CXO

8 tips for making a smooth transition to a new IT role

Taking a new job within the same company can make it easy to get sucked back into your former duties. These suggestions will help you get focused on your new responsibilities.

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Image: iStock/YakobchukOlena

It's always exciting to switch roles when you work in IT, since generally it involves "moving on up" in your career or at least broadening your horizons and branching out into new territory.

Speaking from experience, however, I can say that if you switch roles at your present company you'll quite likely find your progress in your new role hampered by your connections to your previous role. This is why I recommend severing those connections as thoroughly as possible, since they will limit your mobility in your new realm and perhaps even threaten your chances of success.

These eight strategies can help you ensure a clean transition so you can leave your old life behind, so to speak, and keep moving forward.

1. Identify your replacement

First and foremost, you will need to identify who will be covering the tasks you were previously responsible for. Obviously if a vacuum exists you will find it difficult to complete the transition to your new duties.

Say, for instance, you are moving from the help desk into more of a senior system administrator role. Maybe your colleagues on the help desk will be taking over your duties, or a new hire will be assigned these responsibilities. Notify them that you'll be handing over any relevant information they might need to know in order to fill your shoes, then work with them to ensure it is comprehensive and useful.

2. Document your work

Perform a brain dump of everything you've been working on, any practices or procedures your replacement should know about, and anything else which will be handy for them to step in for you - and for you to leave this stuff behind.

Better yet, work hand-in-hand with your replacement(s) and let them document it where possible, since that will help them internalize the material and add their own perspectives or insights where possible.

SEE: Google Drive: Tips and tricks for business professionals (Tech Pro Research)

3. Remove your access, privileges, and materials

This may sound career-limiting, but it's actually essential to help you expand your ability to thrive in your new role. Where possible (and assuming it won't limit your ability to do your new job), tear down all your access or rights on systems, networks or other locations related to your former position so that you can no longer perform your former duties. Dump any documents or related materials you will no longer need as well. All of this will help you to "pull the ladder up" behind you, so to speak.

If you had administrator access on workstations to help users install software, have that removed. If you had root access to servers in order to reset passwords, have that taken away. If you genuinely can't perform your prior set of duties there will be less pressure for you to do so from those unaware or unconcerned that you have switched roles.

4. Announce your new role

Send out an email to the people you work with in your current capacity, as well as ones you expect to engage with in your new role and announce your position change. Make sure to identify who will be handling your former responsibilities as well as their contact information. This is essential to ensuring your success in your new role.

Take it from me — not everyone reads their email, nor pays sufficient attention thereto. Announce your new role in multiple ways; use word of mouth - work it into any given business conversation. If you have a plaque with your title, get that changed. Update your Outlook signature. Have your title in Active Directory updated as well. Change your LinkedIn profile, as well as any other work-related profiles such as on job hunting sites. Heck, get a t-shirt with your new title on it!

5. Get management support

It's not enough to announce your new role to the people you've been working, or will work, with. Contact not only your manager, but the managers of the individuals and groups you have previously worked with to explain your new role, ask for support in ensuring the transition is successful, and remind them of how to obtain support for issues or responsibilities related to your former role.

If conflicts should arise which have the potential to entangle you or prevent you from fully switching to your new job, they can help serve as a resource to back up your efforts.

SEE: How to succeed as a new IT manager (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

6. Relocate if possible

When you cross over to your new role, move your workspace somewhere else if you can — even one or two cubicles over.

Not only will moving put you in a "new territory / new mindset" perspective, but it will get you away from your old job responsibilities and individuals associated with them.

When people show up needing information or assistance with stuff you used to do, but no longer handle, if your replacement(s) aren't around I can guarantee you'll be the next one asked to get involved.

7. Don't cross back to your old role unless you absolutely have to

Here's the crux of the issue. To succeed in your new role you have to leave the old one behind entirely, or else you'll be doomed to exist in two worlds at once, or at least remain tethered to the old one.

I once transferred from the Windows Help Desk to a Linux team. I had users asking me about their slow PCs and slow Outlook problems regardless. In every single instance, I referred them to my replacement and said I couldn't help. When they persisted, saying "You used to fix this for me," I would simply say "That's not my job now - and other people are assigned to these responsibilities. I can't infringe on their territory when they are the ones who are supposed to help you"

That is the problem with working in IT. Many people will think, "Here's an IT staffer who can help," regardless of what that staffer actually does. And we understand when someone is having a work-stoppage issue that they just want it fixed regardless, and the natural inclination is to help. However, you have to stand firm, even for friends who say "Hey, can you help me out, buddy?" The more you go back to your old role, the easier it will be for people to ask you to do it just one more time.

That being said, if something is dead in the water and the company is impacted, you may just have to roll up your sleeves and dive in. I once exited a role as the Exchange Server administrator responsible for email for the organization, but when that server had problems and my replacement wasn't available I stepped up to fix the issue since everyone was negatively affected.

8. Embrace your new role but hedge your bets

Now that you've crossed the threshold don't look back; focus your career and your mindset on your new role.

However, I don't discourage staying up to date on skills or trends that involved your prior position if that's in the realm of your interest - or you think you might return to your prior role at some point down the road either by choice or happenstance. Keep your resume updated, but make sure it includes all of your skills and accomplishments, not just what you want to do down the road. It will ensure you're seen as a well-rounded individual with an array of experience.

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About Scott Matteson

Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.

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