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March 20, 2020

Information Technology

5 ways IT employees can stand out at work.

Two coworkers shake hands after a job well done.

Because IT work is largely technical, you might think that it'd be hard to distinguish yourself from your fellow IT employees. But that's not true.

Soft skills are a critical component of success in IT, and this is where IT employees can really differentiate themselves. Here are five ways to attract your supervisor's attention—and maybe land on the fast track to a promotion.

1. Be reliable.

Making a good impression begins with the obvious first step: showing your boss that they can count on you. This means showing up to work on time, staying off your personal device, and completing your tasks in a timely manner.

Don't cut corners, don't leave early, and maintain a sense of urgency while you're at work. IT is a fast-paced field, and you'll need to be able to juggle multiple tasks. Start tasks and projects as they're given to you so that you don't become backlogged. If you're unsure how to prioritize your assignments, ask.

At some point, you're bound to make a mistake—especially when you're new on the job. When this happens, own up to your error, follow through to correct it, and learn from your mistake so that you don't repeat it. This will show that you're responsible and can be relied on in the future.

2. Be resourceful.

Problem-solving is a big part of any IT employee's job, whether it's fixing a malfunctioning server or figuring out how technology can improve operations. And there are few things that IT supervisors appreciate more than self-reliant employees.

Self-reliant employees stand out by being innovative, resourceful problem solvers. They understand how to troubleshoot issues and try novel approaches to difficult problems, and they don't give up when they're stumped.

Being self-reliant doesn't mean that you have to solve everything on your own—it simply means you don't run to your boss at the first sign of trouble. When you get stuck—and you will get stuck—ask a colleague for help, look for a solution on the internet, or tap into your personal network for assistance. Consult your supervisor only after you've exhausted all your ideas—or if it's an emergency.

3. Communicate well.

Communication is an important part of many tech jobs, but IT employees often struggle with it. Knowing how to communicate effectively can help you stand out.

Knowing how to communicate with your supervisor and keep them apprised of your progress is critical. Learn how they like to receive information (for example, do they like text messages or emails?) and how often you should check in. Keep your communications professional and to the point—short, frequent messages are often best.

Knowing how to communicate with different audiences is just as important. It's probably fine to use tech-related jargon when communicating with fellow IT employees, but you must be able to express complex information in layman's terms when you're communicating with people who don't work in IT.

The nice thing about communication is that it's obvious when it's done well. You're sure to be recognized if you excel at this critical skill.

4. Take initiative.

If you're caught up on your responsibilities, don't be afraid to volunteer your extra bandwidth. If you find yourself with free time on your hands, ask your boss if there's anyone looking for help or if there are any new projects you can take on.

Figure out what unique value you can bring to your organization. Assess your skills and talents, and look for how you might contribute to your organization's goals. For instance, if your supervisor's presentations lack pizzazz and you have an eye for graphics or strong PowerPoint skills, offer your services as the team's go-to presentation wizard. If you're a service desk employee and you notice a lot of requests to fix the projector in the conference room, you could volunteer to find a more reliable model that won't break down as frequently.

5. Demonstrate that you're eager to learn.

Look for ways to grow and hone your IT skills. Sign up for free webinars, read everything you can get your hands on, and volunteer for company trainings. Consider updating or expanding your skills by enrolling in a new IT degree program—and ask whether your organization has a tuition reimbursement program that can help you defray some of those costs. The more you diversify your skill set, the more value you bring to your organization.

Don't be afraid to tell your boss that you'd like to learn new skills or take on new responsibilities. For instance, if you provide basic Tier 1 IT support, a natural path to growth would be to request an opportunity to learn how to provide more sophisticated Tier 2 support. If you've shown that you're a capable employee and you can make a solid case for how your new role would benefit the organization, your boss will probably at least consider your proposal. Be specific about how the move would benefit you and the organization, and consider your timing when proposing it—you don't want to talk about your own advancement in the middle of layoffs.

There are many ways that IT employees can stand out at work. If you follow these five strategies, you're sure to distinguish yourself from your peers—and you'll likely open doors to many more opportunities in your IT career.

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