The IT industry is a large field, and as a result, it can be hard to stand out from the rest of the people in the industry. There are some things you can do to improve your career, improve the way you do work, and make yourself look better for your company. Have a read of these 50 career tips that IT professionals can use to improve their career.
1 – Keep A Positive Attitude
Having a positive attitude at work is a good way to improve your career. Being positive at work makes the team around you work better (nobody likes to work with negative people!). It also makes you look like a better worker to your manager – it seems like you’re happy to be there and happy about contributing to the team and the organisation. It makes it easier for others to work with you, which is also a valuable trait.
2 – Arrive Before Your Scheduled Start Time
Most IT positions have a scheduled start time – the time when you should arrive at work to start your day. This can vary for each position. Sometimes you need to start by 9AM, sometimes 8AM, sometimes 10AM is accepted. One way to send a good impression is to actually arrive to work and be ready to work before the scheduled start time. This shows you’re eager and ready to work. Try to arrive before this time and be ready to work – which excludes getting a coffee and reading the newspaper. It’s not compulsory, but it’s something that’s recommended.
3 – Don’t Take A Long Lunch
Most of us working in the IT industry get an allocated lunch break. This could be half an hour, a full hour, or anywhere in between. It’s expected you take a certain amount of time for a lunch break – to eat lunch, run some errands, and other things. This could be within a certain window of the day (e.g. half an hour between 12 and 2) or a set time (lunch between 1 and 2). In either case, try to keep your lunch breaks within the set times and don’t make them too long. A long lunch break every now and then would be OK, if you have an appointment or need to run a few errands (just tell your manager about it). However, doing this every day may be a concern – it sends a bad impression to your team and your manager.
4 – Don’t Drink Alcohol During Lunch
Sometimes when you go out for lunch, with friends or coworkers, it can be tempting to have a drink with your lunch, such as a beer or a glass of wine. This is especially true at special lunches like project completions or staff farewells. This is more of a personal decision, depending on the situation and your approach to alcohol, but I would suggest not drinking alcohol during your lunch break. It can put you off for the rest of the day, making you less effective at work.
5 – Take Personal Calls Away From Your Desk
A lot of us get personal calls at work. These could be friends, partners, or anything else that we have going on outside work such as insurance companies or real estate agents. If they’re not work related, they come under the category of “personal calls”. They are your business, and it’s better to receive and make these calls away from your desk. Your coworkers don’t need to – and probably don’t want to – hear the conversations you have with these people. Your manager also doesn’t need to hear these calls either.
If you need to make a personal call, go for a walk away from your desk. If you receive a personal call, take it and walk away from your desk. It provides less of a distraction to others and sends the impression you’re separating work and personal lives.
6 – Don’t Surf The Internet When You’re Meant To Be Working
Working in IT means we spend a lot of time at the computer. It can be tempting to start browsing your favourite websites, or doing some personal research, while you’re at work. Try to keep it within your lunch break, as it’s part of your personal time. Other people may be able to see you browsing other sites and it sends the impression that you’re not there to work and aren’t being productive – your team members and managers may get this impression.
7 – Wear Clean And Ironed Clothes
A big part of being a good worker is keeping a professional image. This is noticed by other workers and your manager – the more professional and neat you look, the better impression it sends. You don’t need to dress immaculately every day, it’s just advisable to wear clean clothes every day. Also, try to make sure your clothes are ironed, if this is relevant. If you wear a collared shirt, this should be ironed as creases show. If you need to wear a polo shirt, then maybe it doesn’t need to be ironed. As long as it looks presentable and neat, it should be OK.
8 – Make Sure Your Hair Is Neat
Another part of your professional image is your hair. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, your hair should be presented neatly. Hairstyles don’t matter as much (it’s a personal preference), but whatever you do, it should be need. Make sure it’s not scruffy and doesn’t look like you just got out of bed. Use a hairbrush, some hair product, whatever you need to make it look presentable.
