Succeeding in the IT Workplace

This article assumes that you have already obtained a position in the IT field. Click here for some suggestions on how to find IT jobs.

Your success in the IT field depends on several factors including: your technical ability, your character, your people skills, your good health, and your ambition level. I break success down into these five categories because it’s an easy way for me to evaluate others and re-evaluate myself periodically. Of course, success is a huge topic, but for now let’s talk about each of these five categories in a little more depth.

Technical ability

Your technical prowess is an integral part of your success. It’s extremely important to look at any situation from a logical standpoint. Your implementation and troubleshooting methodologies should be well honed, and reflect the organization that you work for. Of course it’s also important to keep your skill set up-to-date. Daily reading and occasional training are of utmost importance so that you can keep your skills sharp. Specializing in a specific part of the IT field can also be very beneficial. I have an article about specialization that you can access here. Be constantly enhancing your technical powers on all fronts; this creates job security for you, and ensures long-term IT success. Don’t be too eager to show off your skills though, over time you might find yourself being taking advantage of. But of course, don’t be selfish with your technical ability; help others in need if they ask it of you.

Character

I’ll be honest with you; people with good character and people with bad character can both succeed in the IT field. It all depends on the type of success you are looking for, and the length of that success. People with good character are people that are in it for the long run. They are team players who understand the goals of the company or organization, and put their best foot forward to accomplish those goals. They understand that there must be a purpose to their work. They treat others courteously and do their best to get tasks completed in a timely manner. They believe in teamwork. They go above and beyond the call of duty; helping others, staying late and showing up early, and sharing what they have learned with other employees. This long-term plan of good ethics allows for job security and job growth.

People with bad character on the other hand (you know who they are) will usually not stay at one job for very long. They may be able to pull the wool over people’s eyes for a short time, but most management persons will catch on to their antics sooner or later, and the person with bad character will be looking for employment elsewhere. People that use others for their own advancement, that set others up for the fall, that are clever and use subterfuge, are people of bad character. The problem is that they are also illogical. What I mean by this is that their methods waste time in the long run, and are therefore unproductive. Plus, people that use subterfuge are fearful, and fear is the mind killer, decreasing intelligent thought and logic. Unfortunately, these types of people are not uncommon in the IT field and you will run into them at some point in your career, most likely more than once. Let me give you a few tips on how to deal with these people.

If you are wronged by one of these people, I always recommend to let it go for the first occurrence, but make a note of it. If it happens again, then it’s time to start a personal log about the issues. Keep this in your own written journal or on your own personal smart phone, etc., but make sure it’s something that you own and not the company. Make a detailed account of the actions that were taken against you, timestamps of e-mails that were sent or received, time and date of conversations that were had, and what actions you took to fix the problem. Don’t get mad at the person causing the problem; if you fly off the handle, you’ll look like the bad person. You know the old saying, two wrongs don’t make a right. Keep things compartmentalized. You work in a specific department and report to a specific person. That should be the only person giving you tasks to accomplish. No other managers or supervisors should be authorized to assign jobs to you. (BTW, companies that allow this type of behavior can be very troublesome and chaotic.) Stay within your “box” so to speak, this will limit the amount of unnecessary interactivity with other departments. Finally, notify your immediate supervisor or manager of any issue in writing. On a sidenote, sometimes you need to simply laugh about these situations; laugh at the absurdity; laugh at the nonsense, it will usually make you feel better.

Anyways, by employing good character, over time it will be understood what your value is to the company. Bad character is a shortcut, a lazy means toward promotion. Good character, from what I have seen, is rewarded more greatly over the long term.

People skills

Success in the IT workplace is also heavily dependent on how you treat people. It starts with the initial interview and continues on all the way through to the last day that you work for a company and beyond.

It’s a good idea to be as courteous as possible during the interview process. If hired to an organization it’s also important to be respectful of other employees. Your boss (immediate supervisor or manager) is the person most likely to be involved in your reviews, raises, and possible promotions. Treat this person accordingly. Carry out whatever tasks they ask of you without any complaints. If the task appears to be too complicated, or if it appears to require more manpower, ask your boss for help. Your boss is also the person most likely to give you a reference when interviewing with other companies or when interviewing for a promotion. Keep all this in mind on a day-to-day basis when dealing with your department and with your boss.

Be sure not to burn any bridges, it’s important to keep as many good contacts, and references as possible. This helps to build your reputation and increases job security over the long term.

Good health

The IT field can be frustrating at times. But bad health can make it seem more frustrating than it really is. Mental, physical, and emotional health is vital when it comes to giving a solid performance day in and day out.

There are so many simple ways to increase your health, and make yourself feel stronger over the course of the day. 20 minutes (or more) of exercise, a decent meal, good sleep, meditation, yoga, and so on. Whatever makes you feel best, there are hundreds of options.
One interesting thing I have noticed is that many IT techs are moving away from caffeine and energy drinks. While caffeine might stimulate your thinking for a short time, it doesn’t promote mental growth, and it has a physical cost as well, if taken in large quantities.

Ambition level

Ambition is a key element to success. I’m talking about long-term career goals: where you see yourself in a year or two or even five; what kind of job you want to aim for; and so on.

Good ambition includes the desire to help your organization toward its goals as well as your own; ambition is purpose and determination in that respect. You also need to have the drive to do a good job every day. Your motivating factors should include job security, growth (for yourself and your organization), and of course monetary gain, but notice I put that last on the list.

The day-to-day grind deals with short-term objectives. Sometimes, these are the hardest to aim for as they can become mundane. In these times I like to think of longer-term aspirations and dreams and incorporate those into the mundane, making the day more interesting. It’s vital to watch out for apathy; the lack of ambition can cause huge losses of productivity for you and your co-workers.

Keep in mind that this is in no way the be-all end-all on how to succeed. These are just several of the things that have helped me over the course of my career so far.

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