There's so much to learn that you may be wondering how to progress in your IT career. One way is to create your own IT goal tracker.

You can go as crazy as you want, even whipping up color coded Excel spreadsheets. I personally write down my goals and keep a daily journal of tasks, including writing down my wins for the day.

Either way, I would recommend you track what you're good at and what you need to learn to be successful.

Here's what your IT goal tracker may may look like.

Topics to Learn to Progress in Your IT Career

This isn't an exhaustive list of topics to learn so don't think this is everything. Hopefully this gives you a few ideas to close a few gaps.

System Administration

  • Windows
  • Active Directory
  • Exchange
  • Linux
  • System hardening

Sample Sysadmin Bookmarks

Networking

  • TCP/IP
  • Ports and protocols
    • DNS
    • DHCP
  • Switching
  • Routing

Sample Networking Concepts

  • OSI Model
    • The OSI model is still good to learn but understand that it's just a conceptual model and it’s not even the one used in most modern day networks.

Sample Networking Bookmarks

Programming and Scripting

  • Concepts
  • Object orientation
  • Learn to build websites, wireframes, tools, proof of concepts

Sample Tools and Languages

  • Powershell
  • CMD/Batch/Bash

Preparing For Your Next Certification

  • A+/Network+/Security+
  • CCNA/Palo Alto
  • Linux+/Server+/Storage+
  • GSEC/GPEN/GWAPT
  • OSCP
  • PMP/Project+
  • CISA/CISM
  • CISSP

Keeping Up With Current Events

News Inputs

  • Blog posts (RSS feeds)
  • Webinars and streams
  • Videos and podcasts
  • Twitter
  • Publications
  • Summits, conferences, and regional meetings
  • Industry or divisional meetups

Home Projects

  • Always be working on projects
  • Create a home lab
  • Setup your home network and devices

Networking

Yes, the human kind. Don't neglect the opportunity to work on teams or meet new people.

  • Join local groups
  • Volunteer with local STEM initiatives
  • Give talks, even if it's to a small group
  • Reach out to professionals in your area and offer to help with projects

Still Stuck?

Not going anywhere in your IT career? Still stuck despite everything listed so far? Here's what you can do to progress:

Make Sure You're Actually a Good Employee

This is an interesting one. I've been fortunate to work with candid people in my 14+ year IT career. When I was frustrated in a couple roles that I wasn't progressing in, I scheduled a sit-down with my supervisors. I did this 2 different times. It was revealing to show that in some cases, I wasn't perceived as good as I thought I was.

If you do this, be prepared to eat some humble pie. As you explain yourself and the type of work you do, see if it's something you can back up. In one particular case as I was explaining a few setbacks and frustrations with my supervisor, I realized that things didn't sound as good as I thought they did in my head. In short, I realized that my approach wasn't defensible and I had to step up my game, at least for my own sake.

Side Projects

I mentioned this briefly in the Home Projects section above. This is more important than you think it is. What extra-curriculars are you doing? Don't just limit this to learning projects at home though.

What about your side hustles? If you don't have at least one that brings in some extra cash, look at doing one. I actually got a job, beating out more qualified candidates because I taught online courses. I did more than just my day job and that demonstrated entrepreneur style thinking to senior management.

This isn't a commitment for the rest of your life. Just do the hard work now to get you out of your dead end job.

Talk to More People

Sometimes the problem isn't your work or even your employer. Sometimes it's… YOU. I want you to repeat after me:

“Small talk isn't pointless.”

“Going to work, putting your head down, and getting things done isn't good enough (to them).”

“Get the courage to go outside your department, solicit feedback, be a visible representation of your department.”

Don't dismiss this. More on all this later.

Get a New Job

Sometimes the only way up is out. I was at a job that I enjoyed the people, the type of work, and the resources I had access to. I could have seen myself staying there and retiring. There was one problem, well two actually. There was no promotion path or chance to get a raise. It was hard to stay motivated when there was no upside, no chance to grow, despite years of hard work and successful projects. So I left.

By leaving, not only did I get a near double raise, I also took on higher level work and got access to more conferences and educational materials. Perfect. It's tough, but when the only one who cares about you is you, you need to get out and work for people who appreciate you.

Conclusion

It's tough out there, but there's no need to make it harder than it has to be.

It's important to keep moving forward, even if your current job makes it hard to do so. If you don't make yourself better on your own, you may pass up an opportunity in the future to work for that company that you do want to work for.

As you identify gaps and learning opportunities, keep a journal or some type of plan. Even if it's your own toolkit that you build, a career planner, quartile calculator, skills and assessments list or tracker, and online courses can go a long way.

What else do you think is important in building your IT skills? What skill did you learn that proved to be the most beneficial and why?

Sound off in the comments below!

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