This is a follow-up post from my previous ‘My Biggest IT Career Mistakes’ post. My take on this post is that although I learned a lot from the mistakes I made, I also made some very good choices either by design or accident. Maybe you can make them too.
So, in no particular order here goes.
1 – Investing in Myself
It’s always nice when the company we work for pays towards our training or exams. I was lucky when I worked at Yellow Pages and then Cisco TAC in the UK. There was a ton of internal training; we had our exams paid for and even our study manuals.
I never took this for granted, though, and when the budget cutbacks came, I used my own money for books and exams. I say this because this is what made all the difference when I found myself redundant and needing to find a job fast. Everyone who refused to invest in themselves struggled to find work. They had fallen behind and shown to prospective employers that they didn’t take the initiative.
2 – Cutting out TV
There were no social media when I started out studying for IT exams in 1999. My colleagues on the helpdesk used to go to work, and as soon as they got home, they would turn on the TV and watch Friends. I could hear them sitting downstairs laughing as I was upstairs studying for my CCNA.
Six months later I was making 40% more than them and working in a network support team.
You simply must cut out all the BS distractions such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and so on. Put studying for an hour or two at the top of your priority list.
3 – Moving Jobs
The old days of having a job for life are long gone. You should be aiming to move every 24 months in order to keep your skills sharp. Moving can include getting promoted where you currently are, going into a different team such as networks to security or to a new company.
I moved from helpdesk to network support after six months. Then to WAN support and then an ISP team and then started my own company. This was all in the span of three years. I got to see and learn so much, and it was a great experience. Everyone, where I worked at, was eventually let go due to downsizing anyway.
4 – Specializing
It’s great to know a little about a lot of stuff. This skill is only really useful if you are managing an IT team or working for a small company doing all their IT support.
I was learning Cisco and Microsoft and ended up supporting Riverstone equipment. I was getting job offers from greedy companies who wanted somebody who could do the job of three people but only pays for one. I was also losing knowledge.
I decided Cisco was the way to go for me. After I made that choice I started getting far more specific roles and job offers. I could write Cisco study guides and support Cisco equipment for large companies.
5 – Moonlighting
While I was working for the ISP, I started teaching IT courses on the weekend. It was really hard at times because some weeks I’d work Monday to Friday, teach over the weekend and then back to work on Monday.
I kept this up for around six months until I wrote the figures out and realized that the moonlighting was making far more than the job, so I quit. I never looked back.
6 – Never Stop Learning
Most jobs you learn once, and apart from the occasional update, it all stays the same. This was the case when I was in the police, and it’s the same for the personal training course I’ve done. IT never sits still. What was cutting edge a couple of years ago, is now legacy.
IT is a fast-moving career, and if you want to stay the course, you have to be prepared to be always learning. Technical, project management, IPv6, design, security, compliance, leadership. It’s never ending. Aim to be passing an exam every three months, six at most.
7 – Not Making Excuses
You would be shocked if you saw how many people quit studying. I see all the stats from my courses and websites. Around 93% of people give up within the first few weeks, usually at the first obstacle. The $20 per month website membership or $50 for a study guide moves in their head from being an investment to a cost.
If it was that easy, then everyone would be doing it. Success in IT means putting in some effort, sacrificing some fun stuff temporarily for long term gain. Passing the CCNA exam took me a few months and cost me exam fees and study guides, but it also helped me build two successful companies, travel around the world teaching and writing study guides and enabled me to build training websites. Imagine if I’d quit when a new TV series came out, or the kids had kept me up late one night.
If you want to learn more then check out my IT career courses.
I hope it helps.