Despite worries about the economy, the IT job market remains HOT. There are plenty of opportunities but it’s becoming more and more important for you to proactively manage your career. At the core of getting noticed is a firm belief in yourself and your abilities.
Here are some strategies for getting noticed — and promoted.
- Change how you see yourself. Most IT professionals are uncomfortable walking in and demanding higher-paying, influential positions. They know they can troubleshoot a PC and write .NET code, but they don’t quite know how to express in words how these skills can benefit an organization, much less how to promote themselves above other job candidates. To get noticed, you need to convey a strong image. To convey a strong image, you must begin with a positive attitude. AND you need to start thinking of yourself through the value you bring to the organization, not the technology you know.
- Understand your true value to the organization. There’s no such thing as an IT project. All IT projects exist because somewhere within the organization is a business need for the technology. There are lots of articles out there on the need to develop your business skills. You need to shift how you think about yourself and try to understand the business value of the services your provide. One of the easiest ways to shift is to ask yourself “What would happen to your organization if the service wasn’t available for a day? ” So you’re not just the email administrator but the enabler of timely business communications between organization and its management team, employees, partners, and clients. Employers promote employees who can see the impact of their work through the eyes of each of these groups – not IT.
- Keep your skills cutting edge. Figure out what’s hot within your organization and volunteer for those projects. If you can, ask for training in new technology, methodologies, and tools. Get off the “end of life” IT projects as quickly as you can.
- Expand your network. Success is as much a matter of who you know as what you know. Build out your network within the organization so that you can keep track of new opportunities. If you’re looking for a fresh start, seek out professional associations and user groups.
- Go beyond the call of duty. Ask your manager what it would take to get a “above expectations” rating on your next review. And do these things. If you’re not going beyond the call of duty and others are, you can’t gripe about being overlooked for the new position.
- Learn to speak non-geek. Communication skills are critical for IT professionals, particularly when trying to get noticed. Speaking with confidence, figuring out how to reach different audiences, and speaking in business language is a requirement for getting promoted.
- Be the guy(gal) that people want to work with. Learn to play on a team. More and more projects require strong teams of players. It’s all about playing well with others. If people don’t want to work with you in your current position, there’s a big chance they won’t want to work with you in any other position.
- Pass on what you’ve learned. Don’t make yourself indispensable. If you’re the only one who can fix a problem, manage a system then you’ve made it too easy to not promote you. Share what you know. Cross-train others.
- Keep track. When everyone in the department is running a mile a minute, including your manager, don’t expect others to remember what you did 11 months ago. You need to make sure that you keep track of your accomplishments as a part of your review process. Keep a journal. Every few months review the projects that you worked on and jot down the PAR. PAR is an acronym for Problem (the business problem), Action (what you did to resolve it), and the Result (the business result.) Share your accomplishments with your manager as a part of your review process.
- Careful the hill you choose to die on. Aka, pick your battles. Throughout your career there will be plenty of times you won’t agree with “management” decisions. You need to make sure that you don’t limit your opportunities by digging in your heals and getting emotional about decisions made by others, particularly by those in a position to promote you. Be practical. If you feel yourself getting argumentative and passionate about something you don’t agree with – take a deep breath, count to 50, and just let go.