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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

"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!"

The way to avoid this trap: Don't hoard information or expertise. Delegate responsibility. Start training your own replacement now, or find ways to outsource your current responsibilities so that you can take on more challenging assignments.

"I have been both indispensable and dispensable, and I had better job security and was happier when I was dispensable," says Jen Hancock, author of "The Humanist Approach to Happiness: Practical Wisdom."

Hancock says, "When I was indispensable, things fell apart. If I tried to take a long weekend I came back to a mess I had to clean up. The longer I was away, the worse the mess. When I finally got my act together enough to manage the work and delegate it out properly, everything ran more smoothly."

Effective IT habit No. 12: Know when to fire yourselfSometimes the best way to become indispensible as an IT pro is to step away from a stifling career path, even if that means branching out on your own.

"I boosted my career by starting my own company," says Lowe, of Innovator LLC. "I doubled my take-home pay immediately, set my own hours, and got to work on really interesting things with highly motivated people."

The notion that a "successful career" implies a steady progression of higher-paying jobs within a company or industry just doesn't apply any more, he adds.

"A successful career today is a journey on which you discover and do what you love," he says. "If that happens to be offering businesses innovative ways of changing their work flow to achieve new levels of productivity and efficiency, that's great. If that happens to be giving guided tours of canyons in Utah (instead of applying the advanced math degree you earned at university), that's also great."


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