Awhile back, a CIO tweeted this all-too-familiar complaint about his job: “It’s hard to be strategic with your pants on fire.”
But it’s really hard to think strategically when you’re unemployed or under employed. And any IT staffing firm will tell you that they’ve seen more than one case of a talented IT manager who wound up out of a job because they couldn’t juggle the many competing priorities and pressures that are part and parcel of today’s IT staffing.
Everyone within IT is being asked to do their job within the pressure of today’s always-on global economy – and we’re all being asked to do it while keeping our skills up to date, staying on top of developments within the industry, and keeping costs to a minimum. It’s no wonder that committing career suicide is easier than ever!
Regardless of where you fit within your IT organization, here are some tips that will help you avoid career suicide, and keep you among the ranks of the indispensible the next time someone things about cutting staff. They aren’t easy, and some of them are downright hard. But the more of these attitudes and attributes you can master, the more indispensible you become, whether you work within an enterprise IT department or through an IT staffing firm that provides consultants and project-centered solutions.
Stay Calm, and Carry On
Strategic thinking and action requires a calm and static environment – and few would claim that an enterprise IT department is either calm or static. But most of the time, it’s your attitude, not your environment, that determines how calm you remain when the pressure is on.
If you want to gain credibility with top management, and be seen by your peers as indispensible to the growth, innovation, and success of the IT department, maintaining an outwardly calm presence is a big step in the right direction. This doesn’t mean being a doormat, who takes on the impossible to avoid making waves. It means proposing an alternative solution that achieves the goal, and presenting your ideas calmly, clearly, and concisely. It also means staying away from the epicenter of your department’s gossip and drama queens.
Join the Social/Mobile Revolution
Social media and mobile technologies and processes are changing the way companies communicate with employees and customers, monitor their brand, and sell products and services. If your skills aren’t up-to-the-minute in these technologies, sign up for the next workshop or class – even if you have to pay for it yourself, and give up your free time to do it.
Sure, there may be tactical problems with security or infrastructure, but it’s a certainty that those tactical problems won’t be allowed to slow the adoption of new technologies. So don’t earn the stigma associated with being the person who makes objections – become the person who helps solve the problem, and offers a way to move ahead. The person who offers choices and solutions will always be valued – while the one trying to hold back the surge because of well-intentioned concerns is likely to be first on the chopping block.
Think Like a Business Manager
IT managers and staff tend to think about their jobs in terms of technology. They’ll talk about how many technically sophisticated, complex, projects they’ve completed. The highest paying IT jobs, however, go to rock stars who combine technical skills with business insights. The higher you rank within your IT department’s org chart, the truer it is. No matter how dependable your skills and work is, if you lack the ability to see where your company and industry are headed, and how technology can help it get there, then you’re limiting your future.
The key is to be able to stay on top of the technology, and helping your company achieve its goals by harnessing technology. The secret is a vision that keeps you aware of the “big picture” – not just keeping the hardware running while those with a broader vision make decisions that you wind up implementing.