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I have been offered multiple paths

"I have been offered multiple paths within one company. How do I choose the one most likely to promote me?

With Internet firms quickly expanding through organic growth and acquisition, the choice is harder that it might look. The Internet, contrary to media hype, is not a meritocracy. Rising into the top ranks requires strategy.

Choose the group most likely to mentor you.

  • Business Strategy is an influential group, but corporate allegiances and school loyalties can remain insurmountable roadblocks to promotion. I will talk more about this later on. Regardless, if you have A level contacts and are willing to schmooze 24/7, go for it.
  • Project Management is a good springboard, especially if you are a people person. Network continuously, read voraciously, and refine your flair at proposal writing. You will need some familiarity with tracking tools like ABT and environments like Unix, NT, Oracle, SQL etc.
  • Internet Technology guarantees you will have a grinding schedule. A hands-on engineering wannabe, you must enjoy client interface and live for system-design discussions. You need at least 50% of the technical skills they list, but if the engineering staff has faith in you the sky's the limit.
  • Creative Services has a high attrition rate. Producers and designers love it or leave it early on. Most creative personalities are at odds with the repetition. Modest pay increases are the norm. But the top creative strategists have high salaries, and can work nearly anywhere they like.
  • Business Operations launches many non-engineering opportunities. You need to have a nose for competitive analysis, enjoy project management methodologies and be able to evangelize the company's mission. In this role, you should be able to rack up wins impressive enough to get noticed.
  • Marketing/Brand Management managers are visible and the best rise quickly into senior management. Their job requires an inexhaustible knowledge of marketplace competition. This expertise means senior level influencers seek them out and trust their counsel.

A first step to choosing your best path to promotion requires a candid personal inventory. Assess what you can deal with everyday. Is this department the place where your personality and aptitude will shine?

Which manager will promote you? During the interview process, research which managers within the company have made a transition in their own careers. If everything else is equal choose to work for them. Then, when a change to benefit your career is necessary, you have a boss more likely to smooth the way.

Is it easier to redirect your path from the inside? It should be. Losing an employee to another department requires a mature personality. But if you are a team member who is liked and can produce, most good managers can make themselves do the mature thing rather than risk the company's loss of your talents altogether.

Remember, seamless transitions don't just happen from day one. Plan for this possibility. Once there, assimilate quickly to avoid rebounding.

Will your project skills fit into another department? Definitely. There are so many complementary skill sets in the marketplace today. Transitioning often requires reemphasizing skills that you already have.

For instance, you weary of the consulting 'churn'. You see program management from afar and really think this is the right path to follow for personal success. Surf over to the trade organization website and read all past articles archived there. Join in on the chats under a pseudonym and listen. Attend an event and meet once or twice with your new trade organization contact over lunch or dinner. Most importantly, offer to help. Work on a project evenings and weekends. Use this experience to solidify your resolve. When you are prepared and believe you understand the substance of what is needed in the role, match your skills on paper (update your resume), to your company's job description. Then, seek a casual conversation with the decision-maker manager.

Nepotism is rampant - do you really have a shot at a senior slot? Research every bit of personal history you can find on the senior management team to find the answer. Study the corporate website and management bios. Where did senior level managers gain the bulk of their personal consulting and Internet experience? Formative experiences leave a big footprint about their loyalties. Keep your ears open and write down the names of people they call for help. If these senior players have worked together before, they are most likely to promote employees who worked at that same company. Subjectively, they will see qualities for deal making in these candidates first.

You will have your best shot at promotion if you seamlessly blend yourself into the mix. Become familiar. Socialize. Understand their knowledge base is gained from managing solutions from their previous companies. Research those companies. Remember the people mentioned at meetings and go out of your way to meet them. Find out which hardware and applications they used. Converse knowledgeably on the pros and cons even if you don't know the players.

Now, set yourself apart. What different technologies power your new company? What were the reasons they chose this solution? In any case, become an expert on your present technology systems. Make your own contacts with your solution suppliers. And, most of all join. Join their beta testing. Join their discussion groups. Join their trade organization. Become an expert on their technology.

Become a resource for hot technology topics of the day. Always be able to discuss the latest alliances or analysis from the trades, Red Herring, Wall Street Journal, the Industry Standard, and so on.

Alma Mater nepotism: If the senior manager you are trying to influence graduated from an impressive school, and, you are serious about promotion, complete a seminar or distance course from this University. You know in your own experience meeting an alumnus usually generates a smile. You'd probably even ask, "Is so-and-so still teaching such-and-such a course?"

Try to find alumni in common and invite them to corporate functions. Are the teachers that most influenced them published? Read their articles or books. You will learn something valuable in the process.

Recruiting practices may influence promotion. Referral bounties have made competitive recruiters out of easy-going employees. What happens to the company's fairness when managers want to promote the employees they recruited? Is it just empire building?

Reverberations to this thoughtless practice will bring changes in the future. But, let this bubbling cauldron burn someone else. Move on as quickly as possible.

Will a powerhouse merger eliminate my promotion? All bets are off on this one. Usually, senior management cashes in and moves on.

You can view this as an opportunity to embrace the new regime or - suffer. The Internet is all about change and choice albeit unwelcome. You may be promoted or you just may arrive one morning to watch your CEO's farewell video, saying, "I am grateful to each and every one of you" as he wings off to Bali. Never forget the facts. Internet employment tenure is between 9 and 18 months, depending upon your category of specialization. Stay prepared." - from Monster.com

Copyright 2004 - Monster Worldwide, Inc. All Rights Reserved. You may not copy, reproduce or distribute this article without the prior written permission of Monster Worldwide. This article first appeared on Monster, the leading online global network for careers. To see other career-related articles visit <http://content.monster.com>.

<Note from JobFairy.com: Only rarely do we see an upward career path through one company anymore. And I can't recall it happening in IT unless the person is an absolute dud who lacks marketable skills (but not political ones) and stays at only the one company because s/he knows they couldn't hack it anywhere else. So plan your career knowing that you will most likely be jumping ship from time to time. It's easier to get promotions that way, too.>

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· How to Manage Geeks
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· How to Successfully Pass the Job Interview
· How to Write A Winning Resume
· I have been offered multiple paths
· Information Technology Tips (Part 1)
· Information Technology Tips (Part 2)
· Interview Body Language
· Interview techniques that Work
· Interview with an IT Recruiter
· Interviewing 101
· Is Tech Work Gender-Blind?
· Is Your Attitude Ambushing Your Job Search?
· Job Fair Links
· Job Jumping: The New Corporate Ladder
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