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12 effective habits of indispensible IT pros

Dan Tynan | Jan. 18, 2012
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

Effective IT habit No. 8: Take on jobs no one else wantsSafe, predictable jobs won't get you into trouble, but they won't earn you any glory either. It's the tough jobs where you can prove your value, says John Paul Engel, principal for Knowledge Capital Consulting, a boutique management consulting firm.

"The best career advice I ever received was from then president of Citibank California who told me, 'Look for the biggest problem and solve it because there in lies your greatest opportunity'," he says.

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 jerkYou 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 publicThat 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.


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