Wouldn't it be wonderful if our future selves could pay us a visit and give us some worldly advice we could put to good use? I was inspired by a recent article to pen a few ideas and tips I wish I’d known when I was starting out.
I hope they help.
1. Don’t Create Barriers For Yourself
IT isn't a manual job. You can be as puny or old as you like and still do a good job, so I wonder why people create reasons why they could never enjoy a career in IT such as because they are too old, too young, not been in IT before, don’t have a degree, are female, etc.
Whatever reason you put in your way to say you can't do it, there are thousands of people in your situation already working in IT.
2. Don’t Expect a Job For Life
This isn't 1950. There will be no award ceremony and no gold watch presented when you retire after 40 years loyal service. Due to economic factors and extended life expectancies, you may not be retiring until your 80s. For this reason, you need to keep your skill set up-to-date and always be prepared for your present company to let you go, go bust, be bought out, or just change vastly from what it does at the moment.
3. Your Career is Your Responsibility
I was spoiled in my first job. We had regular training, a defined career progression ladder, regular salary reviews, gym memberships, you name it.
My next job had none of these. I was hired as a Cisco CCNA and thrown into live calls with customers from day one. No training, no career development, and not even a thank you. Strangely enough, this motivated me to take more certifications and work hard on my hands-on skills. Sure enough, all our jobs were outsourced to India after two years, but thanks to my qualifications, I walked right into a high paying contract.
The old mentality of expecting your employer to take care of all your courses and exams is long dead, I’m afraid. If you get that, then consider it a bonus.
4. Be Ruthless
You don’t have to be evil, but you need to be a little self-centered. Don’t join the groups of office workers who complain about people behind their backs. Don’t be one of those people who do just the bare minimum amount of work required not to draw attention to themselves.
If you see an opportunity at work, then go and take it. Take on extra projects and network with other team members and key players at work. If you aren't making progress, then look for another job where your talent will be recognized and rewarded.
5. Don’t Sell Out
When I worked in the police force, I was paid for the hours I worked. In every job I've had since, there seems to be some sort of expectation that an eight hour work day is a bare minimum. In fact, you are often expected to work weekends and be on call for no extra money.
I've seen this time and time again, and this situation is completely unacceptable. Your time is valuable, and you have a life and family outside of work. If your presence is really required, then you should expect to be paid. If you won’t stand up for yourself, then you need to grow a pair, I’m afraid. When the time comes to downsize, you will quickly find that loyalty does not work both ways.
Unless it’s stipulated in your contract, there is nothing to prevent you doing freelance work in your spare time. I grew a very successful IT training company by teaching one or two weekend courses per month. It eventually made so much money that I quit my day job.
7. Have a Plan
Fewer than 5% of adults have a written plan. If you have no plan for your career, finances, health, and personal development, then you are on somebody else’s plan. The plan should consist of what’s important to you, what you are passionate about, where you want to be by the end of the week, month, and year, and what steps you need to get there.
Sadly, most people spend more time planning their vacations than they do their lives.
8. Everything Is Negotiable
Working from home, getting paid to take courses, salary increases, promotions, you name it, they are all negotiable. Once I started to work on my plan (see above), I started to ask for what I wanted. In a few short months, I’d managed the following:
- Got paid to go on an all expenses paid IT course abroad
- Negotiated a $10,000 pay raise
- Started working from home two days per week
- Got paid a bonus for on call work
Worst case scenario for negotiating is you get a “no.” If that is the case, then because you followed the first few points, you are qualified so can leave for a company who will negotiate.
9. Work Out
Obese people are a liability. They are more likely to have heart attacks at work, have diabetes, and take sick leave, and if there is a fire, they will get in the way as you are running for the exit.
Nothing is worth sacrificing your health for. Not money, power, or promotions. If you can't control your eating, it says that there is an emotional battle going on inside you or that you are just plain lazy, and who wants to hire or promote a lazy person?
10. Do What You Love
There are so many careers out there. If you hate programming, then don’t do it. You will be miserable and grouchy. Find what you love to do, and then get paid to do it. You might actually become one of those people who enjoy their jobs!
11. Avoid Office Politics
I've alluded to this earlier. Don’t hang around the whiners, and don’t talk about people behind their backs. Who’s having an affair with whom and who has a drinking problem are not your concern.
12. Learn as You Go
Don't expect to be a master of your trade. Much of what you learn, you will learn as you go. You might start off doing network support and then have to learn voice or security. Find out who is good at the role and get them to teach you. Don’t be one of those “it’s not my job” people.
I've put tons of cool tips into my IT Career Training video courses so check them out. They cover getting an IT job and making a success as an IT freelancer.
I hope this helps.