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10 career-killers to avoid

Like other workers, IT pros can unintentionally sabotage their careers

By Thomas Hoffman
November 7, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Like other types of workers, IT professionals can be vulnerable to committing career sabotage -- sometimes without even recognizing it.

To help IT professionals become more aware of potential career blunders, Computerworld yesterday spoke with John M. McKee, president of, a Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based career coaching and consulting firm. McKee is the author of author of Career Wisdom: 101 Proven Strategies to Ensure Workplace Success. Here are 10 career-killers, with McKee's advice about how to recognize and avoid them.

1. Failing to have a life plan. "This is the No. 1 biggest mistake that I run into with my clients. I work with a number of clients in IT, many of whom are in C-level roles. A life plan is a business plan, in the same way that a company leader creates an annual business plan for what the future is going to bring from a corporate perspective. Three life aspects to focus on include one's career, personal and family, and financial goals. If someone has a good title and a satisfactory personal and family life but they're struggling to make monthly payments, then they're not going to be satisfied. They should look at those aspects for themselves. They should look at the competitive environment, the job marketplace and whether their skill set is current. If someone can replace them because they're cheaper, faster or better, it's no different than looking at your IT requirements. Most importantly, this plan should be written down. Only 14% of people do that. 86% are putting their futures in the hands of others. It's not a good place to be in."

2. Not keeping your skills current. "The business landscape is ever-changing and there is more demand for jobs than supply. Not staying on par with colleagues and those vying for your job will be a death knell. With individuals able to do the same work that someone is doing anywhere in the world today and the prospect that organizations will chase skill sets around the world, if you're not up to date with your skill sets in IT, you're significantly at risk of being replaced. This includes the need to stay up to date in technical skills, business skills and soft skills."

3. Failing to deliver results. "Winners in business know that it's all about accountability. Those who harbor a sense of entitlement for simply having put forth effort, irrespective of the results of those efforts, are guaranteed to fall by the wayside. It's very easy in a corporation to believe that becoming more efficient will translate into becoming more effective. So becoming preoccupied with creating greater efficiency may be a short-term solution to helping the bottom line, but it doesn't help the organization to grow. I rarely see people get the big bonuses in the organization simply because they understand the policies and procedures of the company. It has to do with delivering the goods. You have to know your customers, know what your marketplace wants. Great leadership is all about asking questions."

4. Confusing efficiency with effectiveness. "Those who think that communicating via e-mail replaces the need to actually talk with people around them fail to recognize the importance of personally connecting with others in today's highly automated and technological environment. Communicating in person whenever possible is imperative for success-seekers."

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