Once upon a time, information technology was a general term that referred to anyone who worked with computers for a living. Now every career and almost every aspect of modern life involves some level of technology, and today the technology industry covers a wide range of careers from data scientist to devops specialist to the good old-fashioned technical support professional.
While these are all very different career paths that involve very specific areas of expertise, there are still some key characteristics that link them together. Similarly, there are a few key skills, traits and characteristics which are necessary for success in all of them and any other technology job. This guide is designed to go over a few of these key elements as well as a few helpful tips for anyone who is considering going into a technology field.
1. Be a Specialist
Within the broad spectrum of technology careers, there are too many sub-categories and fields to list here. As the needs of the public and the business world continue to change at lightning-fast speeds, more fields and subsequent job titles will continue to develop in the coming years. While you certainly know which field you wish to work in or already work in, you need to become a specialist at some element within that field.
If you work in web development, become an expert in Java logging best practices. If you want to work in digital marketing, learn to master SEO. Specializing in one area will help set you apart from other professionals and enable you to do one job better than anyone else, as opposed to several jobs at a mediocre level.
2. Be Flexible
With that being said, you need to be flexible and ready to learn new things as the industry changes. Your field and your area of expertise will continue to change as new technologies are developed and as the needs of consumers change. Staying up to date on best practices and industry trends is a crucial element to sustained success in any technology field.
3. Find a Mentor
There is only so much that you can learn from classes, books and guides, and some of the most important aspects of any career can only be discovered with experience. If you do not have much experience in your chosen career, you can gain invaluable insight and information from someone who does.
4. Develop Your Soft Skills
Robert Half Technology, a staffing firm specializing in technology talent, recently conducted a survey in which they asked chief information officers from large companies about how they believed today’s technology professionals could improve. The number one response was communication skills, and this is a common theme with many high level tech executives.
More than most other industries, those in technology careers place a higher value on technical ability and often undervalue soft skills like communication, problem solving, perseverance and motivation. Even those with the highest level of knowledge and technical ability can only go so far without developing additional soft skills.
5. Set Boundaries
One thing that is often overlooked in any career is the importance of setting boundaries. This is especially the case in most technology fields, where there is an endless amount of work and never enough time. However, if you constantly find yourself working late hours and not taking days off, you will burn yourself out more quickly than you would imagine.
You may feel like you cannot leave the office on time or take a vacation because you see other colleagues who seem to never leave and always burn the midnight oil. But if you actually examine the quality of their work, chances are it is mediocre at best when compared to those who set proper boundaries. It is better to do your job well than do it constantly, and you do not want to end up hating your job.