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What Travelling Has Taught Me About My IT Career

What Travelling Has Taught Me About My IT Career

I like to travel. Who doesn’t? I also like my career. I feel it has improved since I’ve travelled, and when I think about it, there are a few ways it has improved. For those of you who have travelled, you may feel the same way.

Sometimes the Little Things Don’t Matter

After leaving the country and going somewhere foreign, regardless of where it is, I have realised a few things: I realised that the world really is quite big, and there’s more to it than just the city I live in. Even though I live in a large Australian city and see the other cities in movies and on the news, that concept is easy to forget.

There are all different kinds of people, all different kinds of places and sights to see in the world. When I travelled to a few places (I haven’t been to many), I realised that some of the things in my career or in my workplace don’t really matter that much. It made me realise that I don’t need to push so hard on some things or that some things don’t matter.

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This doesn’t mean that I should lose all care for my work. Not at all. What I mean, is that there are many small things that happen in our daily lives that don’t really matter when we think about it. Is your next door neighbour’s desk messy? It doesn’t really matterit’s a small concern. Is your team not filling out the comments or details on a bug tracking system in the way you’d like? Perhaps their method is still effective, and maybe it doesn’t really matter. Focus on the bigger things and do them well, and if smaller things bother you, try not to worry too much about them.

There’s Always a Different Way to Do Something

The cities we live in often solve problems in the same way, and tend to do things the same in each instance. When you’ve travelled to other countries, you’ll find other people and other cities have different ways of solving the same problem.

For example: public transportation in the big city. New York has an underground rail system called the subway and London has something similar. If you go to Melbourne, however, we have overground rail and light rail (called trams), and Sydney has both an overground rail and an above ground monorail. Each of them have their pros and cons, but the point is that there is a single problem and multiple ways to solve it. Other cities may have completely different ways of solving problems.

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When I came back to my job, I realised that there is a need to think about different solutions to problems. This could be a large problem, such as how to architect the system to meet the requirements, or other problems such as how to transmit data from one place to another in the most efficient method possible. Sometimes the first solution that comes to mind isn’t always the best one, and it’s worth taking the time to think of alternatives.

It’s Important to Be Motivated

I’ve seen some pretty great things while I’ve been travelling. I haven’t been to many different countries (only seven, I think), but the desire to travel to more places gives me the motivation to work. It’s not really a direct result, where working better = more travelling. Instead, the better I work, the happier that clients and employers will be, the more money I’ll get paid, which gives me the freedom to go travelling.

Travelling is one of the motivations that I have to work, but it’s not the only one. Doing a great job for the client is right up there. However, I can imagine that many of you like to travel as well, so you should try to channel that as motivation for your work.

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When Things Go Wrong, It’s Important to Stay Calm

Before we travel, some of us plan where we are going and what we’re going to do, to some extent. Sometimes it’s planned down to the day; others plan generally where we want to go. Some of us just take off somewhere and see what happens.

Regardless of your approach to travel, things will inevitably go wrong. I’ve never met anyone who has been travelling and not had some kind of unfortunate event or something go wrong with their trip. Luggage being lost, flights being cancelled, hotel bookings not being made, cars breaking down, the list goes on.

One thing I’ve learnt from travelling is how to stay calm when things go wrong. This, actually, is probably the most important thing that travelling has taught me. Whether it’s being stuck in a convoy of buses for three hours because there’s been a once-in-a-decade flood in the middle of Egypt, or being caught in the Malaysian airport unable to fly home because of a problem with your visa, any problem you have in your travels can be a learning experience.

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Take a deep breath, think about the solutions, talk to people if you can, and try to work out what needs to be done to get something made right. It’s taught me how to remain calm in non-travelling situations like traffic on the way to work, or dealing with difficult people at work.

Well, there’s a few of the lessons that I’ve learnt while travelling which have helped my career. Hopefully they’ve been helpful for you too!

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Last Updated on February 20, 2019

The Most Critical Career Advice that Helps You Climb the Career Ladder

The Most Critical Career Advice that Helps You Climb the Career Ladder

You’ve got about three years in your current gig, and you love it. But you are reminded every now and then that there is greener grass somewhere. You would like for it to be here. But you’re willing to go elsewhere.

Regardless of whether you stay or go, you want more. How do you advance and skyrocket your earning potential? Where do you go to seek career advice?

In preparing for this article, I started hearing myself giving little tidbits of advice to my former students and new professionals. It occurred to me that these gems of wisdom are applicable to almost any career setting, and are especially impactful when you want to advance.

Then I recalled various bits of career advice I had been given over the years. And these have definitely resonated with me over the years as I’ve changed jobs multiple times.

Let’s get started.

1. Be Diplomatic

I shared this with a student leader at a large urban institution back in 2003. She was a very bold and outspoken young woman who wanted to be heard and make a difference.

On occasion, these desires made her difficult to work with. Olivia Edwardson wrote this about diplomacy in the workplace,[1]

“To be diplomatic, you need to understand and define your expectations clearly. What is it that you need, and what needs to be done in order to achieve this goal? At the same time, you must consider everyone else’s perspective: some tasks require different levels of help, and finding a balance between what everyone wants is crucial.”

How does this apply to you boosting your earning potential? In considering others’ perspective and finding balance, you show your managers that you are a team player and willing to work with others.

This insures that you are adding value to the company on a regular basis.

2. Embrace the Shades of Gray

I’m not talking the best selling novel here; I mean dealing with ambiguity.

