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4/16/2015
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5 Salary Enhancing Moves For Tech Workers

Some steps, like being honest about your preferences, might take some getting used to.

Cloud Certifications To Boost Your IT Skills
Cloud Certifications To Boost Your IT Skills
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When I post something to social media about which tech jobs are highly paid, it inevitably generates a lot of interest. These tech job lists are interesting because they provide some general direction for which race to the top looks most rewarding. While picking the right race to enter is a good step, being the right racer is more important.

Here's how to be the right racer and make sure that you get paid what you're worth.

1. Be a lifelong learner

Valuable people get valued, and paid.

Technology is a "go to lunch, fall behind" field. If you're not learning all the time, you're not a valuable employee.

Yet, some employees fall into a rut. They create the comforting illusion that because a certain system that they support is critical or highly important today, the situation will never change. Bzzt! Wrong answer! See "go to lunch, fall behind."

2. Learn about your industry

For your own satisfaction, I hope you're interested in the industry your IT organization operates in, because you're going to be spending a lot of time within it.

More important to the topic at hand, being interested in your industry and your customers is an important factor for the most successful tech employees. Such employees tend to have greater understanding of what the business needs from IT. And people who are interested in their industries also tend to go the extra mile.

[ How are CIOs driving new thinking in IT? See 4 Data-Driven Predictions For IT Innovation. ]

Surprise: These tend to be the most valuable employees and the ones that get the promotions and commensurate salary increases.

3. Communicate life priorities

Everybody has life priorities. It's just that some people are forthright with them, and others are not.

Life priorities include things like travel preferences, hobbies, children, pets, and professional interests. Being up front with these priorities doesn't mean that employees identify them as being more important than work. It just means that these are known items to be considered during career and job decision-making.

Too often, employees hold these back. This means that when faced with an assignment decision that could go either way, an employer may choose the option that is less preferable for an employee.

A person who loves to travel may enjoy a reassignment to field analyst. A person who wants to stick close to home because they're responsible for an aging parent in town, or has lots of animals to care for, might not prefer that role because it would involve lots of trouble and expense each time that person traveled.

What does preference have to do with performance? It's all about getting yourself in a position to succeed. That person who loves to travel will arrive at field offices with a spring in her step, ready to go. The person who is stressed out about travel because of the trouble and expense won't. Who does better at their job? Probability favors the person who has a clear mind.

Employees are sometimes afraid to share life priorities, because that knowledge could be used against them. To that I say the likelihood of you becoming valuable in such a hostile workplace is pretty small. Time to move on.

4. Be flexible

What kind of boss do you like? Mostly flexible? Or completely unbending and rigid?

Of course, you picked the mostly flexible boss. Here's the flip side -- bosses also like employees who are mostly flexible. Being flexible is an obvious good career move.

But succeeding isn't just about what the boss likes. Being open and flexible means that you'll likely agree to be placed in unfamiliar situations. Scary, yes. But new, unfamiliar situations are also fertile ground for career development.

I have had many such moments over my career, such as being assigned to a project that seemed a no-win scenario: an ERP deployment back in the client-server days that was going sideways with glitchy, bug-filled clients, and that had highly skeptical end-users of the system. Not only did we "win" and get the project back on track, but I learned a tremendous amount about tech and project management, fostered deeper relationships in the organization in which I worked, and built credibility with my boss, which ultimately led to a promotion.

5. Brush up on soft skills

People hire people. They don't hire skills. The fact of the matter is that it's pretty easy to train technical skills, but it's very difficult for the organization to teach an employee soft skills.

That means you're in charge of your own soft skill learning.

Soft skills include understanding how to navigate conflict and negotiate (yes, Virginia, conflicts and negotiations are inevitable, even when you're something as technical as a SAN administrator), customer service skills, writing, and public speaking.

Some of these may be more or less important in your current role, but the fact is that you simply don't know when you'll be called upon to use them, or under what circumstances you're being judged.

Even if you never address a crowd of 500 people, it doesn't hurt to know how to interest an audience, get to the point, and be a convincing and credible speaker. During a prolonged and unexpected IT outage, your audience may be five people, but something tells me that this may be an important audience for your career.

That's just one example. People burn credibility every day when they don't apply soft skills in a technical role. There are plenty of sys admins, network engineers, and coders out there who think they're communicating just the right level of detail in an email, but the reality is that their bosses are thinking "too long, didn't read."

