Thinking Like a Politician Can Benefit Your Career
BackBy Katherine Spencer Lee
The upcoming presidential election has focused a lot of attention on the political process and those who’ve been successful in it. While your career aspirations may not include a run for the White House, there is much you can learn from respected politicians. The same strategies that have allowed these individuals to rise to the top are similar to those needed to stand out in the business world.
As you consider your professional goals in IT, it’s worth thinking like a politician. Here are some of the characteristics of strong leaders that can help you get ahead.
They’re passionate about their work.
If you’ve ever watched politicians debate the issues, you know how committed they can be to the causes that matter most to them. They inspire others through their enthusiasm, focus and energy. While not all aspects of your job may be exciting, you should convey a true interest in working with technology. This may come across through actions such as touting the benefits of a revolutionary new product to your manager or sharing some little-known, interesting features of an application with colleagues. People should get the sense that you love working in IT and care about what you do.
They see the big picture.
The best political leaders look beyond the obvious and consider the broader impact of decisions. To move into leadership roles in IT, you need to be able to do the same. Companies want technology professionals who can integrate IT strategy into the long-term goals of the organization. If your manager doesn’t discuss how your work supports larger objectives at the company, take the time to ask.
For instance, if you’re assigned the installation of new software in a department, learn what you can about why the product was selected and how it will benefit the group. You’ll show you’re interested in the big-picture impact of your projects.
Great politicians are masters at networking. Building strong relationships allows them to get measures approved and gain the necessary funding for their campaigns. In IT, knowing the right people also can be critical to your career success. After all, if decision-makers in the firm know you and the contributions you make to the organization, you’re more likely to advance.
Try to form connections with people throughout the firm. When attending company events such as birthday celebrations and the annual picnic, take the initiative to talk to managers and employees you haven’t met before. Getting involved in group activities such as team sports and fundraising causes are a couple of easy ways to network.
They know how to compromise.
Those successful in public office have a knack for reaching agreements, even under challenging circumstances. They are great listeners who take into account all perspectives and recognize the value of making concessions when necessary to finalize a deal. Knowing how to compromise also is valuable in IT, where you may be negotiating purchases with vendors or making a case for particular technology strategies with management.
They’re involved in the community.
Participating in activities outside the office can be a great way to raise your visibility and expand your base of contacts. You’ll gain opportunities that you might not have in your current position. For instance, volunteering to help a small nonprofit organization set up its network not only can be personally meaningful, but it also can help you expand your IT expertise and gain leadership abilities.
Consider the politicians you admire most and the characteristics that have made them stars. Do you possess the same qualities? The lessons you learn from mirroring them may be what it takes to move your career forward.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.