Your tech career: How to cope with an unsupportive boss

You're ready to advance, but your manager is asleep at the switch. Here's how to get ahead without a boost from your boss.

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It helps to have a real reason to connect, rather than a generic "let's get together," Douglas advises. If you'll be working with a new team to implement a new system, for example, ask to meet with the team leader in advance to learn more about what she does and what she wants to achieve with the system.

Or seek out the colleague who was recently certified in a new tech specialty or just returned from a big IT conference. Plan lunches with colleagues and managers in the business departments that your team works with frequently.

Because the best conversations are two-way, be ready to listen and to talk about yourself -- about what you do, what you offer, and how you can help, Douglas adds. As you build these types of relationships, you'll likely find that colleagues will think of you when a high-profile project rolls around or a job opens up.

"It's building that internal network and being your own advocate, because no one is going to network for you," Sindell says. "And you won't have to be too concerned about stepping on your boss's toes because you're being requested by others."

Do the job you eventually want

If you want to get noticed, then go ahead and demonstrate what you've got, says Von Wright, an Atlanta-based marketing vice president at AT&T Inc. "You have to do the job you want to be doing, and you have to start doing it today," he says.

For example, if you're a senior manager in a technology role but you want to lead business teams that define strategy, be the one on your current projects who translates business metrics into solutions.

Of course, you won't have a new title or an official promotion -- yet -- and you'll have to continue to fulfill all your existing obligations perfectly. But you'll be using skills that will be essential to the position you want to hold someday, Wright says.

"You never want to miss the opportunity to demonstrate your skills in front of leaders who aren't necessarily your boss," he says, adding that he himself used the strategy to move into his current job from his past position as vice president of IT strategy, planning and business integration.

Keep the faith

In short, Wright and other career experts advise you to act like the employee you're ready to become. If your boss is not supportive of your efforts, have faith that someone else will be. "Any good leader is always looking for the right people," Wright says. "And any good leader, when exposed to people who have the right qualities, will start working to get that individual on the team."

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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