn’t get a chance to be an expert in something. Further, it needs to come across as a strength that is translatable to the job you are interviewing for. If you understand that you need to do this and prepare for the interview with that purpose, it should be possible.

      Here are some ideas: Talk about why you have worked on so many various technologies/products/etc and what motivated you to do so, what you learned from it (big picture, not specific skills), how it helped you do a better job, etc. Talk about the success you’ve had picking up the skills (hopefully quickly and with little guidance). Give specific examples of past successful work. Find examples you’re proud of excited about because that will come through positively in your presentation. Be prepared to present failures and what you learned from it and maybe applied what you learned to a different project (hopefully successful).

      Practice interviewing with friends to make sure your conversation is confident and relevant. It might sound good in your head, but not so good when it comes out. Take the constructive criticism with grace.

      If an employer is dead set on finding a specialist, then there is little you’ll be able to do to change his mind. However, it’s my experience that you won’t get past the resume review and initial phone screen if they don’t have an open mind. They must think you have some skill they can use if they invite you in.

  2. James Green1

    So know the market wants specialist. Not to long ago they wanted generalist. What to market want know is you to specialize in 3 or 4 job and be able to pay you for one. A friend of minds makes $115,000 the problem is he is a whole technical support department support over 100 people. He the help desk, network administrator, desktop support, procurement and many, many jobs. He tells his boss he needs help but his boss won’t hire another person.