9 – Wear Appropriate Shoes
The shoes you wear to work are important. It might seem like it’s not noticed, but other people do take note of them. Some styles of shoes are acceptable to wear at work, and others aren’t. Have a think about the shoes you wear to work. Do they present a good image? Do they fit the uniform and culture of the workplace? Wearing runners may not fit your organisation if the requirement is suit or dress shoes. You may be able to wear casual shoes or other kinds of shoes if they are suitable – this depends on your workplace.
10 – Use Keyboard Shortcuts
Most of us IT workers spend a lot of time on the computer. As a result, we’ve come to learn a few ways of making our jobs easier. One of these is keyboard shortcuts. Most applications have keyboard shortcuts, that let us perform tasks quicker than using the mouse. It’s a good idea to learn and start using keyboard shortcuts. It makes it look like you’re capable at doing your job, and makes you look more efficient. It can also save you time once you learn them and incorporate them into your daily work.
11 – Focus On Your Work While At Work
While you’re at work, you’re getting paid for contributing to your employer and your team. Getting distracted from your work by external factors doesn’t help your team. It also means you’re not as productive as you could be. Try to keep your focus on your work while on the job – you’ll get better results from it.
12 – Arrive At Meetings On Time
Meetings are a part of life for many of us. Groups are gathered to discuss a certain topic and arrive at an outcome. Meetings are scheduled to start at a certain time, and it’s a good idea to arrive on time to them. It shows you are considerate of other people’s time and you’re interested in achieving the outcome that is needed from the meeting.
13 – Take Notes When You Go To Meetings
When you go to meetings, it’s helpful to take notes on the topics that are being discussed. It’s usually up to the person who called the meeting to send out the discussion points and actions after the meeting, but if you’re there as well, taking your own notes can be helpful to remember what was discussed and any other key points.
14 – Choose The Right Communication Method
With the improvements in technology recently, there are a lot of methods that we can use for communicating with others. Emails, phone calls, face to face, SMS, instant messaging, and video calls are examples of communication methods. Each one of them has their pros and cons. Using an appropriate communication method for each situation is a good way to improve the way you do work.
15 – Answer Your Phone In A Professional Manner
Whether you have a personal mobile phone, a work mobile phone, or a phone at your desk, you should answer it in a professional manner. Come up with a greeting that suits you, and is appropriate for people you haven’t met and people who may be more senior in the organisation than you are. A greeting such as “Hello, John speaking” is more appropriate than just a simple “Hello”.
16 – Use A Signature On All Emails
The signature feature of an email is a helpful but often misused area of communication. It should be used to communicate your personal details – name, position, and contact information. Make sure you have one set up in your email provider, and that it is attached to all emails you send. This not only saves you time with ending your emails, it makes it easier for others to contact you.
Ensure you signature is appropriate as well – don’t put large images or funny quotes in there, they don’t achieve anything.
17 – Give Appropriate Names To Your Files
You will probably work with a lot of files in your role. Many of them will be stored on your hard drive or in another document storage area. This might seem self explanatory, but it’s a good idea to give names to your files that make them easy to find and identify. This will help you in the future when looking for a certain file, and also makes them easily identifiable to others when sharing them around.
18 – Don’t Write Long Emails
The email is a common form of communication, but it’s also commonly abused. A lot of the time, emails are written to others that are quite lengthy. It might seem like a good idea to explain everything or put a lot of information in an email, but a lot of the time it is better suited to another form of communication. Try to keep emails shorter and to the point – nobody likes to read a long email. If information needs to be communicated, it might be easier to mention it in person or discuss over the phone.
19 – Think Of Different Ways To Solve Problems
A lot of the work we do in IT is about problem solving. A problem exists with a system, a hardware setup, a business process or a configuration, and it’s up to us to solve it. At first, it might seem easier to go with the first solution that you think of. Try to take some time to come up with alternative solutions, different ways to solve the problem. Discuss them with other people in your team. The best solution may not be the most obvious one, and others can give you ideas on how to solve the problem in a better way.
