There are many things you can do to add momentum to your career and reach a greater level of expertise and success. Here are 11 factors to consider if you want to advance your career in IT management.
1. Earning an MBA
Generally, people who earn MBAs can get jobs with better pay rates than those who don't have them. Job satisfaction is another perk of earning an MBA; people report feeling more satisfied at work after getting their MBAs, and the addition of those three essential letters to their job titles tends to impress their colleagues and bosses.
With those things in mind, however, don’t forget that an MBA represents a substantial expense. The cost of attending a top school could total several hundred thousand dollars — not including the income you might lose by attending classes while also attempting to continue working as an IT manager.
It’s also important to realize that an MBA may not give you the expected amount of career advancement if you’ve already been working in the field for 15 years or more, and have gained continuous real-world experience during that time.
When weighing the advantages of getting your MBA, don’t overlook the potential downsides.
2. Practicing Self-Discipline
A career in IT technology management is like most other fields, meaning that people who excel typically display some distinct characteristics. One of these is self-discipline; you’re responsible for getting your team motivated enough to finish projects on time and to the best of their abilities.
If your team notices that you fail to meet deadlines, have trouble starting tasks, or otherwise show signs of poor discipline, the people with the power to further your career — likely your supervisors — will see those shortcomings, too. They may then decide you’re not cut out for opportunities involving increased responsibilities or higher pay.
Make sure that, no matter your current role, the people around you can observe your strengths and your potential for growth in IT Technology Management.
3. Develop Strong Communication Skills
No matter how long you’ve worked as an IT technology manager, there’s no harm in constantly improving your communication skills. Being able to express yourself clearly reduces the likelihood that people on your team will misunderstand you and slow down your overall workflow.
Consider, too, that you might need to put technical concepts into layman’s terms, especially when explaining things to clients before directing your team to start working on a project.
As your communication capabilities improve, you’ll become increasingly confident, whether you’re speaking to a small group of employees, standing behind a podium while addressing stakeholders at an annual meeting, or discussing the various new technologies implemented over the past year. When superiors see that you possess excellent communication skills — and the improved confidence that follows — they’ll also see that you are ready for career advancement.
4. Continue to Pursue Excellence
Although you will get noticed for occasionally doing things that show an extraordinary work ethic and level of dedication, it’s more valuable to employers if you are constantly look for ways to do more than is expected. If you are always attempting to go above and beyond, it will become clear to others that you’re devoted to your job and that you will do anything in your power to prove your worth to your employer.
In addition, by always doing more than is expected, you’ll serve as a role model for other employees. Regardless of the exact route your career advancement takes, your new role will probably involve visibility to many more people than did your previous role. Even if they don’t consciously realize it, individuals will watch what you’re doing and follow your lead.
Executives want to give promotions to people who are excellent reflections of their organizations at large. This means that if you’re only doing "just enough," you probably won’t stand out to people who can give you better career opportunities.
5. Pitch in on Grunt Work
You're already working in a managerial role, so you might think you are exempt from the most boring, tedious tasks in IT. After all, there are plenty of other people to take care of those things, right? Not necessarily.
In most IT settings, specific tasks are so dull that no one wants to tackle them. However, you can position yourself for career advancement with this two-step process:
- Volunteer for the duties that seem beneath you or undesirable in some way
- Do whatever it takes to do them more thoroughly and efficiently than anyone thought you could or would
By showing that you’re willing to jump in and do unexciting things, you’re demonstrating to others that you have the flexibility and diligence required to go outside the bounds of your role. Colleagues and employers will see that you care about the good of your team and the good of your organization.
6. Find a Mentor
During your quest for career advancement, you’ll inevitably experience situations where you wish you could bluntly ask for advice from someone who’s been in your shoes before — or at least has dealt with something very similar. You may get that chance by taking part in a program that gives you access to a mentor.
Your company may already have a mentorship program as one of its employee perks. If it doesn’t, LinkedIn recently tested and launched a free service that connects users with people who are ready to act as mentors. Aside from giving you advice for making sense of challenging situations, a mentor could provide personal stories of the steps they took to climb up their career ladder.
Although examples from a mentor’s career may not always directly apply to your own goals, you will gain perspective and encouragement by attending mentoring sessions.
7. Become Familiar With Tech Specifics
People often say that management roles in the IT sector are as much about business as they are about technology. That may be true, but it’s still worthwhile to become acquainted with particular tech-based aspects of the job, such as following information architecture best practices.
Knowing about information architecture and which organizational styles are most appropriate for various kinds of online content could help you guide your team out of disagreements regarding organizing web content — and out of the productivity rut that occurs from those disagreements.
When figuring out how to make your knowledge more specialized than it is now, keep your job duties in mind. If you’re an IT manager at a company that primarily designs apps, it might be worthwhile to take an online course about improving user experiences through well-designed interfaces.
