5 min read

6 Habits Of Unsuccessful IT Pros

Watch out for these career sinkholes -- and learn how to recover if you've fallen into one.

on projects and job responsibilities will catch up to you. While developers and other roles might occasionally go through "crunch" periods before a launch or major release, the college-style cram sessions aren't a good long-term strategy for getting your job done. "Cramming is for school; planning is for professionals," Levy said.

4. You're not plugged in.
How do you plan in a business world where everything seems to change every six months, if not sooner? You need to stay plugged into your industry. Read widely, join professional groups, and attend industry conferences and events. No budget for the latter? Even just reading the presentation titles at relevant conferences and events should give you a clue as to what's going -- and where you and your employer might be missing the boat. Levy also notes that social media is a boon for ensuring your knowledge doesn't lag behind.

"Let's say you're doing stuff with PHP. You can follow a lot of PHP know-it-alls" on social media, Levy noted. PHP not relevant to you? Substitute the technology or keyword that is; odds are there are people discussing it at length on social and community sites. Creating Twitter lists, joining LinkedIn Groups, engaging with IT communities online -- all of the above can help you keep the big picture in sharp focus.

5. You make too many assumptions.
Levy traces most bad employer-employee break-ups to three reasons. The first is, simply, the person's not cut out for the job. The next two, though, fall under the banner of correctable career missteps: Relying too much on assumptions and not getting along with your manager. Let's look at each in turn.

In good times and bad, assumptions not grounded in concrete information can be a killer. Yet people do it regularly on the job. "You make assumptions as to what the problems are and what the deliverables are," Levy said. "In business, you should never have to assume when you can ask a question of somebody... If there's even a hint of uncertainty as to what a boss wants, what a customer wants, what a user wants, you have a mouth -- use it."

[Perhaps LinkedIn can help. Read LinkedIn Tips: 5 Ways To Manage Endorsements]

Levy added: "It's frightening how folks don't ask questions. [When problems arise,] they just assume things will magically get better."

6. You don't get along with your boss.
It seems virtually everyone's who's been in the working world a while has a bad-boss horror story. Bad bosses are real and they can wreak havoc on your professional life. But Levy reminds us that challenging working relationships are rarely one person's fault; you're probably at least a part of the dysfunction.

"The important thing to do is to recognize what you're doing first," Levy said. Self-honesty isn't easy, but it's critical if you want things to improve. Make a list of areas where you think you may be contributing to the negative relationship and how they might improve. Then, Levy advised meeting with your manager to discuss, without pointing fingers. Acknowledge that you don't think things are going as well as they could or should be, say that you've been considering ways in which you're contributing to the situation, and ask questions about how it can be improved going forward.

"When you pose it to the person -- 'What do you think of this? Am I right or wrong?' -- the manager's going to respond in one of two ways. They're either going to go: 'Well, thank you for bringing this up.' And from that point forward the relationship's going to be that much better," Levy said. The other response: "They're just a [jerk]. It's not going to change them, and it is the manager and you just might not be compatible with them. So then you have choice. You can't change everybody."

Even if you get the latter response, you've still accomplished something: You know you've indeed got a bad boss, that it's not a "you" problem, and you're not relying on speculation or assumptions to reach that conclusion. And there's a good chance you'll get a much more positive response. "If you talk to your boss like a human being, more often than not you'll get the answer you're looking for," Levy said.

Again, this requires IT pros to be able to tell themselves the truth. If you think you're perfect, well, sorry to spoil the fun: You're not. Levy even readily acknowledged that many IT pros might see the "touchy-feely stuff" as a load of bunk, but he's quick with the rebuttal: "It ain't."

"I feel bad for the person who can't look inward, I really do," Levy added. "The person who can't look inward and confront their issues is a person who will never be great."

Do you need a deeper leadership bench? Send your most promising leaders to our InformationWeek Leadership Summit, Sept. 30 in New York City, for a day of peer learning and strategic speakers.