A recurring theme in many meetings these days is the workplace attitude of employees. The lack of a good attitude toward work is a concern shared by many IT managers—especially those who’ve paid their dues.

As a developer, you realize that projects aren’t always a 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M job. In fact, if you’ve been in IT for any significant amount of time, the odds are good that you boast a history of working long weekends, holidays, and overnight marathons. You recognize what’s required to get the job done. But those who are new to the IT world need to know what lies ahead—and to recognize the mind-set that’s expected, and possibly needed, to succeed in many organizations.

It’s called a work ethic, and the sooner it becomes part of an employee’s vocabulary, the quicker the employee will be on the road to success. Simply put, a work ethic is a belief in doing what it takes to complete a goal appropriately and successfully.

And yes, this sometimes requires a considerable amount of extra effort—not to mention sacrifice—on your part. Sometimes it feels like you never leave work. But if you can’t do it, you might be in the wrong business—or you may need to be very selective in your choice of employers.

Face it: This is the life of an IT professional. Mission-critical applications cannot be taken down during office hours. You can’t apply operating system patches in the middle of the day. Therefore, you work nights, weekends, and holidays.

A change for the better
It’s one thing to talk about the importance of maintaining a good work ethic—or the side effects of having a bad one—but how do you change your attitude if it’s less than stellar? Here are some guidelines that may help:

  • Develop a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. Figure out why you want to be an IT professional. What are your driving desires: Money? Success? Easy work? Enjoyable work? Decide if an IT career can provide this for you.
  • Understand what it takes to work in the IT field. Talk with other professionals who have more experience. Then ask yourself if this is the life for you.
  • Talk to other IT pros in other industries. Different industries put different demands on their IT staff. Talk to people in various industries and see if you might be better suited for work in a particular area. The expectations of IT professionals in the financial, manufacturing, and publishing industries, for example, are all quite diverse.
  • Be realistic in your goals and purpose. Do you have the required skills? Evaluate your abilities honestly. Ask yourself how you can gain the necessary missing skills.
  • Commit to your goals. Take charge. Establish a course of action that will achieve your goals. Be determined not to be sidetracked by outside influences.
  • Develop passion. All successful professionals have an inner desire to succeed. This is the “fire” that gets you through those tough setbacks.
  • Believe in your abilities. Know, don’t think, that you can succeed. Ask yourself what the difference is between trying and doing.
  • Have a strategy. Once you know what you want, develop a plan to get there. Think it through step-by-step.
  • Persevere. Don’t let yourself get distracted.
  • Get others involved in your success. Let your coworkers, supervisor, friends, and family help and support you.
  • Measure growth. Take the time to measure your progress. Recognizing your accomplishments will help motivate you to do even better.
  • Commit to a higher standard. Establish the path or method you’ll pursue and the goals you’ll strive for to be the best that you can be—then surpass them.

It’s all in how you look at it
A successful work ethic requires a personal commitment. No one can do it for you. So the next time you’re given a weekend assignment, instead of complaining, ask yourself what you can gain from the experience.