Becoming a computer networking professional requires a significant investment of time and energy. The field is complex with a mix of technical and business challenges to face. A person should expect to encounter at least a few hurdles on their career journey.
Career challenges can be healthy as they push people to adapt and grow. What may seem like a small setback at first, however, sometimes turns into a major career obstacle if not handled properly.
In addition to gaining your own hands-on experience, spending time to learn from the experience of others can help avoid typical career pitfalls in networking and Information Technology (IT).
Maintaining a Strong Technical Base
Because the network and IT fields get exposed to so many new technologies, those professionals who are better able to keep up with the changes gain a big career advantage. “Being technical” is a quality difficult to measure but in networking generally involves skills like troubleshooting, programming, and technical writing. At a minimum, the ability to understand and communicate technical concepts is important not only in research and development but also for managers who need technical competency sufficient to lead their teams.
Locking Into the “Wrong” Specialization
The technology industry often chases leading-edge trends. Some of these trends, such as in network security or big data management, lead to the creation of many interesting jobs and career opportunities.
Others may turn into fads that die out after a relatively short time. Specializing and pursuing deeper experience in a “hot” new area of networking can be a great way to increase a person’s job security and salary, but it also comes with risk of falling into obsolete knowledge.
Locking Into the “Wrong” Company
Job offers that come with good salaries and benefits are hard to pass up these days.
Sometimes, though, the appeal of a new role wears off with time. Companies that are doing well in their industry one year can experience sudden downturns the next. An organization that does a great job bringing in fresh graduates and training them in junior level functions might not be so great as helping their employees advance internally to more senior levels. Or the job may simply not live up to the expectations advertised. Some employees feel a deep sense of loyalty to their employer and feel compelled to stay long term, even in a bad career situation.
Failing to Work with People (and Build Business Acumen)
The technical demands of networking and IT can take a person’s focus off of the business environment that created their job in the first place. Even the most fully trained technical experts cannot perform to their maximum potential without a good understanding of their organization and team’s missions and values. Employees who find ways to blend good technical skills, interpersonal skills, and general business savvy together in their day-to-day work tend to be in highest demand in the industry.
Anticipating Worst Case Scenarios
Network technology can do fantastic things (and is not too difficult to administer) when all the components function as designed.
Unfortunately, technology breaks often, and the cost of breaks in an IT environment can be extremely high because of how reliant people have become on their networks. Furthermore, anticipating problems before they occur is a skill many individuals seem to lack. The ability of network professionals to prepare contingency plans (such as in failover systems, or disaster recovery planning) and respond well to surprises can save an organization large sums of money and set employees apart from their peers.