The fast track to any successful career has its turning points. Lose your way on any of the detours described here, and you may be in for a rough patch -- or, worse. So keep your head up and steer clear of these seven common pitfalls:
1. Taking the conditions of contract employment lightly. The hourly rate for contract work can seem irresistible. But as security consultant Robert Ferrell says, read and digest the contract in its entirety before you sign. “The number of ways in which a legally binding document of this sort can come back to bite you in the tender regions may surprise you,” he says.
If you fail to heed the fine print in work agreements, the contracting agency may have you on the hook for gigs you wouldn’t be caught dead in -- had you not signed away your right to decline offers. A good rule of thumb, Ferrell says, is never to allow yourself to be told for whom you can work, or when, particularly by “a faceless corporation that views you as a head count.”
A bad contract may also stand in the way of landing a good permanent job. “Many agencies forbid you from being hired full time as an employee by their clients, at least without a big finder’s fee from the client or a one-year contract term pre-req,” says Terry Gauchat, systems engineer at Wells Fargo. And nondisclosure or intellectual property clauses that prevent you from working for a competitor or even discussing your work for years after leaving a company can lock you out of gigs that would pay well for sought-after skills.
The best advice is to trust your instincts. “If [a contract] seems too good to be true, it probably is,”
2. Taking project management responsibility without authority. An app-dev project is a locus where business stakeholders and various sectors of IT meet, including IT management, compliance officers, and network teams. The result can be a battle zone where project managers are held responsible for the outcome, even though they lack the authority to get all the parties on the same page.
One former network translation analyst laments, “Project management without authority and resources is a given in my experience. If a midlevel manager expected a project to succeed, they would not yield it to a project manager who will then get some of the credit.”
Absolutely correct, Ferrell says: “The current corporate obsession with project management is nothing more than a realization that here is a great place to stick people with no technical or personnel management skills and get them to take the blame for failures.”