Secret to IT Success Revealed

 In TCM Post

Now that you got motivated and did something, reality check: There is no “Easy Button.” You really have to work hard.

Let me repeat it: You. Really. Have to. Work. Hard.

Your level of effort defines your career development and your level of “success” in the IT Industry. This effort WILL be proportional to your results, and… it takes time. As in months and years. Let me elaborate.

Neither a job nor success will land in your lap just because you are “smart.” I understand you are a driven, passionate individual. Overnight success is a myth. Hollywood Stars and Professional Athletes who seem to come out of nowhere have spent YEARS working on their craft before they “make it” to the big time.

You are here reading this blog about how to improve your career and have a better life, so you have done something. That’s GREAT! You have “worked”… a little extra. But it’s going to take a lot more than that! I will explain further.

What Are You Talking About Nick?
For those of you in school, graduating, or looking for your first job, you are going to have to work very hard on your resume, LinkedIn profile and professional network, and your job finding and interview skills. Your primary objective is going to be landing your first job. You can’t just sit back and create an Indeed or Monster account and cold-spam resumes and keep your fingers crossed.

For those of you with several years’ experience, working hard is the amount of value that you are adding to your organization. If you are meeting expectations, then you will receive basic expectations, but you have to work harder (and smarter) than everyone else to advance and move up. The more value you add to your boss and your company the more valuable you become.

For those who have been around for a while but are struggling with what’s next, you’re going to have to work hard on your profile and the soft skills that get you from one position to another, or up the management chain. The same skills that “got you here, won’t get you there” (Goldsmith).

So, HOW…. How do you “work hard?”
“Crush It!” (Vaynerchuk), is a great book to introduce you to the concept. You and I can begin by analyzing where you spend your time. Far too often I hear “I don’t have enough time in the day.” This statement is total and utter B.S. I catch the people that tell me this wasting time on a multitude of useless activities. I see questions on Reddit all the time from people that are spending too much time playing video games and posting on Reddit about it, then hopping over to the /ITCareerQuestions Sub and asking questions like, “I keep getting overlooked for promotion. What am I doing wrong?”

Be honest with yourself, and grab your notebook (this is my favorite notebook) and write out what you plan to do, every day. Then at the end of the day, write out what you did during the day. Optimizing your time will get you started on the right track to working harder because you’re working smarter. Now that you have a plan (from the last article) and your daily schedule will decide WHAT you’ll do with your new-found spare time.

Ok Nick, so what can I do?
If you’re starting out, you need experience. So get it. Sign up for an AWS Free Tier account and get started. The AWS Free Tier is not only a great way to learn AWS, but IT in general, and for FREE. What’s better than that? I could write an entire article on this. You can also identify vital Professional Certifications in your area of expertise (A+ and Security+ are no-brainers), to obtain them to add that skill to your resume. You can also find opportunities in your local area, such as volunteering to manage the website of an organization that you actively participate.

If you’ve been working for a while and don’t seem to be making much progress, find a way to help at your current job. Have a good conversation with your boss and ask her what you can do to add value to the organization. Ask her what it takes to get a promotion. Make sure she knows you want to improve and help out. Then do it. Work late if you have to on “special projects” for your boss or your boss’ boss.

For those that have job experience, these first two points may seem obvious. If they aren’t, start with those suggestions. If you have spent your time learning and you have asked for special projects, and you’re still not getting anywhere, the first thing you may want to do is find a new job. If you are indeed adding value to your organization and nobody recognizes it, or they do, but there’s nowhere for you to go, then it’s time to move on.

Finally, BOOKS, read books! Lots and lots of books!! (& Podcasts)
Pickup books not only on IT subjects you may be interested in, or you are training for, but books on work ethic, time management, success in life. Inspirational books about entrepreneurship can help you get motivated and work harder. Instead of binge-watching Netflix and YouTube, spend some of that time reading books that will elevate your career. If you must be stuck on your phone, listen to some value-add Podcasts.

Some of my favorite inspirational books are from Silicon Valley startup stories and entrepreneurs. I hope these books can be as inspirational for you as they were for me:

“How to Read a Book” – Adler and Van Doren
The first book I read recently (over the last five years of my career) that helped me understand more by organizing my thoughts. Friends and family that see this on my shelf make fun of me, but if you have poor book-reading habits as I did, this book can establish new good habits:

“Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence—and How You Can, Too” – G Vaynerchuk
This book is a motivational primer for the digital age. Buy it. Watch his YouTube videos (GaryVee). Listen to his podcast.

“4hr Work Week” – T Ferriss
You have to read this to understand what he means, and then it’s like being born again! It’s not about only working for 4 hours a week and sipping Mai Tais on the beach. It’s about spending your valuable time in a very efficient manner and on the things that YOU want to do. I owe Tim and this book a lot as far as motivation to start this TCM effort. Tim’s podcast is phenomenal.

“Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual” – J Willink
Arguably the most badas$ Navy Seal on the planet, Jocko delivers pure motivation in his book. Even though I started this TCM “project” a couple of years ago, I’ve struggled with roadblocks and indecision. Jocko motivated me to continue my goal of getting healthy, eating well, and working out. Imagine a drill instructor yelling at you. A smart one who also happens to be your cousin, so he cares about you. Fantastic read.

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – S Covey
This book helped synthesize the lessons from Tim Ferriss from a different source. Also set in stone what is now my repetitive lesson during mentoring of advising folks to create habits across their professional and personal lives.

“The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” – J Maxwell
Maxwell lays down his “laws” of leadership, using well-known names such as McDonald’s and U.S. Presidents as examples of how to become a great leader. These lessons not only helped me lead when I first started growing my IT teams, but have remained as I start my business.

“The Magic of Thinking Big” – D Schwartz
A classic motivational primer. Stuck in a rut? Down on your luck? Schwartz will dig you out and help steer you onto the right track. The primary idea I took from this book was to have a positive attitude no matter the struggle.

“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” – M Goldsmith
A collection of tips that made me think about my behavior as an executive and how I had to act as I progressed through my career. Useful for those looking for the promotion as well as those recently promoted.

“Management” – P Drucker
The classic text. Some say it is outdated, but there are timeless lessons in this book for both employees and managers. We say “manage up”… this will help you understand the decisions us managers think about concerning our employees.

“CIO Wisdom” – D Lane
A collection of essays that helped me when I was promoted to Director of IT and had to start thinking more strategically. Also helped when I engaged with customers, making sure I focused on organizational results.

That’s a lot of books Nick!!! Not really, but I know what you are saying. Pick one book and read one chapter, right now! One small step at a time.

And there’s the big secret. You have to work hard, every day. Day in. Day out. It’s that easy!

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