5 skills to boost your career in IT (and how to build them)

Each day, advances in technology go by faster, and the risk of obsolescence is ever more threatening.

If the risk of new products and services becoming irrelevant wasn’t enough, that same risk occurs to people trying to build their skills and make themselves noticed by employers in all types of companies.

That can be intensified in the IT market, due to it being the center of technology advances and this very culture of agility and adaptation.

Fortunately, there are some skills - both soft and hard - that could help you thrive the ever more dynamic labor market, and make you stand out in selection processes so you can succeed in building the IT career of your dreams.

Curiosity (i.e. reading A LOT)

If there’s one thing all of the great leaders in tech (or any market area, for that matter) have in common, it’s the habit of voraciously reading.

One of the most successful tech entrepreneurs of all time, Bill Gates even has his own personal blog[1] of book that he has read and recommend. Another tech giant, Mark Zuckerberg, posted in his personal profile on Facebook in 2015 that his goal for the year was to read and recommend a new book every two weeks (apart from running the biggest social network on the globe and pursuing other challenges).

There’s no doubt that reading is important, but most people get caught on social media and other distractions and fail to read even one book a year.

The good news is: reading is an accessible activity and can easily become a habit.

The tip here is to set a small goal of daily reading. As little as “reading 5 pages of a book a day for a week” is enough to start building this enriching habit. With time, you’ll get used to reading more, so then you can set more ambitious goals, such as a reading list for a month or a year.

Networking and communication

There’s this stigma that programmers and other tech professionals are shy and prefer to work alone.

This may be true in films and series, but in the real world, any professional that wishes to succeed in their careers must know how to communicate with other people and to build strong networks.

The saying “if you want to walk fast, go alone; if you want to walk far, go together” is a kind of mantra that can inspire you to build meaningful relationships with coworkers and stakeholders, trading favors in order to create win-win situations that take you and those people where you want to go.

Practicing this skill is easier than it seems: instead of just scrolling down your favorite social media, why don’t you comment a compliment or tip to someone in your feed?

You can also schedule to have a coffee, lunch or dinner with someone you haven’t spoke in a while, and ask them if they need any help you can provide.

Diversifying your knowledge and practising

This is most important when building the hard skills necessary to undertake complex tasks and jobs.

We are used to seeking knowledge on the internet, but search services and networks have complex algorithms that limit the reach of your researches and can make you learn based on biased and repetitive content.

You must be aware of that limitation to surpass it and manage to access different sources of content and knowledge.

And, once you’ve researched from those different sources, take the time to read, study, meditate and practice what you learned.

It’s impossible to become an expert in something you just learned about and haven’t tried to put in practice for your context and constraints. For instance, you can read the whole documentation on Python programming and consider yourself an expert, but expertise can only be built via actual programming hours.

Humility

Since a number of people consider good IT professionals to be gold nuggets - that is, rare and valuable -, most IT professionals are hired as heroes: they come to dictate what needs to be done, how it will be done and how their presence can save the business.

That being said, it’s easy to find arrogant professionals who think they know everything and consider themselves, in fact, heroes.

Little do these people know that the most valuable professionals are the ones who look at their own knowledge with humility and an ever-existing willingness to learn more.

Great leaders are the ones who can gather a lot of people who know more than them and create synergy so those people can work on building solutions the world needs.

To be able to connect with people who know more than you, you should first of all recognize that you know little and then reach out to other people who can teach you and help you improve.

This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked by most people. That overlooking happens because we become greedy and competitive, and that makes us close to interactions and to show our vulnerabilities.

Seek your personal passion

It’s hard to be happy and successful when working with something you don’t like. And it may be even harder to find something that you love doing and that people will pay you to do it.

But when you are starting, you have the chance to develop your skills and your whole career oriented by what you enjoy doing.

So, before asking yourself “Where can I work (and how can I land a job there)?”, start by asking “What do I like to do and how could this be put into my career?”.

You can use these questions to reflect in different moments of your career, and finding meaning in your day-to-day activities.

Perhaps you’ll get to the conclusion that you need to switch lanes in what you are seeking, or you’ll find meaning in what you are already doing by looking to yourself from a different perspective.

The important thing is to keep your awareness on so your find fulfillment in your career.

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These are a few basic skills you can start working on today, so you improve your results in the career you wish to build.

Of course, each of those skills can be discussed deeply, and other skills are too important to succeed, but you gotta start somewhere.

Feel free to comment on your doubts, perceptions and feedbacks.

Author: Augusto Nogueira 

References 

[1] https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books

[2] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-digital-future-of-work-what-skills-will-be-needed

[3] https://www.accenture.com/us-en/blogs/blogs-careers/career-tips-for-building-todays-tech-skills

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