Are you thinking about career advancement and taking a shot at becoming an upper-level manager? Maybe you have been a project manager for longer than you care to think about and have decided it’s time to move to the next level. Perhaps you manage a department in a large organization and ultimately want to lead a group of managers.

Whatever your goal, an effective way to get where you want to go with your career is to listen to advice from people who have already made their move into upper management or another executive career.

TechRepublic member Jody Harris, the CIO for a large healthcare organization in Louisiana, said that managers should first ask themselves if they really want to take on the added responsibility that comes with a promotion.

First steps toward success
It is likely that a promotion will demand more of your time and resources. Answer these questions from Harris to evaluate if you are ready to begin the move to upper management:

  • Do you want the added responsibility and stress?
  • Do you want to reduce the amount [of] actual hands-on work that you do?
  • Are you aware that as you develop your management skills, your technical skills may suffer?

“If you find that you still want to move up after a true evaluation of where you are going, then make the decision to do so. This is the first step,” said Harris.

Another way to start your move up is to tell your supervisor that you are ready to take on more responsibilities.

After you tell your manager that you want more management experience, the next step is to work with your manager to accomplish your goals. “He or she can be very helpful in assisting your efforts to achieve your objective and is ultimately the person that facilitates a career move for you in your company,” said Mike Sisco, a TechRepublic contributor and a former CIO of U.S. HealthWorks.

Working with your supervisor can give you the experience you need to understand how they perform and guide upper-level management tasks and processes. Be sure that this new relationship gives you the opportunity to learn, from their perspective, how they do their jobs.

According to this Quick Poll, not all managers want to be CIOs.

Show the desire before there’s a need
Don’t be discouraged if you’ve made the decision to move up and there are no available positions within your organization. Sisco believes that it’s still important to start collecting the experience and the tools you’ll need when a position opens.

Harris said that showing enthusiasm is key. “Stay on top of your job and be ready to assist others. Be a team player and always make your boss look good. This can help you move up in a particular corporation, but as a rule it is a slow process,” said Harris.

TechRepublic member Margaret Moore also said that early enthusiasm is a good way to demonstrate to your supervisors your interest in taking on added responsibilities. “I volunteered when no one else was available, offered advice even if it wasn’t asked for,” she said.

You should couple this enthusiasm with starting to think about managing projects in the way that your supervisor and upper-level executives do. For example, Sisco suggested that, while working with your manager, you should start to think about and approach a project in the same way a manager does. One key area to focus on is the impact the project will have on the business side of the organization, a strategy used by many successful managers. “Start thinking in terms of the business objective, costs, and return on investment rather than simply delivering a project,” said Sisco.

The right education can help propel you
If pursuing a degree is part of your plan to beef up your resume, be aware that your educational goals will likely have to match your career aspirations. Harris recommends that you should consider earning a bachelor’s degree to put you in line for most management positions and a master’s degree for a shot at director or CIO positions.

The bottom line is that you should work to sharpen your current skills and learn new ones in order to be prepared when an advancement opportunity arises, either inside or outside your organization.

“For some reason, companies often feel that a new person from outside the corporation is more capable than their internal staff and will hire outside. This is not the same for all companies, but with the vast majority it is,” Harris said.

Internal candidates who are prepared have a chance to level the playing field, and maybe even gain an advantage, with job seekers from outside your company.