After more than 30 years as an IT professional, I find it interesting that while a lot has changed, some things remain the same. Here's some advice I'd like to offer to those starting out in their careers.
A couple years ago, I experienced an exceptional milestone in my life. My son graduated from college and started his first job as an information technology professional -- the very same path that I started nearly 30 years ago. Things have certainly changed over the years (computers have gotten a LOT smaller, for one thing) -- and this past year alone has been full of stress and uncertainty. But as I reflect on both this past year and the milestone my son and family experienced a couple years before, I am reminded that there are some lessons learned in IT that will always be true, no matter if you're working on landline telephones or the latest microchips. Here are some I can share from my own experience.
Focus on Your Passion
One of the things that I wish I had known earlier in my career is that finding your passion is the most crucial part of the job. Don't misunderstand me -- finding your passion doesn't mean that you'll be doing what you love every day. It's about finding a company, industry, or role that you believe can make a difference.
Working in IT is challenging. You'll have hard deadlines to meet, clients to impress, customers to help -- and working nights, weekends and holidays are all an inevitability in most jobs. However, the thing that will push you through it and make it all worthwhile is if you're passionate about the work you do. How can you tell if you're passionate about a company or an industry?
According to research from BioSpace, employees who are passionate about what they do are happier and more productive.
Don’t Chase Money
As your career progresses and you get calls for more senior positions and opportunities, you'll need to be clear about your values. Life isn't just about making a few extra thousand dollars. If you’re doing your best and making a difference, the money will come to you -- there’s no need to chase it.
Ethics are Everything
Passion without ethics is dangerous. Keeping your values at the forefront of your career (and your life) is essential to success, and not just your success. Of course, it's necessary to keep your values at the center when you're progressing your career, but those values become even more critical when you become a manager.
When you become a manager, you have to think about not only your career but also the career of another person. It will be your responsibility to make sure that the people you manage learn, grow, prosper, and likely move on. It's vital to do this with respect and honor. We are all people. The job title isn't about just what you do, it's about who you are.
At the beginning of your career, think to yourself -- what kind of person do you want to be? Do you want to be known as someone successful who gets things done? As someone who always does the right thing, no matter what? As you move into managerial roles, personal branding is essential, and I find that some of the best managers are the ones who have taken the time to think about who they want to be in the workplace.
Always Keep Learning
You’re never going to know everything, and if you accept this at the beginning of your career, you’ll go far. IT is constantly changing. You're always going to have to work to stay on top of the latest technology development trends and innovations. What do I mean when I say stay on top of trends?
See Failure as A Growth Opportunity
You are going to make mistakes, and making those mistakes is okay. No one is good at something the first time. The mistakes you make don't define who you are, but it's the reactions to those mistakes that can predict the success you'll see in your career. A recent article from Forbes beautifully outlines why you should see failure as an opportunity:
Never forget that failure is a huge opportunity to show up and try again.
The takeaways? First, listen. Second, don't be afraid to take risks. And, above all, find something that makes you want to go to work in the morning. Everything else will fall into place.
Jeff Fields is CIO and VP for SERVPRO, a role he has held since 2012, where he manages and mentors the technology team, leads SERVPRO’s technology development projects, and provides technical oversight of the company’s products and services. His prior CIO assignments were at National Council Compensation Insurance, SafeAuto Insurance Company and Magazines.com. Jeff earned his Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He also completed Executive education at Stanford University, with a focus on e-commerce.The InformationWeek community brings together IT practitioners and industry experts with IT advice, education, and opinions. We strive to highlight technology executives and subject matter experts and use their knowledge and experiences to help our audience of IT