That's why soft skills may be the difference between being perceived as more or less valuable than the next guy or gal.

And that difference translates to money in your pocket.

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Jonathan Feldman is Chief Information Officer for the City of Asheville, North Carolina, where his business background and work as an InformationWeek columnist have helped him to innovate in government through better practices in business technology, process, and human ... View Full Bio
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Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
4/16/2015 | 2:23:24 PM
Continuous learning
I do feel that continuous learning is a key to success - nowadays you canno simply grasp new kill, apply it then feel safe to have life-long job. You need to keep learning about the new stuff - something most popular nowadays may become legacy in the next 3 - 5 years.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
4/16/2015 | 3:37:43 PM
Re: Continuous learning
I agree.  While I tend to work in one specific area of tech, outside work I probably spend as many hours as I spend in the office learning about adjacent areas of technology.  What good is being a security person if you don't understand new cloud technologies, programming design such as containers, or even new trends in networking such as SDN?  It's easy to sit back and figure you can just stay in the same types of role (especially if you've identified what role you really want to do), but what about all the other opportunties that will come with the evolution of tech in the next 5 years?  It's much better to have more options because you've expressed interest by learning about different fields than to be overlooked because you haven't told anyone you have taken the time to explore them.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
4/16/2015 | 4:29:09 PM
Re: Continuous learning
Agreed, learning about new areas and keeping track of the evolution of industries is vital. Just a few years ago, computation used to be about PCs and datacenters but, now the IT industry is mobile and computation is moving into also every device. Similarly, the automotive industry has also evolved from a manufacture of a product that was fairly simple to the current hybrid cars and cars that seem like complete datacenters on wheels.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
4/20/2015 | 12:40:17 AM
How Flexible Are You ?

I really enjoyed this great career advice.   I have practiced these principles repeatly throughout my career and can attest that this is sage advice.   I really like the mention of flexibility.  It has been a cornerstone of my career which has alowed me to acquire a very unique skill set.  

So unique in fact, often employers don't even begin to understand the number of things I can do as a result of being open to "whatever was needed at the time".  

Also known as a being a team player.   This has it's advantages and disadvantages but someone has to to do it and if you did it - you've done it.

No one can take that away( though they will surly try).  So I appreciated the refresher as I embark on yet another new journey - one where I have a fair amount of "flexibility" on standby.

Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
4/20/2015 | 12:45:10 AM
Are You Serious ?

I really think if one is into Technology they should be real with themselves about the seriousness of the pursuit.  

In other words,  If you are not serious about continually learning, your career will probably be short and painful.

Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
4/20/2015 | 12:52:56 AM
Soft Skills Has It's Place.....

I agree soft skills are very important, but it is subjective in my opinion, the luck of the draw if you will.   If you vibe with the organization, soft skills will take you quite a long way, if not you won't last long anyway.

However if it is working for you, this fortunate stance should not replace ability and all the other functional abilities that go into doing a competent job. 

Soft skills are the human element to all of this - something we should never forget.

yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2015 | 1:47:05 PM
Re: Soft Skills Has It's Place.....
@Technocrati: I agree with you. Some organisations heavily highlight the importance of soft skills inside the organisation premises. I think having the right floor management plays a role in developing soft skills, also what kind of interactions an employee is allowed to have. I have also seen people gathering knowledge and soft skills of bosses by attending meetings. 
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2015 | 1:51:08 PM
Re: Are You Serious ?
Every organisation has a bit of a learning curve. Having secured a good position doesn't always mean your life would be smooth because technical jobs require updated knowledge. Mark Zuckerberg once said that he prefers coders less than 30 years of age than coders above that, because young people are more likely to learn something than older people. Age and will to learn are directly related as well.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2015 | 2:25:41 PM
Re: How Flexible Are You ?
Flexibility is good enough if you have a humane floor management that tends to your needs and understands what you can do and cannot do. For example most freshers even after aquiring a position in the company are called at odd hours, which really shouldn't be the case. Being flexible is productive for the company maybe, but it is counterproductive for you.
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
4/25/2015 | 10:30:39 PM
Re: How Flexible Are You ?
Flexibility does have its limits. You prove yourself too flexible, and most organizations will take advantage of you. I once worked with a fellow who claimed you have to be flexible but set your limits early on. Want to be sure to take an hour lunch every day? Make that very clear and take that lunch every day. Of course, at a good organization, the flexible person may be the one rewarded quicker...
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