Within the IT industry, more often than not you’ll hear about people trying to switch companies, it is a well-established strategy used by everyone to get a decent raise. With every switch, the expectation of a 30-50% raise is more or less the average. There aren’t regulated benchmarks which would peg a certain amount to the position you’re applying to, but rather dynamic and dependent on the individual’s past, or as the industry calls it, “experience”. Since the salary doesn’t always correspond to the capability of the individual, they are left with no other choice but to start afresh and raise their market value by switching companies, since their current employer would never be able to match the 30-50% expectation even if they are highly skilled. The fluid state of affairs actually aids both the employers and the employees as everyone’s on a different trajectory of their developmental journey and people moving in and out leads to sharing of best practices and learning for the teams and the individuals.
On average, individuals spend about 20-30 months with the same employer before looking out for opportunities but is this the only way to grow? Certainly not, you’ll also find a few who have been with a company for time immemorial, either out of loyalty or lethargy to go through a change. And how do you induce loyalty? Simply by balancing the scale of what the person deserves to what the person is given. When people go out job hunting, one school of thought is to go after the “brand”, which essentially means to go after a big multi-national company name, which will add more weight to their CVs and help their future switching endeavors. And the other school of thought is to go after the quality of work and the skills you’ll be able to pick at the next job. And of course, the third and more straight-forward approach is to simply go with the highest paying employer, the easy way out. But is there a more balanced approach to this, are there some missing yet crucial elements to be considered prior to the next big switch?
In my personal experience and anecdotes from my friends in the same industry, I’ve come to realize that the team you work with and the manager you report to directly impact your day-to-day happiness with work. I know it sounds obvious, but I don’t think as many people treat this so obviously while making their judgment. You could look at a multi-national corporation and assume that they would operate extremely slowly compared to a start-up and hence you would assume to not have as much growth, but within the corporation, there could be teams which operate at breakneck speed driven by a sense of urgency of the leaders, hence the stereotype does not apply. There’s unfortunately not an easy way to identify the true nature of the team culture since it is something only someone within the team can talk about, and everybody is going to sell the idea of “works hard, parties harder” team to you. You can try to strike up a conversation with someone on the team and get a rough sense, but as I said earlier not many of us would be comfortable doing it.
The second aspect of choosing your manager is something more within your area of judgment. In most scenarios, you would be interviewed by your to-be manager at least once and that interview needs to be a two-way affair, where you’re not just being interviewed but also are interviewing your manager. By that, I don’t mean the conventional sense of you asking questions to ascertain their skill in the domain you’re applying for but more in the way to judge his/her social skills. Truth be told, many have landed leadership positions simply because of their age in the industry. They were promoted to such a role because that was the only way forward for them, they weren’t necessarily taught the soft-skills required to lead a team, their leadership learning essentially comes from their previous bosses, who may have been part of the same cycle.
Some simple questions such as ‘how would you describe your leadership style?’, ‘what’s your vision for the team for this year and the next?’, ‘how do you manage the growth of each individual within the team?’, ‘how do you mentor individuals inside/outside of the team?’, ‘if I were to join, how do you envision my growth within the team and within the organisation?’, ‘why did the last 2 people in the team leave?’, ‘how were we to manage in case I did not align with your leadership style’, and ‘what do you like/dislike about the current team’s culture and how are you trying to make it better?’
The answers to the above questions and the conversations which ensue out of them will be your litmus test to identify a forced boss versus a good leader. Being self-aware is a fundamental step towards being a true leader. I don’t think there are bad bosses, there are just forced bosses who were put in their position with a 1 day/week theoretical training without constant development and feedback. A good leader treats every person on his team like an asset she/he needs to protect and help grow (outside of the organization if need be). They will be honest with you and put your personal development at par with driving the expected outcome, it’s not an afterthought to them, it’s ingrained in the process. Next time, identify the manager you want to work with, true leaders identify that success isn’t a zero-sum game, it’s a game of multiplication, they are out there creating many more leaders.
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