How IT pros can boost their worth -- and their salaries

IT pros grouse that their certifications and experience aren't earning them worthy salaries, but few realize what things they need to do to get those extra bucks.

Let's face it: Annual salaries for IT professionals are a large part of what determines career satisfaction. And

many feel they’re earning too little when they consider their job experience.

If you think you should be earning more, one thing will bring you closer to that goal -- you.

When it comes to getting paid more, many IT and information security professionals fall into a common trap: They believe that because they have years of experience, a college diploma and certifications such as the CCNA and CISSP, that oodles of money, respect and great job opportunities will fall into their laps.

I often hear people say, "I've got to hurry and finish up my Ph.D. in information assurance so I can get that raise" or “I’ve been working here for 20 years, but I’m not making what I should.” Upon graduating from college, I too believed experience and certifications were the way to earn a higher salary. I soon realized it’s not that simple.

Experience, degrees and certifications do not bring value to your employer. They also do not directly relate to how much money you should earn. They serve as a good foundation, but it's actually everything else you do that demonstrates your value to your company.

This is where communication skills, your willingness to learn new things and desire to do whatever it takes to solve a business problem comes into play. These are the things that will make you stand apart from the average IT employee.

To ensure that you make more money in IT, find out how you can positively contribute to your employer's bottom line. That means not only spending your budget wisely, but also finding ways to work smarter and quicker. Also, always focus on the tasks that provide the most return during your work day.

Instead of goofing off on the job like so many do, you should be channeling your efforts into things that will help you get ahead. It's basic time management, but it's also a skill and mindset that many in IT have a tough time grasping. You must revamp how you think and how you work.

A key point to consider is what you contribute after you've already done what's expected of you. Your employer will (or at least should) recognize this over time and realize your value. If your boss ignores your additional contributions, it may mean that you’re not effectively communicating and demonstrating your value to them. It might also mean it’s time to move on to a new job.

Step away from the day-to-day noise for 15 minutes and ask yourself how you can add value to your current position. Don't hesitate to ask friends or trusted colleagues for their input as well; just be prepared for what you may not want to hear.

It might be learning how to work more efficiently by mastering a particular subject or job function like penetration testing, system monitoring or policy documentation. Maybe it’s learning how to write or present more effectively. Or, maybe it's finding a job that you really enjoy or an employer you feel committed to; a place that makes you want to go that extra mile. Setting and managing your IT career goals is a great way to clarify what you want out of your career.

There’s always more work to be done and different ways to improve. Remember that you’re earning a living, not simply being given a paycheck. Your motivation and determination are your own, so dream big and devote yourself to doing whatever it takes to earn what you’re worth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Beaver is an information security consultant, expert witness, author and speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. With over two decades of experience in the industry and nearly 10 years working for himself, Kevin specializes in performing independent security assessments revolving around compliance and minimizing information risks. He has authored/co-authored eight books on information security including the updated Hacking For Dummies, 3rd edition. In addition, he’s the creator of the Security On Wheels information security audio books and blog providing security learning for IT professionals on the go. You can reach Kevin through his website www.principlelogic.com and follow him on Twitter at @kevinbeaver.

This was first published in August 2011

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