10 hidden hazards that are killing your IT career

The world of technology is quite fast-paced and for many professionals in this field, one major career killer is complacency. However, that’s just one out of the many hidden hazards can quietly sink your budding IT career—from assuming you’ve reached the top of your IT prowess to undervaluing yourself.

In a constantly changing tech landscape, planning your IT career can be difficult, especially when all of your big goals and aspirations can be easily wiped out like a hard drive. While most IT professionals focus on acquiring new tech skills and networking as a way to grow their career, there is a tendency to accidentally put your career in reverse.

There are various hidden hazards and silent career killers that a lot of IT professionals are oblivious of.  Here are some of the notable ways people end up damaging their careers and how to build a bulletproof IT career.

1.  Lack of interpersonal skills

A lot of IT professional neglect the need for improving their interpersonal skills and according to a survey by iCIMS, tech recruitment managers value softs skills in IT 15 per cent more valuable than hard skills.

Steve Cooper, the co-founder of Excella Consulting, says most of the performance-related issues in IT are directly related to a lapse in interpersonal skills and most employees don’t understand how that can affect their performance and that of their colleagues.

“The true value of an IT professional is a powerfully lethal combination of deep technology expertise and the human ability to feel and articulate the impact of the solution being created. When an employer recognizes this combination in an individual, they’ll reward it handsomely,” said Cooper.

2.  Failing to understand the business

Many seasoned IT professionals admit that a lot of people inadvertently damage their IT career by failing to understand the basic principles of the company they represent.

It is important to understand the amount of impact your day-to-day activity has on the entire company. Asides from learning the core of the business, its mode of operation and revenue generation model, determining how you contribute to the overall goal and objective of the business would help you improve and ensure you are not redundant.

3.  Not knowing your worth

According to David Collins, an IT branch manager at staffing firm the Addison Group, there is the tendency that you are being undervalued if you’ve been at the same IT job for over five years.

You need to learn what the current salary for your position is in the marketplace and how direct competitors are compensating their employees. It is much easier and cheaper for an organization to retain an employee than hire a new one, hence the tendency for you to be paid less.

4.  Skipping social events

You may be an introvert that’s not very interested in the past-office hours party and professional social events. But as climb up the career ladder, you may need to make some appearances here and there to help boost your profile.

Not only would this help to build a better relationship with your co-workers, but also superiors, and like-minded professionals, letting you gain exclusive access to newer opportunities.

5.  Staying in your comfort zone

Some IT professionals are so comfortable in their chosen tech career path that they never harbour the idea of exploring another territory outside of technology.

Paul Chapman, CIO at Box, says it is important for IT professionals to be able to reinvent themselves and shift from being more tactical and task-driven to being more social and participative.

“A failure to make this shift will end up with you hitting your IT career ceiling,” added Chapman.

6.  Failing to adapt

Being very rigid and unwilling to change can harm a team and like Steven Boyd, a mainframe programmer at Ensono rightfully says, failure to adapt to the certain changes within an organization can make working very difficult.

Technology is constantly evolving and while acquiring technical skills is still very important, soft skills are much more impactful to the business in the long run. Therefore, it is important for every IT professional to not only adapt to these changes in technical skills but also take advantage of other essential skills that are not limited to being a programmer.

7.  Thinking you made it

Some mistakes can hide under career successes, says Jen Doran, program manager at IT staffing firm TEKsystems. She frequently sees people climb the corporate ladder then abruptly stop networking.

“Time and effort was put into placing a particular person in a particular role,” she says, “so it’s important to keep networking at events and on social platforms to continue to grow your network even after you’ve been successfully placed.”

8.  Trouble with non-tech staff

IT folks too frequently can’t easily express their plans for new tech spends, or allocating resources or people, says Eventoff.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with IT professionals at many different levels, from many, different disciplines,” Eventoff says. “If you’re speaking to someone who doesn’t get deep into IT, it’s crucial that you not only know what’s important to that person, but how does what you’re suggesting impact that person, or the enterprise.”

Make sure you can explain yourself with clarity and precision, Eventoff says. “Will they ‘get it’ right away? This is a fairly easy one to pressure test — take something you’re working on that’s important, find a colleague who is not in IT, and explain it. If they get it, you’re on the right track.”

9.  Jumping ship

There’s nothing like a truly horrific work situation to bring your career path into focus. The question is whether you’d improve your career by changing jobs — or just hitting the eject button.

“How you deal with unfairness and lack of appreciation will shape your tenacity to keep moving forward,” says Box CIO Paul Chapman. “It’s easy to dismiss and/or presume the glass is half empty. And all too often I catch people looking to leave a company because they are running away rather than running toward something — anyone can run away.”

When your job is at its worse, step back, evaluate what happened — and game out what to do next time, Chapman says. “You should learn more from the negative experiences than the positive ones.”

10.  Pursuing post-grad education without focus

Asked about the value of post-grad education, nearly every IT pro interviewed said the same thing: It’s not worth the money unless you’re absolutely sure why you’re doing it and what your return on investment will be.

“If you’re just pursuing post-grad to increase earning potential, you should do some research to confirm that it will materialize,” says Josh Collins, a former senior technology manager at Bank of America and now tech architect at Janeiro Digital. “Many employers and industries value experience over education. Have a good picture of that before investing.”