Over the course of my I.T. career I found that I was getting promoted roughly every 2 years. For me it seemed natural as I didn’t know any different, but I did notice that my peers were not getting promoted as quickly. Some never got promoted at all! In addition to the promotions, I was entrusted with some pretty big projects and received some opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, like international travel to Brazil and Germany.
It wasn’t until I became a manager that I understood exactly WHY I was being promoted so quickly. As I reflect back on the history of my career, I have identified seven points that have accelerated my career to make me one of the youngest managers in I.T. at my organization.
Don’t Suck Up
There is nothing more transparent than someone sucking up. It shows that you are disingenuous and have ulterior motives. It’s immediately obvious to not only your boss but also your peers as well, which will damage your relationships with them. Instead you can look to form a semi-friendship with your management. One where you share details about your life, your hobbies, your family. Keep things professional.
You are not the expert in everything, nor are you perfect. Set aside time on your own for personal development that betters yourself. Read books or listen to audio books that develop your leadership skills and your technical skills. Books like “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” are a great place to start on leadership. If you’re a web developer, grab a book on ASP.NET or Java. Learn about design patterns, business analysis techniques or process frameworks. This is where you gain the knowledge and ideas that will set the foundation. When you do this on your own, it shows your management that you have a hunger to become more than what you currently are.
One simple thing you can do is to arrive early for work and stay late. I’m not suggesting you live at work! On the contrary, I believe in a healthy work/life balance. You will be surprised the impression you will leave when you are consistently 5 minutes early and stay just 5 minutes later. Don’t be part of the herd that does the mass-exodus at 4:30.
Prove Your Worth
A simple way to sum this point up is deliver. Be proactive in resolving any impediments to your assignments. If you are waiting for someone to clarify requirements or deliver a dependency to your work, don’t rely on email, call them early and often!
Set a high standard of quality for your work. Minimize documented bugs by involving your users, business analysts or QA analysts early while you are doing your assignment. That doesn’t mean hide issues. If there’s a bug or issue, document it and follow the process to resolve it. What it does mean is you do what you can to prevent it in the first place.
Your relationship with your peers is more important than you know. Remember when I said above that you don’t know everything? Neither does your peer. However if you think of your knowledge and your peer’s knowledge like a Venn diagram, there’s his part of the circle that doesn’t overlap with your own. Your peers will look at a problem or solution from a different perspective and often think of things you didn’t. This will lead to higher quality solutions where it’s easier for you to Prove Your Worth.
As I.T. Pros, we LOVE solving problems. The type of problems I’m talking about here are problems your team or your department faces. Think about what’s taking too long? What’s always breaking? What’s unpredictable? What processes are inefficient and could be improved? For example, do you have a bug that just keeps showing back up? You fix it, and then someone unfixes it? Could automated testing help prevent that if only your team did automated testing? Could you become the automated testing guy?
Don’t Be A Problem
Once you are viewed as a problem, it takes serious work to undo that perception. If you think about your current progress towards a promotion as a bank account, then doing everything above adds small deposits to that account. However, being a problem to your manager makes withdrawals… big withdrawals. Ways to becoming a problem include not delivering on your assignments, never accepting responsibility for your actions, purposefully going against your teams standards, being dismissive towards your peers and management, being rude and unprofessional to anyone at any time.
Now with all that being said, there is one last piece of advice I will give you. Don’t try to be promoted too quickly. For every single level I was ever promoted to, I thought I was already ready for the next level. Once I got that, I realized that I wasn’t ready when I thought I was and I needed time. Time served doesn’t always qualify you for a promotion to the next level, but it does give you the wisdom needed to know how to approach the situations you will face with courage and integrity.