Finding the right job may not always be that easy. For IT and cybersecurity professionals who are searching for a new job, or would just like to hang onto their current one, there are steps you can take to improve your job position. Whether you’re looking to get better at your job or advance up the ranks of your organization, these tips are aimed at you!
1. Never stop learning
While companies don’t always have the ability to keep up with the ever-changing pace of IT, they often need to make leaps of knowledge and skills to catch up in the marketplace. You want to be instrumental in those leaps. You want to be able to provide knowledge, skills and abilities to your employer so that they will use or promote from within, rather than hiring someone new or bring in a consultant. Learning at your own pace has never been easier.
There is a wealth of knowledge through online text and video sources available to everyone. Also, look into your local library, college career center, or your employer’s HR services—you might find free access to commercial book and education services as well as free or discounted benefits based on continued education opportunities.
2. Make yourself irreplaceable
Too many workers do just enough to get the job done so they can head home at 4:59. They see work as the thing they do just to get back to doing what they want. You need a change of attitude and purpose. You need to go beyond just performing your job duties. Learn all that you can about how the company operates. Build relationships with other employees (and not just those in your department). Offer to do more work, take on special projects, be a team player, and always consider the company in regard to each of your projects.
3. Know the goals of your employer
Every organization exists for a reason. Those reasons are often expressed as mottos, goals or policies. Once you know your employer’s goals, figure out how your job and your responsibilities align with those goals. Then set priorities so that you are working toward helping the organization achieve their objectives. If you are not sure how to help achieve company goals, ask. Presenting your supervisor with a short list of your assigned tasks or projects and request guidance in regards to priorities and criticality will let them know that you are cognizant of the company’s goals.
4. Provide updates and reports even when not required
Keeping your manager, boss or supervisor informed of both your work progress and impediments—to your work as well as the company’s goals in general—is a solid means to be viewed as indispensable. However, don’t overdo it and become an annoyance. Focus on quick-to-the-point updates, likely by email or other preferred internal communication service, on a weekly or monthly basis. Consider including two to five points about your specific work tasks and two to five points about organization-wide issues. If you are pointing out problems, then consider offering a few suggestions (especially if you can be the key provider of the solution). This practice demonstrates to your employer that you are not just a heads-down employee, but that you pay attention to how you fit into the overall structure of the organization and you care about its continued success.
5. Admit when you don’t know something and be open to figuring it out
Basically, be humble. Avoid the prideful approach of always demanding that you are right. Be quick to admit fault or when you lack knowledge. Then either offer a suggestion to resolve the issue or ask for help to address the situation. Be flexible. Be mature. Take responsibility. Use mistakes, oversights or identified areas of ignorance as signs of obviousness that you need to focus more, learn more or practice more to improve in that area (see step number 1).
6. Attempt to overdeliver
Figure out how to make the company better or enable the organization to meet or fulfill its goals faster, efficiently and cheaper with every project or task you work on. Try to accomplish 10% more than required or expected. Show your bosses that you are more valuable to them than they first expected. Make them proud to have you as an employee.
7. Always be on time
STOP BEING LATE. Always be at work at least 15 minutes before your start time. Always be in the room for a meeting before the meeting lead or boss. Always complete your tasks before the deadline.
8. Provide assistance to co-workers
Help yourself solidify your job position by helping others. Don’t be selfish. Help a co-worker with a tedious task. Ask if you can take on some or all of a project from someone else. Be gracious to help others resolve problems or teach them a new skill or technique. Be generous with your knowledge and time. If you help your co-workers, this will reflect positively on you when the boss needs a new team lead, is handing out promotions, or wants to use you as a good example for others. Be the best co-worker possible.
9. Do one task at a time, do it well, complete it, then move on to the next task
Stop trying to multitask. You can’t. Your brain needs time to shift between task context and it slows you down. So, mute your notifications, put aside the distractions and learn how to focus. Use your priority task list (from step number 3) and start working on the first item. You might need to shift tasks and topics throughout the day, but still only work on one item at a time. Juggling will cause you to produce lesser quality work and take longer to complete assignments. If you can work to completion of a task, this will provide a sense of accomplishment that will further fuel you as you start to tackle the next task.
10. Pay attention
Pay attention. Look around. Read all the company memos, emails and announcements. Listen to the content of meetings and to what other workers have to say (whether on a project or on a break). You want to develop a company-wide situational awareness. Know where you are in relation to the other elements of the organization and how your work fits into the grand scheme of the company. This will help you learn how to do better work toward achieving company goals and advancing the organization. This will also assist you in being a better team and group member. You’ll even become more aware when other workers need assistance that you can provide.
I’m sure most of these steps seem like common sense, but it is amazing how often workers fail to consider these foundational ideas. To improve your job position as a cybersecurity or IT professional, you have to focus, develop a plan and follow through with that plan. The steps in this article are often key to accomplishing the personal goals in your career.