Promotion blog

6 Tips on How to Get Ahead in IT Service Management

Work can consume a significant part of our lives and, for the majority of us, it’s important to feel that we are appreciated for what we do and that we are consistently moving forward in our careers.

It’s great to be viewed as being good at our jobs and that, as a result of our hard work, we gain promotions or other financial rewards and slowly climb up the organizational hierarchy. However, it doesn’t always happen as quickly as we would like, despite the hard work, and it’s often not clear how to accelerate or even to jump start a career.

Careers in IT Service Management

In IT service management (ITSM) it can be particularly difficult – especially to make the jump from the service desk to a more technical, and better paying, role. And promotion within the service desk hierarchy can be difficult too – often there is only one avenue to follow, with promotion (and potentially a long wait) reliant upon a senior team member being promoted or leaving for new pastures.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should just sit and wait or that there aren’t other opportunities to be seized. Careers are different these days too – when I was a younger Joe there was greater corporate investment in training. Like vacation, training was something you had every year, and you could get promoted by just being in a role long enough. Nowadays, our employers expect us to take more, if not total, responsibility for our own development and careers, and rightly so. No one knows our hopes and dreams quite like we do, and we shouldn’t expect our line managers to progress our careers for us. We need to take responsibility for our careers and steer them in the direction that we wish to travel – of course still being willing and able to adjust your sails, and direction, when the weather calls for it.

Six Tips for ITSM Career Progression

I’d like to say that career planning is a science but, over the years, I’ve concluded that it’s more of an art. Either way, I suggest that you consider the following if you are looking to progress within or beyond the service desk:

  1. It’s not just about who you know. It’s also about who knows you and what you can do for them. In my opinion, the old saying of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is only partly correct. Yes, it will help if you get out of your cubicle and network, but just hoping that you magically meet someone in the industry who will help you get to where you want to be is naive. Instead, it’s better to be known for something – either internally or externally. This way, people and potential roles can come to you. Depending on where you want your career to take you, participating in internal improvement projects, attending and presenting at industry events, or just being active on social media can all help your cause.
  1. Step out of your comfort zone. If you want to get ahead, you need to take on projects and tasks outside of your usual day-to-day activities. If you see something that can be improved or a new opportunity, then do some research. Develop a plan to show your manager that you’re serious and can step up to move it forward. Another way to push your comfort zone, to stand out from the crowd, and to gain more visibility is to speak at industry events. In the US there’s HDI and itSMF USA, and in the UK there’s SDI, SITS, itSMF UK, and BCS. At all the events, people love to hear from new speakers – especially practitioners – looking to share knowledge and experience with their peers.
  1. Nominate yourself and your team for industry awards. Culturally this can be a difficult one. In some countries “blowing your own trumpet” can be seen as distasteful and thus many are unwilling to put themselves forward for awards. There are many reasons to put yourself and your team forward, perhaps you feel that your work, or your team’s, has been deserving, or maybe your employer would like a little good PR. In either case, just being shortlisted is good for your CV, and career prospects, and it might also deliver a boost to morale, which is always a good thing.
  1. Adopt a mentor. Finding someone who has already been down the road you are trying to travel can be incredibly helpful. The right mentor can give you the benefit of their experience and perspective, and help you to avoid the pitfalls that they made on their career path. They can also introduce you to people and can be a great sounding board for your ideas. If you don’t already know someone to approach then you should check out ITSM Zone and their fantastic lineup of mentors.
  1. Own your mistakes. A natural reaction to criticism is defense. However, as a considerate and inclusive member of the working community you owe it to yourself, and to those around you, to take any criticism constructively and be willing to learn from it. No matter how the criticism is bestowed, it’s important to separate yourself from your work, to take the time to analyze the comments, and to determine how to improve and develop. Often it’s also better to admit to your mistakes early on, rather than waiting for them to be found out.
  1. Don’t be afraid of leveraging your worth. First things first – do you know your worth to your company and do you consistently deliver on that value? If you know this, and can prove it, then you’ve got more weight when you tackle your boss on the subject of a promotion or a raise. If you can show what you “bring to the table” then there’s less wiggle-room for your boss and the likelihood of the “there just isn’t enough money in the budget” speech. You need to show them that they’re far better off with you than without you. A word of warning though, it’s about providing them with the information to arrive at this conclusion on their own. Trying to make decisions for your superiors or using threats, however veiled, to get what you want almost always backfires.

So map out a plan for how to get ahead using my tips and any others your peers or mentor can offer. Remember that not all of these will work for everyone. Use past experiences to gauge what works for you and what doesn’t. And don’t forget to step out of your comfort zone wherever possible, but stay safe.

So that’s my six tips, what would you add?

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Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).

4 thoughts on “6 Tips on How to Get Ahead in IT Service Management”

  1. Pingback: 6 Tips on How to Get Ahead in IT Service Manage...

  2. Avatar James Finister

    As I said at the ITSMF UK plenary session it is important to start to think like a manager and learn generic management skills, like how to understand the figures and how to balance conflicting priorities. Linked to that is to always be thinking of the skills you’ll need for your next job.


    1. Joe the IT Guy Joe the IT Guy Post author

      I completely agree with you James. I’m sad that I missed your session at itSMF UK, I would like to have heard more. Maybe you could find time to write a blog about it?


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