Information Technology Careers
Over the years I have been running my IT Service business, it has been a common experience to be asked by employees and contractors what the future might bring. What is your plan for me? Will I continue to grow personally? Will the business succeed or does this position have stability? The answer is always the same, I sincerely hope so, let’s work towards that, or if I’m being really, really, honest; … I wish I had those answers too!!
The future is uncertain, and this is the case within every. single. business. It would be fantastic to have the capacity to accurately answer questions surrounding promotions, raises, and upward mobility for someone else; but the reality, for better or worse is bluntly, your future depends on you – and the future of your company depends on the collective efforts of your entire team, executives making good long-term decisions, your industry, product offerings, and … a bit of luck.
Risk is Inevitable
Consider the layoffs occurring at some of the largest technology companies in the world. Business is cyclical and based on countless variables and models that entrepreneurs, researchers, and investors try tirelessly to uncover. The future is influenced by many unknown macro and micro economic factors, your efforts, the efforts of your team, clients, investors; and factoring all these together on top of the realities of the entire human experience (add to the list pandemics, war, and crime); creates a deeply complex scenario to accurately predict.
When pondering your own future regarding a promotion or just a simple raise, I’d like to share some pointers. Unless you are at a company or working for a manager that is myopic, these suggestions will apply to you. Be aware of these factors when seeking personal career growth, wanting a raise, or a promotion. I am not claiming this list is exhaustive, but I have found these core four factors do indeed guide much of the compensation-related decision making that takes place within an organization.
Please note that two of these factors depend on the business, and the other two factors depend on you individually.
Is the client base for the business growing?
Are margins healthy?
Is your skill set and institutional knowledge irreplaceable?
How well are you already compensated for your current skill set, when compared with the existing labor market?
Company Level Factors
- Is the client base for the business growing?
- Has the company you work for been growing or has growth flatlined? Management has a hard time justifying a cost increase when existing models and teams are struggling to grow. Changes may be needed to reverse this trend, and that typically does not mean continuing to do things the way you always have; position yourself in a way that ensures you are a part of the change.
- Are margins healthy?
- Even if clients are being added, ask yourself if those margins are healthy? A business is either in a growth mode, has flatlined, or is in decline. If your client base is growing but margins are suffering, that may be justifiable if the plan is (for example) to gain market share during the early years of a business’s lifecycle; but ultimately, businesses only exist to add value to shareholders. Would you want to be an investor or shareholder in a business that routinely did not make a profit? Of course not, neither does your executive team or investors.
Your Individual Contribution
- Is your skill set and institutional knowledge irreplaceable?
- If you walk into your manager’s office and ask for a raise, and they in short summary simply say no; is that because they are a crook or because there is no reason to give you a raise based on your current contribution level? Managers are always afraid of losing top talent. If you work for someone who is paying attention to which employees really contribute to the team, be irreplaceable. Become the go-to person for projects, challenging issues, and impossible situations; management will take notice.
- How well are you already compensated for your current skill set, when compared with the existing labor market?
- I always recommend employees keep their resumes polished. If you are a key player on your team, you should be able to update your resume every six months with new and exciting experiences and skills. Float your resume around to prospective employers. Are they interested in hiring you, and are the wages you are being offered hirer than where you currently work? Is the position you were offered in a similar industry performing a similar function? If the answer to these questions is yes, you can make a case for a raise with your current employer. If you are already paid well, find gratitude in working for an employer who pays you appropriately for your abilities and contribution.
We cannot directly influence all the macro-level factors happening to us and the businesses we work for, it simply isn’t within our span of influence. You can become the best version of yourself and strive to work with other likeminded individuals and managers. Always be open to new learning opportunities, recognize that the way things are today will not be how they are tomorrow.
Keep Moving Forward
If you have been doing the same thing for a very long time, recognize the risk that may be posing. Do not make the mishap that in the ever-changing world of IT Consulting, Software, Service and Support, things will be static; they simply will not be. Technologies come and go along with the tools needed to support them. Embrace the chaos by becoming the fittest contributor you can be, learn your role, and seek additional opportunities to expand your worth to your employer.
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