The other day I clicked on a link posted by a friend I follow on Twitter titled: 14 Tech Jobs That Pay Over $90,000 Right Now. I normally find lists such as these to be too simplistic or contain much actionable data. I guess these lists might be helpful to the student deciding which career path to take in technology.
If you’re reading this you probably already have a job, and you aren’t considering leaving your IT admin job to become a sales engineer, no matter how well it pays. So instead of focusing on switching careers, I’d like to tailor this article on ways you can enhance the job you currently have. Specifically, how do you stand out in a field where people have similar skill sets?
A few years ago I managed a group comprised mostly of entry-level IT workers who supported hundreds of Microsoft product launches and conferences around the world. Only a handful of those hires had earned a technical certification, but many of them had relevant work experience and skills they brought to the team.
Over the eight years I worked in that position I noticed that I was able to negotiate a higher salary with my manager when a new employee had relevant on-the-job experience. If she had certifications that was icing on the cake. But a new employee with certifications but little or no on-the-job experience almost always started at a lower salary.
According to a CompTIA survey carried out among IT hiring managers, more than 60% of those interviewed said they valued individuals with certifications highly. This matches nearly every certification survey I could find. On the other hand, findings from a 2012 survey conducted by Foote Partners suggests that non-certified but experienced IT employees continued to be paid higher bonuses.
It sounds reasonable that while certifications can help one get a foot in the door, salary and promotion are more likely to be determined by performance and experience. When I looked over resumes of job candidates without much experience, I would often call in those who had recently earned an IT certification because it showed me they were serious about breaking into IT and possessed study skills that would bode well in the future. If your job experience speaks for itself, that’s great, but earning a certification can be incredibly helpful for those without a lot of experience.
Years ago I was interviewing a number of candidates for an IT position. Most of them were fresh out of college with little job experience, but they possessed lot of confidence and excitement. One of the last candidates I interviewed didn’t fit that mold at all though. He was a few years older than most of my technicians, and he had recently come from a position in finance. He explained how he’d survived the housing crash in 2008 by working 80-hour weeks, but had decided he needed a career change.
I explained that I was hiring for an entry-level IT position with a fair amount of travel. I told him that he’d be expected to start at the bottom and work his way up, just like anyone else. I’ve interviewed candidates coming from positions outside of technology who balked when I explained they would need to work their way up from an entry-level IT position.
I ended up hiring this man, and watching him carefully as he studied and trained with my other technicians. He was teachable and never once exhibited an attitude even when reporting to technicians half his age. His positive attitude was contagious, and when a technical project manager position became available, he was a perfect fit with his newfound technical and seasoned budgeting skills.
Having a positive attitude is critical in setting yourself apart from others. It’s not uncommon for IT staff to have a reputation for being difficult to work with, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
My father retired a few years ago after spending 32 year teaching and coaching high school students. One evening we were discussing how fast the tech industry changes, and I mentioned that I subscribed to a number of magazines as a way to keep up on all the changes. By comparison, my father mentioned that the manner in which students were taught hadn’t changed much over his three decades of teaching. Teachers lectured, students took notes and used textbooks to study. But the fundamentals of teaching didn’t vary much from decade to decade.
Now compare that experience to that of your job in IT. Looking back just three or five years ago, I’m sure you can find vast changes to the technology we use each day. Think back to the clamshell phones we all carried around or the heavy laptops we lugged around for years. It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of saving all your photos and videos to the cloud was crazy talk. Today, Google released Google Photos for Android and iOS which takes all your photos and videos and uploads them to their cloud where they can be accessed and shared. Unlimited photos at no cost.
The most valuable employees I managed were the best teachers. With technology changing so quickly and dramatically, I relied on excellent teachers to gather and organize material they could then share with newer employees. I’ve worked in groups where knowledge was amassed but seldom shared with others. That tactic might have worked decades ago, but not today.
Do you really want to stand out at work? Learn how to share information you’ve learned with others. When you help someone else become more valuable to the company, you immediately become more valuable as well.
What are some ways you’ve learned to stand out at work?
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