Here are a couple of obvious ways to get yourself in trouble: Insult your boss on Facebook, and look for a new job on company time. But as annoyed as your boss might get over those, they’re usually survivable mistakes, at least as long as you don’t repeat them.
No. 1: Letting Your Skills Slide
One day you’re on the top of the world and the next you realize you really do need experience with Hadoop, mobile app development, security or virtualization. When that happens, your career and earning power are already descending. The drop may begin subtly but depending on your job or company, it might nose dive without much warning.
You’re in technology. Technology changes all the time. If you don’t keep your skills up to date, you’re falling behind as surely as the old technology you grew up on. If you’re in this position, the solution is obvious: Get up to speed on the new tools you’ll need.
And by the way: Don’t allow yourself to believe people who say new skills, new languages and new tools are all “flavors of the month” that aren’t worth paying attention to. They’re wrong. Sure, some tools have less use than others. The challenge here is to determine which ones hold the most value for you.
No. 2: Overstating Your Abilities
Don’t volunteer to rescue a troubled project unless you’re sure you can succeed. Making false claims on your resume or inflating your technical abilities and experience can backfire and keep you from landing the job. Consistently over-promising and under-delivering damages your credibility, and your credibility is a big chunk of your success. When a lot’s on the line, your boss and co-workers won’t trust you. Be confident but honest when describing your skills, experience, ability to meet aggressive project schedules and budgets. Those who select projects carefully and effectively manage expectations tend to be more successful over time.
No. 3: Not Tracking Your Business Impact
You can have the greatest skills in the world, but they won’t help you all that much of you don’t apply them correctly. You won’t be able to get a raise, promotion or new job unless you can tie your talents and daily activities to increases in productivity, output, revenues and profits. So keep a list and remember to monetize your tasks and accomplishments.
No. 4: Resting on Your Laurels
Scott McNealy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems and current chairman of Wayin, once compared the shelf-life of technology to a banana. What does that mean to you? It means that you could be out of a job sooner rather than later if you haven’t logged a major achievement in the past 12 months. Revel in the glory of your latest accomplishment for no more than 30 days, then jump into another high visibility project.
No. 5: Failing to Connect
Don’t expect kudos or a bonus for steadily working hard and cranking out high volumes of code. You need to tactfully and strategically self-promote, connect with co-workers and stakeholders and build a professional network in order to have a vibrant career. You don’t have to be in someone’s face, but you do need to be recognized as an expert in your field by blogging, attending conferences, and yes, occasionally pointing out how well you’ve done something. After all, there’s no benefit in keeping your accomplishments to yourself. Isolation is a career killer that you should absolutely avoid.