So you just got into a role and you want to quickly move up? Or maybe you’ve been in a role for a while and feel like you’ve mastered it. Ready for the next step? In this post I’ll giving you guidance on how to effectively move up in your current role or move out. Whether you’re in an entry level role or halfway, these tips I’m about to get into should apply. Let’s dive in:
First, have a clear vision of where you want to be in your career. This will ensure your next steps and whether they can apply in the company you’re in presently or in the next one.
Second, work on mastering your current role to the best of your capabilities. Before setting your sights on a more established and likely higher paying role, ensure your proficiency in the role that you’re in. This helps prove that you’re an asset to the company and showing your peers and management that you have drive. Be vocal with your lead and/or supervisor with perhaps some 1:1 meetings. My previous supervisor, Jerad B, capitalized on these in my career. They were both invaluable insight while providing the relief of “downtime” that I could just casually talk to my leader, talk about growth, and current tasks or projects. If your leader doesn’t have this, ask about it!
Third, research what you need in order to get that promotion.
When I was in the Public Sector, I went to the Infrastructure Manager and asked him to go to lunch with me as I wanted to bend his ear. We grabbed food and he asked me what was on my mind, that’s when I hit him with it. I told him I wanted to work my way into becoming a Network Engineer under him one day. He gave me an informal interview then asked me what I knew and if I had any certifications. At the time, I was a Workstation Support Technician and actively studying for my CCNA R&S. While there wasn’t a role available, he gave me his expectations: Have a CCNA and understand networking fundamentals taught from it aka “No Paper Certs”, or someone who’s certified but doesn’t know the material or do basic tasks. When a role would open up he would give me a shot at the actual interview.
This step is important as you want insight if you have the capability to grow within your current company or if you hit the ceiling for growth and pay. If a company let’s say doesn’t house in-house network engineers and perhaps outsources a third party to manage your network then you may be out of luck and your time with them be limited.
Finally, work on your skills and start applying and interviewing!
Remember the comment, “No Paper Certs”? If you get your CCNA/P or JNCIA/P, etc, be 100% confident that you can speak to the theories, protocols and back it up in action! If the role expects you to know Cisco equipment, go out and learn Cisco! If they want you to know Juniper, go and learn Juniper! If they want you to have some knowledge on Ansible (and you should, it’s amazing!), lab that up! You get my drift. Even if you have no working experience with a technology, it pays dividends to make a lab and document it. A wise man once asked me, “Manny, what’s the difference between lab experience and working experience in a network/technology? The answer….NONE! They’re exactly the same! A lab switch or router is still a switch or router. BGP is still BGP.” That man was AJ (@noblinkyblinky) and that piece of advice I’ll never forget! Another piece of advice from a good friend and inspiration:
“If you put down a protocol or technology on your resume, be cautious of the experience level you list. If you say you’re an Expert in BGP, you may just sit down with someone who lives and breathes BGP that will grill you into oblivion! So be careful.”Tim M.
This is the critical “move up or move out” moment. This is where you can network internally to see if there’s a role you can get promoted into. Mileage may vary as some organizations may outsource the position you want or may not have a position available due to staffing being at 100% or perhaps due to budgetary constraints of wanting that role but not able to fund it. There’s one critical point I want to lay out for you all: Being in a role, ANY ROLE, where you become the senior but you do NOT do the work to level up does NOT mean you’re automatically slated to get the promotion. For those who have that notion, throw it in the trash! That doesn’t work anymore. This may be a cliché quote, “In order to get something you never had, you have to do something you never had to do.” Now that we got that out of the way, if you interview for internal roles and don’t get it, please ask for feedback as to why you didn’t get it and work on those areas. Maybe even discuss with your leader on your areas of improvement.
If you get to this point where you haven’t made any headway on an internal role at your company or they simply don’t have that role you’re looking for, then it’s time to “move out”.
“It isn’t personal, just business”Michael Corleone, The Godfather
I had to throw in that quote. This is something that you have to remind yourself if you get to this point. If like me that you were in an organization for several years, moved up several times, created strong bonds with your co-workers and leadership where you have become actual friends outside of the workplace then this is a bit larger pill to swallow. It means leaving your comrades in pursuit of your career dreams. As mentioned in my earlier post about leaders vs. bosses, if they’re true leaders and comrades, they’ll support you and your dreams even if it means losing you. I personally went through this during my last job transition from Network Technician to Network Engineer. It was such an emotional rollercoaster!
This is where you start researching job roles that line up to where you want to go, applying, and interviewing. Job postings are like “wish lists” so don’t get too wrapped up in them. I admit, I would get intimidated whenever I look at a Network Engineer and Senior Network Engineer roles on LinkedIn or on company sites just to see what organizations are looking for. It does pay dividends to research and/or lab every technology or protocol listed so when they get their SME in the room, you’ll be able to speak to every topic possible! Not only that, but ensure your proficiency and success on the job role. Otherwise, you’ll be faced with a “Sink or Swim” moment every day in your new role. I rather deal with the infamous Imposter Syndrome than to feel the chaotic waves of Sink or Swim any day!
Best of luck! I pray you all get the roles you deserve and dream of! Hard work pays off and make no mistake, others will notice!
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