IT careers: 5 ways to get out of a rut

Feeling stuck in your IT job? Consider this advice to improve your outlook and move your IT career forward
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IT careers 2020

IT career ruts happen for many reasons. If you’re feeling stuck, it may have to do with your workplace culture, or with the person you see in the mirror every day. Routine work can lead to boredom. At the same time, workplace pressures may create a sense of fear, so performing tasks is no longer enjoyable and rewarding as survival instincts take over and the fear of losing a job outweighs everything else.

The combination of fear and boredom often leads to a feeling of inertia in your career. You might find it difficult to take on new challenges due to a fear of coming up short.

Some people have a mistaken belief in The Peter Principle, which posits that in an organizational hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence. This outlook is misguided. Most people can become competent in their positions, even if they are bored. The good news? You have the ability to make lasting changes.

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5 ways to speed IT career progress 

Here are five strategies to help you get out of your career rut.

1. Set new personal goals

Your value to any organization is based on the significance of what you do – so take stock of where you are and set fresh personal goals to help drive you forward. Rather than trying to force a change, take time to reflect on what possibilities can emerge from your current situation and set a goal to realize them. You may discover that these goals are not so difficult to achieve. When you get started, add small, easily attainable targets so that you can build momentum and get your juices flowing again.

[ Want more IT career advice? Read IT careers: 3 key skills for remote jobs. ]

2. Expand your network

It’s easy to fall into a slump if you operate in a silo. While social distancing has been the norm for many in IT lately, that does not mean contact with people should suffer. In the IT workspace, networking is no longer optional – it’s necessary. Attending virtual and physical events connects you with people who can not only provide great opportunities in the future but also help with your current situation.

Need advice on career growth? You probably know someone who can help. A reputable organization is looking for a new cybersecurity lead – great, you can call the person you met at a peer-to-peer event. Having a diverse range of contacts enables you to pursue future opportunities as well as be a resource for others.

Try a more interpersonal approach to networking.

Try a more interpersonal approach to networking: Instead of simply emailing people, drop by their office or make a video call. Broaden your reach – you never know who might someday offer you exactly what you need.

3. Don't limit yourself to a specific career path

When you started your IT career you may have had the perfect plan or trajectory in mind. However, even the best plans get derailed by challenges and distractions. In reality, few people end up sticking to a single designated career path, so don’t judge yourself harshly if you have deviated from that path. Even if you get the “right” job, it may not be the right one for you. Instead, focus on finding what fits you best and realize that when that is your priority, you will thrive.

4. Always look to solve problems

Problems are inevitable. When they happen, make a conscious effort to take them on and provide solutions.

For example, if system faults are causing you to work long hours, don’t simply complain about them. Instead, say “This system has a potential problem, but I’ve done some background work and it appears that this change would fix it.” Problem solvers are valued in every field – especially a complex one like IT.

5. Acquire new skills

If you feel that you’ve hit a wall in your current position, it might be time to start learning new skills to improve your value in the IT marketplace. Pursuing educational opportunities or professional certifications through industry associations such as ISACA can go a long way to help you stand out with your current employer, look more attractive to prospective employers, or even enable you to run your own business. If cost is a barrier, there are plenty of free online learning resources available to IT professionals that are easily accessible.

[ What skills are most valuable now? Read also: Open source IT jobs in 2021: 15 statistics. ]

I hope these strategies help lift you out of that career slump and move forward. Remember: You are the engine that propels the vehicle of your career.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Sampa David Sampa, CISA, is regional senior IT auditor at World Vision and a member of the ISACA Emerging Trends Working Group. An information technology professional with more than a decade of experience in private, public, and nonprofit sectors, Sampa previously worked in IT audit and technology roles at EY and the Office of the Auditor General of Zambia.