technical career mistakes

Four common mistakes you need to avoid

My mistakes can be your lessons

I’ve been around long enough to make mistakes and see others make mistakes. Many information technology career mistakes are avoidable if you know what to do.  Here is a small list of regrets I have from my brief career so far, and helpful pointers on how to avoid them.  These aren’t major mistakes, so don’t feel bad if you have made them too.  If I had been better, though I might have been able to get into a role I wanted sooner.

Mistake #1: not getting certified in school

I had a professor in school who discouraged his students from getting random certifications. He emphasized that they were expensive and often overlooked.  You should get relevant certifications to the job you are in or the job you want to be in to make yourself more valuable.  I also wish I had gotten my CCNA while in university while I took the networking classes.  It would have been easier while the information was fresh and I had more time to study back then.

Getting certifications is important for your IT and InfoSec career.  The more knowledge you have, the more certifications you should get.  Education and experience provide knowledge, and certifications prove you have the knowledge.  As you work through your career, you learn new things.  You might work with Linux or Cisco products, and you should get the certifications to prove what you know.

Mistake #2: not building a homelab

Home labs are crucial for learning new skills. I did not have on in college and I only recently started building and maintaining one. A good home lab is expensive so naturally you should build one up over time. Start with a gaming laptop and install vmware on it. That’s all you really need to get started.  You can buy parts over time, or put money aside to purchase a server.  Eventually, having enough ram to run several virtual machines at a time is necessary.  It is also a good idea to purchase old switches, routers, firewalls, etc. and set them up on your home network.  This all costs money, so building it up over time is something I wish I had done.

Mistake #3: not talking with recruiters

When I started my career, I did an internship through my university. I did not attend job fairs, put my resume out on job sites and meet local recruiters.  When I got laid off from that first job, I had to move out of town briefly to stay employed because I lacked contacts.  I now have my resume on Indeed, Linkedin, Dice, and Monster.  This has helped me enormously because I get contacted by recruiters I am friendly with frequently.  If I’m getting ready to move on, I contact them and let them know what I’m looking for as well.  I always have an opportunity to interview for because of my good rapport with them.

Mistake #4: not learning to script

When I was university, I took classes in C++, SQL, HTML, PowerShell, and learned bash scripting. I never went home and practices writing useful scripts.  On the job, I reinforced my scripting skills by troubleshooting existing ones and modifying as needed.  I never build my own from scratch until this past year, and my career has kind of plateaued because of it.  I didn’t even know Python or Ruby existed until this year, and they are some of the most useful scripting languages.  I regret that I did not take initiative earlier in my career and spend time writing useful scripts at home.  This one kind of ties in with not having a home lab early in my career as well.

Despite all these mistakes

I’ve had a pretty good career so far.  These information technology career mistakes can be overcome at any point in your career.  It is up to you to decide how best to tackle the challenges with starting and maintaining your skillset.  One of the best ways is to do a periodic review of what you want to learn and what you need to learn.  What mistakes have you made early in your career?

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