12 effective habits of indispensable IT pros

Ditch the slackers, take on dirty work, do it with data -- here's how to get the inside track on a highly rewarding career in IT

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Take on a project that's already going well, the best you can hope for is that it will continue to go well. Take on something that's a disaster and turn it around -- even just a little better -- and you get a reputation as somebody who gets things done, Engel adds. "If you make a problem even a little bit better, you are making progress."

Effective IT habit No. 9: Don't be a jerk

You might be the world's most brilliant coder or the industry's leading expert on user interface design. But if nobody likes you, your head is on the chopping block. Given the often challenging personality types drawn to technology, this is especially true for IT.

"Personality goes a long way when it comes time to make cuts in an organization," notes Nathan Letourneau, director of marketing for PowerWise USA, makers of PC power management software. "Companies prefer people with positive attitudes and a good work ethic, even if they aren't as highly skilled as another. Don't be a pain in the butt or overly negative. This isn't to say you shouldn't speak your mind, but just make sure you're respectful when doing it."

Ultimately, managers like to get rid of the troublemakers and malcontents first, says Engel: "At the end of the day, it's the person that makes the work environment of the other coworkers better that gets promoted and is the last to leave in a layoff."

Effective IT habit No. 10: Go public

That doesn't mean issuing your own personal IPO (though if you could pull one off, more power to you). The more people who know and rely on you -- especially outside your department or organization -- the harder it is to fire you, notes Engel.

If you have a client-facing job, you're less likely to feel the ax on your neck because companies don't generally like to fire people who have relationships with key accounts, he says -- provided, of course, you obey Rule No. 9.

If your job doesn't bring you into regular contact with clients, you can strive to become well known across different departments, especially in larger, more siloed enterprises.

"Look for projects and opportunities that cut across departments because this builds your internal network -- thus making you more valuable to the company," he says.

Effective IT habit No. 11: Don't become literally "indispensable"

The problem with being labeled indispensable is that it can become a trap. Your talents can become so critical to an organization's survival that you can never leave or rise to a new position within your company, says Steven A. Lowe, CEO of Innovator LLC, a consulting and custom software development firm.

"A friend of mine is an excellent developer who has created a few critical software systems for the company that employs him," Lowe says. "No one else can step in and do what he does, and the company can't 'afford' to promote him to a more senior position or pay him much more money. So he's frustrated and miserable -- but he's certainly indispensable!"

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