How to take that next step up the career ladder

/ Source: contributor

Finding the right job or making the one you have your dream job isn’t easy. Many of you are living proof of that. Witness the many e-mails I’ve gotten from readers in the last two weeks wondering how to make sense of it all.

So, every two weeks, I will be including a few letters from readers and answering your questions here. I’ll also be enlisting the help of experts in a variety of fields so I can better target your needs. While I won’t be able to publish every letter, I will try my best to answer each of you individually via e-mail. Just be patient with me because it may take a couple of weeks.

Here is a sampling of the latest questions:

I have a management/strategy/market research background but took a job in the operations area of my company so I could learn the business firsthand. My problem now (after almost two years) is that I am not sure how I combine my talents to move up in the company. And two, the company's directors have some 15-plus years' experience in their current positions and don't seem to be going anywhere.  I don't want to disrupt my family life, but are my options to move out?
—E.A., Louisville, Ky.

Now might be the time to sit down with your supervisor and make it clear what your goals are and what you can expect for your future at this firm. 

When you approach your boss to schedule a meeting, Kate Zabriskie, a career coach and founder of workplace training firm Business Training Works Inc., suggests you start out by saying something like: “I wanted to talk with you about career planning and what options might be available to me.”

Once you meet, here’s your opener: “I would like to round out my skill set and take on some marketing strategy-related projects.  Do you believe there is an opportunity for me to do that here?”

Don’t expect an answer right away because you might be taking your boss off-guard.

With all your talents it would be a natural to see you take a step up in a reasonable timeframe, within a year or two, especially if you’re doing your job well. If there is no such chance for advancement then moving on may be something you should consider.

If I have a B.S. Degree, an M.B.A., six years' experience, and certifications — what more could I possibly do to get hired at the company of my choice? (This is the million-dollar question.) ... I guess perhaps have an expert review my resumé and possibly take some classes to learn about the technologies used by IBM, like SAP?
—Jeremy Johnson, Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Answer: Connect with staffing agencies in your town that have positions at the companies you want to work for. Many people take contracting gigs at major companies and then end up moving into a full-time position. This could help you figure out if it's really someplace you want to work.

When it comes to enhancing your skills further, Matt Moran, author of “The IT Career Builder’s Toolkit,” suggests you not worry that much about it at this point because you seem to have good credentials. It might be a good idea, he says, to get a job with a consulting firm that does work with some of the larger companies you want to work for.

And don’t sweat the resume. It should be short and sweet, Moran says. But you should also include a page with summaries of two projects you worked on and how you approached them, whether it is something you did as a temporary staffer or a full-time employee. A list of technologies on a resume won’t set you apart from the thousands of other IT job applicants out there who also have lists of technologies.

And consider getting published, even in a peer IT journal. “You have to position yourself as an expert,” Moran adds, to get your foot in the door of the big guys.

Bottom line: Find a way to set yourself apart.

Eve Tahmincioglu is a regular contributor to many business publications and author of "From the Sandbox to the Corner Office."