Be your own boss, even if you have a boss

Being ignored by your boss can let you make better opportunities for yourself than most managers would ever create for you

Dear Bob ...

I'm in an awkward position. Two years ago I was assigned the support and administration of one of our critical applications. Most of the job had to do with an improper installation of the software, and once that was resolved, I had enough bandwidth to take on SharePoint administration and customization.

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I took care of both assignments within a year, at which point I stopped getting any direction from my boss (the CIO). When I asked, his response was that I should "migrate the users into SharePoint."

I met with a lot of resistance, and I was told, "Just get 'em to do it, and if they have problems, have them come and talk to me." Not knowing any of the players, I felt like I was constantly tiptoeing through a minefield.

Then my boss "elected to pursue other opportunities."

The new CIO is swamped with trying to bring some sense of order. After the reorganization, I now report to the manager of the help desk, who reports to the IT support manager, who reports to the CIO.

I take care of whatever requests come my way, but that's a part-time job. In my free time, I learn as much new technology as I can.

I have an introverted nature. I find networking distasteful to the point of being a phobia. But now, with my career in retrograde and few jobs available in my area, I need some ideas.

Any advice?

- Treading water

Dear Treading ...

First things first: Do what you need to do to get over whatever sense you have that you've been treated unfairly. While it's certainly questionable to reward success with demotion, I suspect what happened here was entirely impersonal -- a new CIO trying to get a handle on things, with no reflection on your actual performance.

You need to get your head in a productive place to do what I'm about to recommend: Take on your original assignment. Be "SharePoint guy" for the enterprise -- only restate your goal. It isn't "migrating" users to SharePoint anymore. Now it's increasing end-user sophistication regarding their management of unstructured information, taking advantage of SharePoint to do so.

Ignore your introversion. Ignore your dislike of networking. Figure out who in the enterprise are the most likely early adopters and why, meet with them to discuss how information technology can help in ways they might not have thought about, offer your help and support, and develop some solid successes outside of IT.

Your chances of becoming a person -- mattering as an individual and not just a role and title -- in the new IT organization are slim, at least initially. There are too many layers between you and the people who matter.

But you have a terrific opportunity to become a person with lots of people who matter outside IT. Once you do, the CIO just might wake up one day to discover your reputation in the business at large is impossible to ignore.

If not, I imagine what I just mapped out will be much more enjoyable than trying to figure out how to keep yourself busy.

- Bob

This story, "Be your own boss, even if you have a boss," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com.

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