For many people who wish to go into a technical field, their goal is first to get through high school, then college, than to get a job. What happens after that seems sort of irrelevant, until you one day wake up and find you’ve been doing the same thing over and over for several years. Then you start to wonder if you made the right choice in going into a technical field. After all, if all you are ever going to do is write little code modules that hook into something bigger that you never get to see, it’s hard to imagine all the work you put into getting into such a position was really worth it. This happens because no one tells people that they need to plan out their careers just a clearly as they planned out their schooling. And one of those parts of planning is learning what to do to progress in a technical career.
The thing is, with technical careers, people tend to get left where they are if something doesn’t happen to cause managers to want to move them into something else. That something might be a direct request, or it might be that the person has demonstrated other skills that might be useful in other areas, or it might even be that the person has some other personal traits that cause them to stand out which makes bosses and others take note and want them on their team.
Thus, the way to get promoted when you work in a technical field is by making those things happen for you.
First of all, if you truly want to do something different from what you are doing, you need to open your eyes and look around you; look at other parts of your company even if work is being done that you are not specifically qualified to do. Companies have been known to send people for training if a person has all the qualities they are seeking except for one. The point is, none of those people out there are responsible for your career path; you are. If you want to try something else, find out what is available and then try to get moved onto that project, transferred or promoted. It depends on you and what you do far more than what others do. Granted, they have the power and authority to deny your requests or to try to cajole you into staying put for their own benefit, but you always have the option of leaving the company altogether if your management teams isn’t amendable to offering you the opportunities that you request.
But that is the key, you have to be willing to ask.
Another great way to get promoted, or at least moved around, is to get more education. Few things in the technical fields are more valuable than added education. If you have a bachelors degree, go get your master’s. If you have your master’s, go get a doctorate. And if you already have a doctorate, go get another one. The point is, there is no upper ceiling on education. Also, simple training might help. If you have a good degree but don’t know how to do a lot of the things that are being done in other departments, sometimes it’s as simple as putting in a request for additional training. Other times, it’s a little more difficult in that you have to go get the training on your own dime. But the bottom line is still the same. More education = better job and higher pay.