Information technology is a funny industry in Australia. For a start, it’s totally unregulated. There is nothing stopping anyone from going into any company and working on their servers, fiddling with their backups, changing firewall rules and routing policies or anything else to do with the IT network. There is no regulation that states you must have any formal training or qualifications or experience of any kind in order to work at any level in IT.
Everyday there are many people that work in the IT industry with phenomenal skills and experience who have no formal qualifications. I see this as both a positive and a negative.
The positive, an industry that has low barriers to entry means that it’s full of opportunity for anyone that can work in their own time to develop the skills necessary to do the work. Those skills don’t need to be verified by any other source other than the employer themselves for them to get a job. Self-taught people in IT can be very good. Sometimes I find that they are more skilled than their tertiary qualified counter parts.
The negative or problem though with low barriers to entry is that people who haven’t been formally educated in IT which in turn can put a damper on IT salaries, particularly at the entry level or lower end of the market. The result is that entry level roles in IT are often paid at close to minimum wage and on a par with many retail or hospitality jobs which require no previous skills, experience or education. It is probably for this reason that Seek reports that the number one thing that IT candidates look for in a new job is salary. So, what can you do to make yourself worth more in your IT career and be able to command high salaries?
Here’s a few tips:
- Skill up in areas where there is likely to be a shortage of those skills in the future. At the moment, these areas are in data related jobs like data analytics and business intelligence and reporting, dev ops and automation, business analyst, and developers of in demand languages like Python, .NET, etc.
- Be able to demonstrate your unique skills on paper and in person. Having the skills isn’t enough if your potential employer or even your current employer can’t easily see those skills demonstrated and do not appreciate the rareness or uniqueness of those skills.
- Ask. if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Whether it’s with your current boss or potential new employer, you need to know what you’re worth in the market and what you’re worth to your employer. Negotiate on the basis of your provable value not your current economic hardship.
Don’t assume that your boss understands your worth if you haven’t spelled it out to them. This requires you to know what the company needs from you and for you to be able to prove that you’re filling or exceeding those requirements. Sometimes, it’s simple math. If you’re being paid $60k a year and you can calculate that the hours that you have billed over that last year are worth $300k then it should be relatively easy to prove your worth to the company from a financial point of view. If you know the metrics and the KPIs, the things that company requires to be successful then you should know your worth to the company.