20 – Think Of Improvements To Current Processes And Systems
One of the main roles of an IT professional is to make improvements to current processes and systems. These improvements are usually devised by the business or by the client, and the IT professionals are the ones that carry out the work. In many cases, due to our technical knowledge and experience, we may be able to come up with other ways to improve processes that others haven’t thought of. This can be due to a fresh look at a current system, or the fact that they may not know that certain things are possible. Coming up with new ways to improve things is a great benefit to a company.
21 – Put Your Phone On Silent
Mobile phones are important to us in this day and age. They form a big part of our lives and our communication with others. They can also be quite a distraction to others, especially when your phone rings and your ringtone is heard around the office. In an effort to reduce the distraction to others, it’s a good idea to put your phone onto silent or vibrate mode during work hours. If it’s near you, you’ll be able to see it when it rings. It won’t distract others nearly as much if they can’t hear the ringtone – and it will be appreciated.
22 – Don’t Joke All The Time
Being friendly and positive around the office is a good thing. Making jokes is a good part of doing this, if you have the ability to make people laugh. However, try not to overuse it. Making too many jokes at work will send the impression you don’t take your work seriously and aren’t doing a good job. It’s good to have a balance, so if you like making jokes in your social life, try to dial it back a bit while at work.
23 – Google Any Issues You Have
We come up against a lot of issues on the job, due to the technical nature of our roles. Creating, debugging, installing, configuring, removing and updating systems or software can be quite difficult at times, and issues can arise when doing this. A good thing to do when you have an issue is to perform a Google search on it, if you’re able to put it into words. There’s a good chance you’re not the first person to have this issue, and a search can often lead you to the solution to the issue. It doesn’t work for all problems, but it can work effectively for many of them.
24 – Prioritise Your Work
A lot of the time, us IT professionals have more work than we can handle. Some of our work gets “lost” or put on hold while we tackle newer tasks. In cases like this, it’s a good idea to set priorities for our work. Speak to your manager, your coworker, and the people who give you the work to determine which is more important. If you’re not sure, your manager should be able to provide some guidance. It helps you be more effective at work and make the right contribution to the company.
25 – Keep The Big Picture In Mind
When at work and doing your day-to-day activities, it can be easy to get caught up in the details. Sometimes it can help to step back and think of the bigger picture. This can help you realise why you’re doing what you’re doing, can help you focus and get motivated, and help you make decisions on what to do and how to do things. IT is supposed to support the business to let them do what they do, so we should be keeping that in mind when we do our work.
26 – Set Goals For Your Career
A great way to enhance your career is to set some goals. Career goals can be short term (less than a year), medium term (one to three years) or long term (more than three years). This can help you define where you’re going and how to get there. Have a think about what you want to achieve in each of these timelines, and what steps you’re going to take to achieve them. It can motivate you in your job and your career.
27 – Create A Task List For Each Day
Writing down what you need to do is a good way to stay productive. Keeping this list updated is important – make a list of what you need to get done for each day to be clear on what needs to be done. You can do this in the morning, or the night before, so when you start your day you have a list of the few things that have to be done. Work your way down this list and you should feel like you’ve had a more productive day.
28 – Make Yourself Known To Other Teams
In some companies, especially the larger ones, it can be hard to get to know other people who work in other teams. A good way of improving your image at work is to make yourself known to other teams. If you see someone you don’t know around the office, say hello to them and get to know them, share what work you do and what team you’re in. If they need to work with you in the future, it will be easier as they know who you are and what you do.
29 – Sign Up For LinkedIn
I’ve mentioned this a few times in older posts, but signing up for the professional networking site LinkedIn is a great way to improve your career. It lets you connect with other professionals, such as current and past coworkers, which is good for finding new roles and helping the role you have at the moment. You can specify your skills and experience, similar to a resume, and it contributes to your overall professional image.
30 – Look Into Getting A Certification
Certifications are a big part of working in the IT industry. Some fields place more relevance and emphasis on them than others – networking, security and administration have a lot of certifications, where as development and testing don’t have as many. They are still important though, as they recognise your knowledge and allow you to learn new things. Think about getting a certification in your chosen field to help advance your career and help you stand out from the others.
