We all know that feeling of stagnation at work. Whether you’re feeling a little bored, under-utilized, or just hoping to learn some new skills, you are not alone.

Ivanti recently hosted a webinar with our CISO Phil Richards and COO of Emagined Security, Paul Underwood, where they gave expert advice on how to move up the career ladder. Both Phil and Paul shared stories from their careers and awesome advice on IT career progression.

Here are 10 tips from our webinar to help you get a better job in IT.

1. Change Your Perception

Many IT professionals find themselves stuck in a role, seen as a specific type of person in a specific role. This tough situation happens especially on small teams where you may not see a clear career path or opportunity for growth.

“Small teams can only be a pigeonhole for somebody if they believe it is a pigeonhole. You can learn a lot on a small team. There is an endless opportunity for those with new ideas. Show your employer what you can do. Find opportunities to increase the corporation’s bottom line, where you can expand skills within the organization, where you can provide a gap of something that’s currently not being done in that company,” Paul said.

2. Make a Goal

It sounds cliché but sitting down and thinking about your goals and exactly where you want to go is crucial to the career progression process. Write down your goals so you can hold yourself accountable to them.

“Figure out what you are good at or what you could potentially be good at. Ask yourself the question, ‘Where do I see myself in five years?’,” Paul said.

3. Invest in Yourself

Early on in his career, Phil found himself in the common situation where he didn’t see a lot of opportunity for growth; he felt pigeonholed in a small piece of IT. As a result, he spent nights and weekends studying to get different security certifications in order to increase his skill set.

“You have to make the assumption that nobody is going to just give you the perfect job. You have to go in and earn it,” Phil said.

4. Specialize

With more people entering the IT industry, it is important to identify what your passion is and make it a strength. For Phil, he looks for IT professionals who don’t just have a degree from an accredited school with an IT program—he’s also looking for applicable certifications based on the specialization the candidate is interested in.

“If your resume just says: ‘I do a lot of general things and everything is kind of cool, I can do whatever you need,’ what hiring managers are assuming is ‘You can’t do anything that I need.’ Specialization is crucial,” Phil said.

5. Develop Your Soft Skills

Soft skills such as communication, writing, and creativity are just as crucial in IT as technical skills. Paul mentioned how often he sees IT professionals choosing to communicate through chat or email – nonverbal methods. These methods are great, but he often saw a day or two of back and forth via email for problems that could be solved almost immediately face-to-face.

“I was very quiet was I was younger. It took me years of learning and practicing to gain the confidence to speak. Practice really engaging with the emails you write and conversations you have. Every time will get easier,” Paul said.

6. Learn to Problem Solve

Learn to be a problem solver instead of a roadblock-thrower. Managers and executives aren’t looking for people to bring them problems, they want to be brought a solution to a problem.

“Throwing up a roadblock is saying ‘You can’t do this because of X.’ Solving a problem says, ‘Well, there’s X in the way, let’s figure out how we can get around it or how we can make sure that doesn’t become a reason why we can’t solve the problem.’ It’s a perspective change and it’s a critical skill,” Phil said.

7. Develop an Understanding of the Business and Processes

One of the major skills gaps that Paul and Phil identified in IT is the lack of understanding of the business and processes. The see many IT professionals who don’t understand how to tie IT processes to business objectives. Another piece of that is not understanding the theory behind processes.

“We have a lot of processes in place at our organization, regardless of the technical environment that you’re working in. And having an understanding of the theory or the reasons behind what you’re doing is extremely important,” Phil said.

8. Take a Risk

If you’ve picked a specialty, invested in yourself, and worked to grow in a company, but are still struggling to progress in your career, it might be time to look for new opportunities. Phil has also experienced this tough decision, after a few years of working hard to progress in a company that he wasn’t seeing much opportunity in, he made the choice to leave.

“You have to be willing to put yourself out there, leave the comfortable job in order for something a little bit more aligned with where you want to go long-term. Invest in yourself and take some risk, and you may find yourself exactly where you need to be,” Phil said.

9. Stay Connected

There are a lot of publications and conferences that can keep you connected to the latest and greatest in the IT world. From an IT security perspective, Phil recommends Black Hat, DEF CON, and the SANS events. For those on a budget, Paul recommends MIS and CSI training institutes that are a little less expensive.

They recommend Krebs on Security, WhiteHat Security, CSO Online, and our very own Ivanti blog.

Outside of those, Paul recommends utilizing professional networks, like groups in LinkedIn.

“In general, cultivate a network of professionals in your field as friends, sponsors, or mentors. They can help you stay current. I can’t tell you how often I hear about industry news from LinkedIn,” Phil said.  

10. Avoid Burnout

We’ve all experienced burnout. Burnout can often be a trigger that it is time to shake things up. Go get some additional certifications, start looking for additional opportunities, and change your environment. “In the end, you are in control here. Burnout is not going to resolve itself because somebody else gives you a job. It’s going to happen because you change your focus and approach the kind of things you want to do at work,” Phil said.

Along with that, decide what’s important to you in terms of your free time and work life balance. “Find time to unplug. Don’t answer emails on vacation. Set an expectation that there are certain times you are unavailable,” Paul said.

Ivanti is hosting a webinar about this very topic in May. We’ll be diving into the rigors of the job by spotlighting IT and mental health. We’ll talk about work life balance, the pressure of IT, and give more detailed advice on how to manage the stress of IT.

If you are itching to move up the career ladder, hopefully the advice from the webinar and this blog was useful. At Ivanti, we’re all about the value in unifying your IT processes and department. And we hope that if you’re the person to bring that value, you’ll earn a better job in IT.

dreaming of moving up the corporate ladder?