In my first senior management position, my entire staff was also brand new and we were learning institutional culture day by day.

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Through this process, I had to model to my team the importance of being in the middle and not always making decisions from an all-or-nothing perspective. The plan isn’t always going to go from A to Z in alphabetical order.

Melanie Allen has said,[2]

“the best leaders are those that rise to the challenge of ambiguity and respond with confidence and adaptability.”

This means not being in control all the time, and learning to deal with uncertainty. It also requires that you be present, in the moment, so you can roll with the punches.

Getting comfortable with shades of gray can impact your earning potential in demonstrating your flexibility and willingness to accept change.

In trying times at corporations, managers and supervisors want leaders who are not stuck in their ways. Advancement comes to those who can go with the flow.

3. Keep Your Resume Updated (And Your Skills Fresh)

When was the last time you updated your resume? When you started job searching? After accepting a new job? Or every time you learned a new skill or took on a new project?

Prior to landing in my current position at a community college, I changed jobs every two years or so. That’s the topic of another article, but suffice to say that I got comfortable making updates and changes to that document.

When I switched to a Strengths-Focused resume in 1999, that changed everything for me. I learned how to represent my skills and achievements in my resume rather than just listing a bunch of “stuff” that I’d performed in my various jobs.

I push my agenda of a strengths-focused resume to about every career-changer with whom I interact, and for good reason.

This type of document has never failed to get me interviews.

But getting back to how often you should update your resume…

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Any time you develop a skill, create a program, or make a major change at your current place of employment.

In my current position, I’ve learned the basics of public relations, web design, communications and marketing, and branding all from the assignments and projects delegated to me.

Based on these new skills, I taught myself to use WordPress and other online tools because of the added value I bring to the organization now that I know these skills.

Walter Yate from Career Cast says of your resume,[3]

“You can start to change the trajectory of your life as soon as you take control of your career, with the careful development of the tools and skills of the new career management; and that all starts with owning a resume that gets results.

A resume is the foundation of your brand and is your primary marketing tool. When your resume works the doors of opportunity open for you, when it doesn’t they don’t. Keep your resume current at all times because you never know when you will need it, for that next promotion or a new job.”

Well, I couldn’t have said that better myself.

4. Never Turn down More Responsibility

Wait, doesn’t this advice fly in the face of the whole work/life balance thing?

Yes and no.

Let’s first ask why you are being offered the additional responsibility.

Is it because someone left the organization and the work needs to be spread out amongst the team?

Is it because you did an incredible job on the previous assignment and your supervisor trusts you and recognizes your added value?

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Is it because you’re being groomed for a promotion and your supervisor is running a little experiment with you?

It could be any or all or none of these. Your attitude and response will mean everything in this situation.

Accept the additional work with grace and style, and learn as much as you can. Then two or three weeks later you can bring up the new tasks with your supervisor and explore why the work was given to you.

Business Insider says,[4]

“Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to take on more responsibility is a great way to grow personally and professionally.”

Talk to your boss, be proactive, and make the new work fun.

Approaching the new work with a negative attitude and a “woe is me” is just a sign to your boss that you aren’t up to the challenge. And then that added value you just landed is gone. And you aren’t being a team player.

5. Add Value to Your Organization

By making yourself indispensable to your organization and demonstrating to your supervisor how you contribute, you should find yourself climbing the ladder at your current place of employment or getting the reference needed to secure that ideal job at the new firm.

But what exactly does it mean to “Add Value?”

Simply speaking, adding value is making a product more appealing to its customers. Making it better, showing how innovative and multifaceted it is, things like that.

Now you’re going to figure that out about YOU.

Chrissy Scivicque of Eat Your Career identified six ways that an employee can add value to an organization:[5]

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  1. Save money
  2. Make money
  3. Improve efficiency of a process or procedure
  4. Improve quality of a product or service
  5. Fix an existing problem
  6. Prevent a future problem

These themes are pretty simple: if you can handle money, problems, and processes well, then you can add value to your employer. So start approaching your day to day tasks in those terms.

Do you produce a fundraising event every year? Determine how you can raise more money while spending less on the event.

Do you have a brave idea on how you can make that annual job fair run more efficiently? Draft your idea and present it to your supervisor.

Has your team leader consistently asked you and your peers to think more critically on the problem of staff turnover? Do some research and propose a couple solutions.

Keep in mind that to prove you are adding value, you actually have to do the work. You have to be proactive, innovative, and have the organization’s best interests in mind.

Bonus Tips!

I thought it would be fun to get some additional pieces of advice from some actual managers out there…so I polled some of my colleagues around the country, both from higher education and the private sector. Here’s what they shared with me on how to advance your career:

“Put together data or examples to show the value the said employee has brought to the department. Don’t wait until annual review time – it’s generally too late!”

“Never be afraid to speak up during staff meetings or personal 1:1 sessions with supervisors. Pointing out carefully considered ideas and being willing to take on new responsibilities with various staff members shows flexibility, professionalism, and motivation.”

“They have to demonstrate that they are all-in on the values of the company. This can be tricky in environments where employee and supervisor are of different generations. At 25, I may think I’m working hard, but my 60-year-old boss might think I’m just doing what’s expected.”

“Do what you do well and be fully present at all times.”

“Bottom line is the key. If you are increasing income, you deserve to share in it.”

What was the best piece of career advice you’ve received, and how did it impact your earning potential?

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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