While they may not be written down, certain assumptions about how to succeed in the IT field have gained general acceptance. In today's difficult job market, it may feel especially risky to break these rules. But blindly adhering to them can actually hinder your career. Here are seven IT career rules made to be broken -- or at least questioned:
1. Longer hours equal greater success. Hard work is a prerequisite for most IT positions, but that doesn't mean "the more hours, the better." An extreme work schedule can actually lower your overall productivity by wearing you out and leading to burnout. Regularly working late also might be a sign that you're not managing your time well. Talk to your supervisor about reprioritizing projects, delegating assignments or bringing in extra resources.
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2. Stick to one specialty and get great at it. IT will always rely on experts in specific technologies, but succeeding in today's environment also requires an ability to expand beyond your job description as needed. Don't pass up training opportunities or projects that can help round out your skill set. By demonstrating that you're eager to expand your core abilities, you make yourself more likely to be considered when a chance for advancement arises.
3. Grab any new responsibilities. On the other hand, a can-do attitude won't move your career forward if you take on work that you can't, in fact, do. Indiscriminately volunteering for projects that extend beyond your current abilities can create headaches for the entire IT team. Ask yourself whether you have the appropriate skills and experience for the job. Instead of volunteering to lead a project, would it make more sense to play a supporting role in which you can learn as you go?
4. Always try to move up. It's easy to be blinded by a loftier title and higher salary, but before you accept a promotion or a change in your current role, consider all the ramifications of the change, including your work/life balance. Also think about the tasks you most enjoy: Will you be able to devote as much time to them? All advancement entails some uncertainty, but accepting a higher-level role just for the pay and prestige can sap your satisfaction and lead to a career dead end.
5. Rack up certifications. In a highly competitive IT job market, the urge to enhance your rsum in any way possible is understandable. To bolster your qualifications, you may be tempted to earn new certifications -- any new certifications. But these credentials carry their full value only when they're paired with experience. Choose training opportunities and certifications that realistically enhance your ability to help your current or next employer.