31 – Take Initiative To Get Things Done
A lot of the work that we have is given to us by other people, and a lot of the time it isn’t clear what we need to do to get it done. It’s a good idea to take some initiative and find out more information or make some progress in the work you need to do, without having to ask for the next step from your manager. Your manager shouldn’t need to step you through what needs to be done each time – take some of the load off them and try to get it done yourself. Your manager will appreciate it.
32 – Know How To Use Your Computer Very Well
As we work in IT, we should know how to use a computer better than others. Keyboard shortcuts, common tools, different functions inside common applications and how to do certain tasks should be some of the things that we know. Not only does it send a good impression to others, it means we’re able to help out other people who may not know how to do certain things. Knowing how to do certain tasks in Microsoft Word or how to set up your desktop wallpaper settings are just some of the things you can do to help others who don’t know how to do it.
33 – Leave Personal Problems At Home
All of us have things going on outside of our work life. Some of these things may not be going as well as we like, eventuating in personal problems for us. As hard as it can be, try to keep your focus on work while at work and keep the personal problems outside of the office. It sends a better impression to your manager and coworkers if you’re able to handle them. If it’s something more serious, have a quiet word to your manager and mention you’re trying not to let it impact your work.
34 – Maintain A Good Work/Life Balance
It can be tempting sometimes to work more hours than normal, or take your work home with you. This can happen if you really enjoy your job or if you have a lot of work to do. While this may be required occasionally due to project deadlines or other similar cases, making a regular habit of it isn’t usually a good idea. We all need to have a mental break from the work that we do, in order to enjoy the nights and weekends and get into the things we do outside of work. Keeping a healthy balance between your work life and personal life is a good thing to consider.
35 – Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Stupid Questions
Gathering information and working out how to do certain tasks is a big part of our roles in the IT industry. A lot of the time, we need to be able to ask questions to other people. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a “stupid” question. If asking a question helps you avoid a mistake or helps you get something done, it’s a good question. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that you may have asked before, or that may seem stupid, if you’re not sure. It’s better to be sure of the answer than to take a guess and make a mistake.
36 – Work Out How You Spend Your Time
Sometimes the work day can just drag on, and sometimes it can go quickly without you realising it, and you feel like you haven’t got any work done. In cases like this, it can be helpful to look back and work out how your day was spent. Did you have a lot of meetings to go to? Did you have some long phone calls? Did you need to drive to other sites? All of these activities can subtract from the time you have to do your actual work.
37 – Share Good Resources And Websites With Team
While we’re doing our jobs and getting things done, we can sometimes come across helpful resources than make our jobs easier. These could be articles on certain topics, web-based tools or applications to download, any of which can be useful. If you’ve gotten some benefit from them, there’s a good chance others will as well. Share these resources with other team members – whether they use them or not, it’s a good gesture and shows you’re making attempts to improve the way your team works.
38 – Don’t Send Forwards Around The Office
Sending helpful resources to team members is a good thing, but sending “forwards” around the office isn’t such a good idea. These “forwards” are usually funny jokes, stories, or images, that can be entertaining to some people. However, just because you find them funny, it doesn’t mean other people will. It can also be distracting to other people, which doesn’t really help out the team, so overall, it’s not recommended that you do this.
39 – Follow Up With Others
Some of the work that you do requires input or decisions from others. The first step you take might be to ask them for some input or to send something to them. A lot of the time, they forget about it or don’t get a chance to do it. Just because you’ve sent it to them, it doesn’t mean they will always get back to you. Follow up with the other person – call them, speak to them, or email them, to find out what the status is with what you asked them about. This can help get things done faster and removes any confusion about who needs to do the work.
40 – Be Friendly To Others, Even If You Don’t Work With Them
A part of being professional in the office is being friendly with other people. This applies to all people, even the ones you don’t work directly with. This could be people in other teams, other departments, or even service staff like receptionists, delivery people or cleaners. Showing respect and friendliness to others will send a good impression and make you seem like someone who is good to work with.