The idea is to show a hunger for learning about relevant technologies and techniques — even if your company doesn’t require very much continuing education or any at all. The tech industry moves at a fast pace, and if you don’t keep up, it will be extraordinarily hard for you to advance your career. You may even have trouble keeping your current job.
8. Move to Another Area
If you find that the possibilities for career advancement in your area are scarce, it’s worth having an open mind about moving elsewhere. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the job category of Computer and Information Systems Managers should grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than average compared to all other occupations.
However, that 12 percent growth represents a nationwide average, and might not reflect available jobs in your particular city or town. The BLS also collects state and regional data on specific careers. Spend some time browsing these numbers to determine whether your part of the country has adequate opportunities for IT technology managers on the rise.
Before getting serious about potentially moving elsewhere, you should also do your research on the cost of living in that area, the communities that are closest to the tech companies where you might want to work, and the rate at which local organizations hire new candidates.
9. Evaluate Yourself Frequently
Some people working in IT and other fields assume they’re well-equipped for advancement, but haven’t compared their skills with those working in more advanced roles. Comparing yourself to others while at work can cause substantial amounts of self-doubt, but it’s crucial to assess whether you possess the essential skills for IT managers.
If you’re already working in such a role or think you will be soon, it’s likely you do have most of the necessary traits. But, no one’s perfect; there are always things you can improve upon.
Get ready to take an honest look at all the skills you bring to your job, and to determine what you might be lacking. A person who’s serious about career advancement knows there’s never a time to rest and be satisfied with their current state. Instead, a commitment to continuous improvement will make the individual in question a genuine asset to their organization.
10. Network to Make Connections
You’ve probably heard that the people you know could be even more helpful than the knowledge you possess. Since the IT field is extremely technical, you do need to have broad working knowledge. That said, widening your network beyond your specific field could also help you make career advancement gains.
Networking outside of your workplace is a good start, but don’t overlook getting to know people in other departments at your company, as well. While networking with others, you’re sharing your expertise. This could help you get promoted — whether within your organization or outside of it.
Becoming a pro networker also means not shying away from selling yourself or detailing your accomplishments. You can't count on other people to always recognize your achievements and understand why you're worthy of career advancement. Fortunately, it is possible to talk about your accomplishments without sounding pompous.
Start by revealing the challenges you had to overcome while working on a project instead of only focusing on the outcome; that will show your human side. Also, try a storytelling approach as you mingle with others and expand your network. Add humor, anecdotes, and lots of personality to help people remain interested without thinking you’re bragging.
11. Talk to Your Boss When Necessary
Every time you pass your superior in the hallway, you might think, "Surely they know I’m an excellent choice to receive that promotion!" But that individual probably has countless things to ponder, and there’s a chance your readiness for advancement could go unnoticed — even if you have what it takes to succeed.
For this reason, you should be prepared to sit down with your boss and state your case when necessary. If you do so, include as many examples as possible. If you’re taking a night class related to the IT field, bring that up. Do the same if your expertise helped the company meet its tech-related aspirations this year.
When meeting with your boss, use many of the same networking strategies we’ve already discussed — especially when it’s time to talk favorably about yourself. Never assume that your supervisor has to approach you first in order for you to be eligible for an advancement opportunity.
Sometimes a busy supervisor needs a push of encouragement before extending you an offer. A planned meeting emphasizes how you’ve been preparing for the future and that you are ready to thrive.
Stay Dedicated and Don’t Give Up
Even if you do all of the things on this list and more, there will be times when a seemingly less-adequate coworker advances in an organization and you get left behind. Even when that happens, don’t get discouraged. Persistence will help you make progress in IT technology management, even against the odds.
Noodle | Earn More With a Master's in Information Technology Management (June 4, 2018). Retrieved June 27, 2018 from https://tech.noodle.com/masters-in-information-technology-management-salary
Harvard Business Review | How to Ask for a Promotion (January 29, 2018). Retrieved June 26, 2018 from https://hbr.org/2018/01/how-to-ask-for-a-promotion
Fast Company | How To Talk About Your Skills Without Sounding Like A Show-Off (August 5, 2015). Retrieved June 27, 2018 from https://www.fastcompany.com/3049360/how-to-talk-about-your-skills-without-sounding-like-a-show-off
Rasmussen College | How to Become an IT Project Manager & Advance Your Tech Career (October 19, 2015). Retrieved June 26, 2018 from https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/technology/blog/how-to-become-information-technology-project-manager/
Bureau of Labor Statistics | Computer and Information Systems Managers (April 13, 2018). Retrieved June 26, 2018 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm
WebpageFX | Information Architecture 101: Techniques and Best Practices (n.d.). Retrieved June 27, 2018 from https://www.webpagefx.com/blog/web-design/information-architecture-101-techniques-and-best-practices/
TechCrunch | LinkedIn is rolling out a free service to pair users with mentors (August 3, 2017). Retrieved June 27, 2018 from https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/03/linkedin-is-rolling-out-a-free-tinder-style-service-to-pair-users-with-mentors/