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Successful career strategies for IT administrators

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Better communication skills can make or break your IT career success

IT pros know the technical aspects of their jobs, but what about the most important facet: people? Here's why better communication skills are a must.

It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day technical part of your job in IT. We've all done it. Something breaks, so we fix it. Someone needs help, so we guide them. But with all the interactions you have in IT with management and users, you're really in sales.

Think about it. Your ability to influence, persuade and befriend the important people around you has everything to do with how well you sell yourself and your ideas. Everything you accomplish or fail to accomplish in your IT career has to do with other people. As you develop better communication skills, that work will ultimately define your overall career success in IT.

Better communication skills are the definitive tool for success in IT.

The problem is that most of us in IT end up with little experience in terms of emotional intelligence. That is why we don't always understand how people and relationships work. We understand computers, networks and all of the technical things few people understand, but we don't understand what's most important: the people we need to help accomplish IT goals.

There's often a complete disconnect when IT professionals communicate with others. You've heard this saying at some point in your career: It's not just what you say, but it's how you say it. The one thing that isn't always obvious in our field is the difference between talking with someone and talking at someone. Doing the former builds relationships -- doing the latter tears them down.

I often see people who spend an enormous amount of energy week after week as they try to get people on board with IT initiatives. This raises the question: How's your approach working? Poor communication skills mean your ideas fall on deaf ears, and I'm convinced this is why we in IT struggle to get people on our side.

Communication, namely persuasion, is the absolute and ultimate measure of how effective you'll be in your IT work. Many people working in IT have a fear of failing and being judged poorly in the eyes of the people they associate with. They set their own limits and wonder why IT has a bad reputation.

In IT, you have two options. You can be a persuasive communicator and get others on your side, or you can be passive and let other people provide direction. Working on your communication skills gives you the ability to influence others to behave in ways they otherwise wouldn't. Better communication skills are the definitive tool for success in IT.

You have to be willing to put forth the effort required to become a good communicator with your colleagues and with the people you help. If you're not, then it's probably not important enough to you. If that's the case, perhaps you're in the wrong line of work.

Being a good communicator who can have down-to-earth conversations with others is not a one-way street -- it's a two-way conversation. Do you want to gain the respect of your peers and ultimately excel in your IT career? If so, be prepared to do what it takes to be an outstanding communicator. It's a learnable skill -- you just have to choose to make it so.

About the author:
Kevin Beaver has worked for himself for more than 11 years as an information security consultant, expert witness and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. He specializes in performing independent security assessments revolving around information risk management and is the author and co-author of many books, including The Practical Guide to HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance and Hacking for Dummies.

This was first published in September 2013

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Essential Guide

Successful career strategies for IT administrators

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