How to Avoid 5 IT Career Missteps

Even if you aren't currently looking for a job, both errors of omission and errors of commission can come back to haunt when you are looking for a new position or gunning for that promotion. Here are five common career-limiting mistakes IT pros make.

Just because you've landed that dream job or gotten that promotion doesn't mean you can rest on your laurels. It's just as important to keep working on the skills, values and goals that helped land you that job in the first place, even after you've been hired. Chris Duchesne, vice president of global workplace solutions at Care.com, offers his five top tips for avoiding career missteps.

1. Don't Stop Networking

Networking can be a crucial part of any job search, but don't quit once you're hired, Duchesne says. Continuing to build strong business connections, and taking care of the relationships you already have, is critical for future success, he says. And don't neglect networking and relationship-building within your own organization, he adds.

"Most people think of networking as something you do to build connections outside their workplace," Duchesne says. "But networking within your own company with other departments, other business units, and the like is just as important," he says. Networking within your organization can help you gain visibility and contribute to your reputation as a team player who wants to make an impact across the whole business, not just in their position, he says.

2. Drive Your Own Destiny

Duchesne says it's important to take control of your own career path and avoid getting complacent. Too many people depend on their manager or boss to set the tone and the direction for their career path. He advises being proactive when asking for assignments and responsibilities, and make sure you and your manager are on the same page as far as your career goals and direction.

Career Mistakes

3. Create a Five-Year Plan

To that end, Duchesne says, create and maintain a five-year plan. When you started out in your career, it's likely you had a five-year plan, he says. You should make sure to keep that plan fresh; constantly updating and refreshing that plan and reviewing goals and achievements can help make sure you're on track. It's much easier to make career decisions, Duchesne says, when you have a solid plan laid out.

"For myself, personally, I'm focused on new business development, but that hasn't always been the case. At a previous position, he says, he was in a position with responsibility for existing client service delivery, but made sure to explicitly ask for responsibility for new business development roles.

"I told my managers I wanted to drive and generate new revenue, even though I was focused on existing client service delivery. So I found every opportunity to talk to sales mangers, executives, and eventually began to transition to roles within sales and then parlayed that into a sales management opportunity," he says.

4. Keep Social Media Profiles Professional

It should be a no-brainer, but some of the biggest, most common career missteps take place on social media, even by professional public relations pros. As the lines between personal and professional get more and more blurred, you must remember to keep all public interaction professional. Never post anything you wouldn't want a boss or prospective employer to see, Duchesne says, and always assume that, no matter how strict your privacy settings are, that your post will be seen.

"People do extensive research on these sites before they hire you," Duchesne says. "Because of the technology, the personal and professional spheres are more integrated than ever, and it's safest to assume that your social media persona is not separate from your professional persona," he says.

To avoid potentially career-ending mistakes, he says, you should know what your organization's social media policies are and follow those to the letter. In addition, you can take cues from senior leadership as far as what's appropriate to post and to which platforms, he says.

5. Keep Your IT Skills Sharp

Finally, no matter what industry you work in, it's important to keep building on and adding to your skill sets, he says. "It's not enough to graduate from college and call it a day. Education is an ongoing process and it's important to stay sharp and keep up with the latest industry trends if you want to be a key player at your company," Duchesne says.

Sharon Florentine covers IT careers and data center topics for CIO.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter @MyShar0na. Email her at sflorentine@cio.com Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.

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