The Unfortunate Truth About Personal Success in IT

Most junior engineers I meet ask me a pretty serious question. How do I move ahead and increase my earning potential in the IT field? My first answer is to explain to them that certification and constant learning will go a long ways in helping them achieve their goals. This usually starts them on the right path moving forward in their career.

That conversation works well until the engineer gets 2 to 3 years into their first position. Their first promotion up the ladder inevitably leads to disappointment. The 3% to 5% increase of income is not what they were expecting, especially when they look at their company’s job board and the offered income for new hires for their position is $10k higher than they are receiving. This always leads to aggravation since the employee doesn’t think that their employer is being fair or equitable.

Employers need to understand that they will never keep their employees by doing this. In the IT field there are no 25 to 30 year employees. Everyone eventually figures out that they can advance their career much faster by strategically job hopping. You spend 3 to 4 years at each employer to rise through the ranks. In 4 positions you are ready to be hired at the SVP or Director level. Take the following scenario:

An individual is hired as a Network Engineer 1 for a company at $30,000 per year. While he is with the company, he takes the time to earn 1 to 2 certifications and garner a rather large technology education base to draw on. He progresses to the Network Engineer 2 level and begins working on more in-depth enterprise technology such as VoIP. He now has 2 choices…

1. He can continue to get the 3% to 5% raise from his initial company (approximately $1,500 per year additional).


2. Find another position for an Engineer 3 and almost double his initial income.

It really isn’t difficult to see what the employee is going to do.

Corporate policies have made it difficult to hire and keep talented IT professionals as a part of their teams. Their own policies encourage this job hopping mentality. While there are a few employers whose prestige (Cisco, Microsoft, etc..) affords a level of this behavior, most do not. IT professionals must decide whether their loyalty to the company they work for is worth the lost income and advancement they could be afforded.

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