41 – Don’t Gossip Around The Office
It can be tempting in some situations to gossip about other people – speak about people when they are not there, whether it is about work related issues or not. Try not to get involved in this if other people are doing it – it isn’t very productive. Also, try not to instigate any gossip discussions either. Speaking about others when they are not there is fine, but if there are any issues with other people or team members, it’s better to handle them rather than speak negatively about them to others.
42 – Let People Know When You Will Have Things Done By – Under Promise, Over Deliver
One of the best tips I’ve heard is the concept of “under promise, over deliver”. This involves letting people know when you will have something done by, often in a longer time that it will take. This means when you do get it done, it’s sooner than when they were expecting it, which makes you look good. It is also important that the work is good quality. Doing more work, by going above and beyond what they have asked for, is also a good way to improve this and send a good impression to the person who you’re helping.
43 – Help Out Your Team Members
Being able to work in a team is an important part of being an IT professional. Sometimes your team members will need help with the work they are doing. It’s a good idea to help them out, if they ask for it. You can also offer to help them out if they seem like they are under pressure and could use an extra hand. They will be grateful for this and your manager will appreciate it as well.
44 – Don’t Whine About Other Team Members
This point is similar to gossiping about others, but is more focused on your direct team and the work that they do. If you have issues with what other people in your team are doing (or what they aren’t doing), try not to complain about them to other team members. This can cause other problems and can divide the team. If you have an issue with another team member, mention it to your manager in a private conversation and they can take the appropriate action.
45 – Bring Solutions Along With Problems When Reporting Them
When you have a problem with something you’re working on, or something that has happened, it’s a good idea to report it to your manager. Something that can help this process is to try to bring along a solution with the problem. Mentioning the problem, along with a possible solution, can be easier to discuss with your manager. If you don’t have a solution, mention some options for things that can be done, or at least give an update on what is happening. Any of these will be appreciated by your manager, and are more helpful than just mentioning the problem.
46 – Ask Other Team Members For Help
One of the advantages of working in a team is the ability to utilise other team members’ skills and experiences. If you run into a problem or have difficulty with something that you’re doing, don’t be afraid to ask others for help. You can speak to other team members, or to your manager, if you’re stuck on something and are unable to proceed. They will hopefully be happy to help , and will make the team perform better if you’re not stuck.
47 – Say Good Morning And Goodbye To Co-workers
This is a simple tip, but saying good morning to people when you arrive at work is an easy way to be friendly and positive around others. Even if they don’t say good morning back all the time, the fact you said it and acknowledged them is important. Similarly, saying goodbye when you leave is advisable and makes you seem more friendly.
48 – Reduce Interruptions To Co-workers
A good way of making sure your team works as efficiently as possible is to reduce the distractions that they are affected by. You can do this by not playing music at your computer, putting your phone on silent, not speaking loudly on the phone, and just being considerate overall when working near other people. If other people are distracted by some of the things that you do, it doesn’t give a good impression of you and doesn’t make the team work as well as it could.
49 – Think Twice About Who You CC On Emails
Emails are easy ways to send information to others, but can be misused. The use of the To and CC fields is often done inappropriately, meaning emails are sent to people who don’t need to see them. A lot of the time, people fill up the CC field with anyone who they know that may be involved in the subject. There is almost always more people involved on an email that need to be. The only people that should be in the To field are the people that the email is addressed to, and the CC field should only contain people who are directly involved or impacted by an email. Keeping the list small helps to reduce inbox clutter.
50 – Know Your Manager’s Goals
A good way to improve the way you work and to help get things done is to be aware of your manager’s goals. They will have goals and targets that they have created and that have been provided to them by their managers. This should drive the work that you do. If you help to achieve your manager’s goals, such as reducing system defects or meeting deadlines, it makes them look good to their managers, and they will be grateful for it.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Do you have any other career tips for IT professionals? Share them in the comment section below!