It s a fundamental theory of war: Never attack an enemy who has dug into a defensive position. Instead, come up with a strategy to outflank him. Triumphant outflankings are the thrilling bits in the history books: Hannibal crossing the Alps, Stonewall Jackson s Second Corps routing the Union right at Chancellorsville, the Germans outflanking the Maginot fortifications
Your enemy is the IT department s budget, which you have, no doubt, been told is unyielding. Your job is to get more of that budget devoted to you. But you don t attack directly by going into your boss s office and telling him you re looking around for another job. You study the terrain and come up with a flanking maneuver. You ve observed your boss; you ve observed the careers of those who came before you. Now you know the lay of the land. Your next step is to make your flanking movement.
On a piece of paper, list the positive and negative things about your current job, including your relationships with your manager and your peers. Review each one of them, and see if you can develop a strategy that will improve the negatives . For instance, if your manager has no formal, written, significant educational plan for you to keep current or advance to a higher position, then you must ask for one.
Ask for a meeting with your manager and say, courteously, that you are ambitious and have proved yourself to be capable, productive, and loyal, and that you want his or her help, guidance, and counsel on how to move up in the company.
You can judge from your manager s reaction and subsequent actions whether this in-company approach will be successful. If your manager is not proactive in helping you, ask him or her to search for another IT manager or project team that might accommodate your ambitions.
If your immediate manager won t or can t help you and you have the requisite ambition , then you can ask for a meeting with your manager s manager to voice your desires, which are to move up in compensation and title and responsibility within your current company. If your manager cannot help you, then he knows that you will eventually leave, so he has (or should have) a real interest in protecting himself from the inevitable questions about why one of his key people left the company. That means your manager should actually encourage your meeting with his manager ( especially if you have been calm, polite, and sincere), and perhaps set it up, so you can express your needs and desires to executive management.
If you are a reasonably good, productive, and loyal programmer, then your leaving the company will cost it many thousands of dollars in cost of expertise. The IT executive is likely to make a considered evaluation of this and somehow find a way to accommodate such an ambitious and serious programmer. No one, particularly your manager, should fault you for trying to move up within the system. That you have to initiate that upward movement yourself may be surprising and disconcerting, but at least you done everything you could to rise within the company.
Often, the best opportunities are had within your own company. When you are looking for new challenges, scope out your present stomping grounds first. What you observe and what you learn can give you a good idea whether your future is right in front of you.
If you choose to interview at another company, ask for what you want, not what you think you are worth or what you think the company is willing to pay. You may have to accept less that you wanted, but at least you had the courage to ask for it. And you may well be surprised and get what you asked for. At least your new company will know that you have confidence in yourself.