It's that time of year—you're in a room, sitting with your manager, and about to discuss your appraisal/performance review. Question is—are you prepared to talk through this opportunity to increase your salary or be a candidate for promotion?
The best-case scenario is that you don't have to do much talking—your achievements and the value you've added to your organization speaks for themselves—your manager ends up thanking you for making their life easier justifying any level-up gains. This is just one way you increase your earning potential as sysadmins—by growing within your organization.
When other opportunities come from outside your workplace, are you prepared with your success stories to convince potential employers and get them to buy your pitch during the interview? The best case is that you effortlessly share your initiatives and successes, and they listen in awe and want to hear more—then end up hiring you with a good offer. Better yet, your profile and brand in the local community are so outstanding that different companies battle it out to win you.
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These are some of the possible ways to increase your earning potential as a sysadmin. The big question is—how do you get there and prepare yourselves for these conversations and opportunities sooner rather than later?
Here, I share some of the tips, advice, ideas, and learnings based on my experiences and those of a few others I've spoken to.
Make yourself dispensable
I know this sounds ironic, but I've learned that you need to leave your existing tasks behind and focus on value-adding missions for you to move forward. This differentiates you from the rest of the pack.
Add value to your team and organization—Improve, automate and document your day-to-day tasks so that anyone can do it, and better yet, no one needs to do it. Target to fix your main pain points to make everyone confident in your space. This way, you have time to participate and gain everyone's trust for you to become involved in more valuable initiatives.
Don't stick to the status quo—challenge yourself and the norms, especially if they're not efficient and already outdated. Your stakeholders become gobsmacked with the value and improvements you're making.
Take control of your career and goals
Managing your career and goals allows you to conquer your own and your organization's limits. You sometimes hear that you don't get the support you need, but with self-initiative, you can learn and move forward through the resources available to you. There are numerous open source projects that you can play on even before you request that technical training.
Do the research and proof-of-concept studies on new technologies such as Ansible, Hybrid Cloud, Kubernetes, and OpenShift using the free trials and workshops available online. These help you prepare well and be a good candidate for your company's spending on learning and development with formal training and certification exams.
You may want to find a learning buddy, technical coach, or mentor as you might find it easier to commit when you're accountable to someone else. It's not just technical—you might also want to grow vertically into leadership and manage other sysadmins.
Work on your soft skills
In this era, having technical skills is not your only weapon in increasing that earning potential. Emotional intelligence, attitude, ability to work with others, and communication skills are some of the things that can give you that unique advantage and distinction across the fleet.
Begin by looking for a peer or coach that you look up to in your organization. You can also join speaking clubs such as Toastmasters to enhance your interpersonal and communications skills in the meeting room and on a speaking stage. Writing is also one way of getting noticed. There are many venues, such as Enable Sysadmin, Opensource.com, and medium.com, where you can contribute and learn from others.
Don't be overwhelmed or afraid to get out of your comfort zone. I know many people who surprised themselves with their strengths away from their keyboard, terminals, and technical stuff.
Collaborate with others
Gone are the days when some sysadmins ensure they know the top secrets and make things complicated to themselves to gain all the merits, and everyone else remains left out of critical knowledge.
We live in a world where innovation springs out of collaboration. Be sure that you work with other teams to expand your knowledge and contribute to theirs—you might even take the initiative to do secondments on teams that interest you. Try to organize small projects that improve some processes within teams or explore updated tools and technology that may be better than what you currently have. This helps break down silos, start a cultural change, spark interests, and allow everyone to succeed.
Ensure everyone’s work and progress are documented publicly for easy access to those who were encouraged to participate.
Connect with others and increase your profile
Career connections and references give you an advantage opportunity-wise. Great feedback from key people you've worked with gives your manager an idea of how you perform well and exceed expectations.
Being part of communities also enables you to connect with different people who may be your potential employer. Attend or organize events—lunch and learns or meetups within your company or local community, getting yourself out there helping others and getting noticed.
You might even start with small groups or brown-bag sessions within your team or department to discuss your successes and exciting projects. Once comfortable, you might submit papers or talks to tech conferences and engagements about the cool things you are working on—this further raises your profile.
Have fun at work
Find the things that fuel you. Work can be daunting at times—but it's how you react to difficult times that define you. If you're enjoying your career or significant aspects of it, you're excited to be in these situations where you can help and add value.
Make it fun and look for opportunities to display your skills and strengths and some options that develop your weaker points. Work doesn't have to be boring when you expand your horizons and discover newfound enthusiasm.
There are many ways to make it exciting by connecting with others, being creative in your space, and reaching out to opportunities outside your normal routine. Make sure to take recharge days outside of work for that constant renewed energy and thrill that keeps you going.
[ New research from HBR Analytic Services - IT talent strategy: New tactics for a new era ]
The future is bright through collaboration
Your ability to earn and sustain yourself is one of the motivations for why you work. Increasing this earning potential alongside career growth, personal fulfillment, and enjoyment gives you the impetus to go further.
As sysadmins, we have various paths and opportunities to achieve this—one thing common, though, is to have a success narrative ready to share with others. It's not an overnight process, though. It's all the hard work, the investment, commitment, and enthusiasm that you put in every day with your goals in mind.
Take every chance you can to build your brand and story, so when the opportunity comes, the impact of your narrative speaks for itself and helps guarantee your success.