The days of the IT department existing in the back office and not communicating with the front of the business are gone. IT professionals need to take a leadership role, take initiative when making decisions and understand the business. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Rich Milgram outlines the skill sets IT professionals need in order to improve their career and thrive in today's job market.
How to Thrive in Today's Job Market: Five Tips for IT Professionals
You're an IT professional. So it's time to become aware of the changes happening in your industry and understand how they could affect your job and your company. You've had it pretty good over the years, but it's no longer enough to simply be a "ticket taker" for your next project, leaving the strategy and big picture company goals to management.
To succeed in your career, it is important to demonstrate consistent value to your employer and take initiative when making decisions for the best interest of the company. Employers are more likely to hire and retain workers who carry out multiple technical functions in the business. They value those who understand how to leverage their knowledge to deliver the right technology to achieve company goals.
While there may not be a universal skill or attribute that can guarantee job security, here are five tips on how to position yourself as the indispensible go-to IT professional in your company.
Tip No. 1: Understand and apply project management and people management skills to your job
One of the most powerful ways to increase your job security is to understand the strategic direction of your company and how it relates to your position so you can make the most impact on the bottom line. As an IT professional, you are much more desirable if you understand project management, business process reengineering, and can effectively work and communicate with the management team.
These skills allow you to be more self-directed and not only do your job, but make wise decisions on how to tailor your work efforts to directly affect the profitability and success of the company.
Tip No. 2: Ensure your role is an integrated part of the company
Plain and simple, those out on an island get voted off the island. If management does not consider your role a critical component to the company, you are risking the possibility of your position being eliminated. Make sure key areas of the business understand what you do and the role you play in the organization's success.
Spend time networking with others internally and collecting domain knowledge rather than just completing the tasks assigned to you. When the company is faced with downsizing, it's usually too late to demonstrate your worth. It must be part of the foundation that you have built with the company over time.
Tip No. 3: Demonstrate a strong foundation of IT skills
Technology professionals who are always in demand are those who offer backbone IT skills and support needed to keep a business running efficiently. Some of the professionals who are in the most demand include network security engineers to ensure the security of the company infrastructure, software developers and engineers to develop and enhance new products for the company, and infrastructure architects to identify new ways to get more value out of existing hardware.
Additionally, database professionals hold an increasingly crucial role in a business by creating and managing databases that store key business information. This allows the company to analyze data and make better decisions.
Tip No. 4: Educate yourself on upcoming technology trends
There is a lot of potential for people who can work with new technologies or leverage existing technologies in a new way to benefit the business. It is important to brush up on the latest trends such as viral, social and mobile technologies to ensure that your business doesn't miss out on the opportunity to enhance the brand, reach more customers and become more profitable.
Speak up if you come across a new trend that could potentially benefit your company. Although your employer may not be able to adopt every idea, your effort to stay informed will not go unnoticed—especially when you are relaying knowledge that demonstrates the business value of adopting a new technology.
Tip No. 5: Act as a mentor and share your knowledge for the good of the company
Some IT professionals like to protect their knowledge to ensure their job security. While this tactic might buy you a few months or even a year, it won't buy you an entire career. In fact, keeping it all to yourself will most likely burn some bridges and hinder your long-term growth potential. IT professionals who tend to be the most sought after are the ones who have the ability to mentor and educate other team members on IT skills that can benefit the company.
Take note of what skills you possess in comparison to other employees and offer advice on projects with which they might be struggling. Employers appreciate workers who demonstrate a willingness to help others, especially when the end result improves the efficiency of the tech team.
Remember, you have the ability to control your own destiny. There are many ways to distinguish yourself as a valuable resource and boost your job security. Take the time to understand your business, continue learning new skills, and make a dedicated effort to ensure that each project ultimately benefits the business in the long run.
Rich Milgram is the founder and CEO of Beyond.com. Rich is a subject matter expert on the topics of online recruitment, software development and applications, career consulting, entrepreneurship and identity protection. Rich holds a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Boston University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was reprinted with permission from Ziff David Enterprise. All rights reserved.