Self-Promotion on the Job

It’s harder to move up the IT career ladder within your organization these days because the rungs don’t stay put.

With downsizing, outsourcing, off-shoring and ever-shrinking corporate budgets, IT job slots are often re-named, redefined or replaced. The good news is that industry analysts report the field is healthy despite the rapid-fire changes, and that opportunities in 2007 are plentiful.

How can you make the most of those opportunities and move ahead? According to industry experts, it can be a matter of using smart and tactful self-promotion techniques.

“Self-promotion is truly an art form,” says Melanie Robbins, host of “Make It Happen with Mel Robbins,” a career coaching program heard on Sirius Satellite Radio, suggests, “If you are too overt, you risk coming across to upper management as an irritant. And if your colleagues see you doing it, you risk alienating them and creating resentment — it will always look like you are taking credit for their hard work.”

But that’s not to say a direct approach may not trump more subtle methods. “When I was working my way up the ladder,” relates Robert Ardell, managing partner at KoreOne Staffing in San Diego, Calif., “the best advice I received was to schedule a lunch with my boss, and even my boss’ boss, and ask them, ‘What do I need to do to receive a promotion?’ The simpler, the better.”


According to Robbins, there are four simple steps to successful self-promotion:

  • Meet regularly with your manager and in addition to project updates, clarify what an A+ performance is in the eyes of your manager. Get specifics — what, by when, etc.
  • Update your manager on your progress on deliverables and expectations.
  • Verbalize the career track you’d like to be to your manager (be specific!).
  • Ask for your manager’s advice and support.

One added bonus to self-promotion: IT pros can choose to move up the IT ranks or springboard to other departments in the organization, a career choice that did not previously exist. “While employees were once able to start at the bottom and have a fairly easy time following a career path, IT positions may no longer be a necessary or even desirable end point for them,” says Laurie Orlov, research director and vice president of Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. “Process knowledge and diverse educational backgrounds enable IT workers to move to other functions in the enterprise or into and back from providers in the tech industry,” meaning that a career path isn’t necessarily pegged to a single company.

In fact, Forrester Research says its CIO and CTO interviewees confirmed that, despite a lingering nerdy image and the fact that it might still be called IT, the role of the IT group has morphed sharply from all back-office work to the front-and center interaction with business unit clients and the customers.

“Therefore, it is very important that IT pros play up their business and other experiences outside the strictly technical role in their self-promotion efforts,” says Orlov.

Experts agree, however, that self-promotion should not be limited to the confines of your current employment.

“Most good IT managers are well known because they typically have their own blog. They belong to several user groups, are active in them and are highly regarded within those groups. Most importantly, they have a genuine desire to help others and they act on it,” says Ardell.

Experts agree, however, that self promotion should not be limited to the confines of your current employment. Expand your world by looking beyond the borders of your current job function and employer and practicing these three Rs.

  • Read “In general, reading periodicals, belonging to a variety of specific technology user groups and regional user groups, such as the San Diego Cold Fusion User Group, will ensure that IT professionals remain competitive and available for interesting work,” says Ardell.
  • Respect “Acknowledge the heck out of your team for doing a good job.  It will help your career tremendously if you have the good will and vote of the people who work for you. Blogging keeps your visibility up in the industry overall,” says Robbins.
  • Recall “Maintain continuous contact with business constituents, internal and external. Because if you don’t, they’ll forget about you,” says Orlov.

Moving to the next level of your career may progress along a well-defined path, but without some help from your own hands, it may not progress at all. Map out a range of possibilities and make known your desires and abilities. Then be ready to move ahead when the opportunity appears.

“To get ahead in the IT environment today, point out your business smarts and people skills, as these are the skills companies are seeking in their top IT people. Interestingly, self-promotion, when done right, illustrates both of those skills,” concludes Orlov.