Heads or tails? Those are your odds of being promoted internally to an IT management position, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Toronto-based RHI Consulting asked 270 CIOs from random samples of Canadian companies with 100 or

more employees, “”What percentage of managerial positions within your IT department are filled by candidates who were promoted from within?””

According to the poll, only 49 per cent were promoted from inside company walls.

Kraig Docherty, division director for RHI’s Vancouver office, says there are a number of reasons to promote your own. One, the learning curve is reduced by slashing training costs. Two, the dangling carrot of promotion serves as a motivation and retention tool. Choosing the candidate carefully, he warns, is very important.

“”[Companies] should be very careful not to just promote the best programmer or the most tenured employee, but sit down and define the skill sets necessary to success in the new position and then offer the job to the candidate who best matches the skills profile,”” Docherty says.

To be taken seriously as a management-level candidate, Docherty recommends a multi-pronged attack. This includes making yourself indispensable to your employer by becoming an expert in one of more of the area’s operation. It also means getting a mentor who can offer advice on technical questions as well as issues like navigating office politics. Finally, RHI suggests volunteering to take the lead on an important project while developing your soft skills.

“”In addition to improving your technical expertise, it’s critical today that you enhance your softer skills such as leadership, business acumen, verbal and written communication abilities, etc.,”” Docherty says.

While statistically speaking your odds of getting that new job are that of a coin toss, there are ways to gauge your chances. Howard Hess of Toronto-based Hess Associates Executive Search, a high-tech recruiting firm, says medium- to large-sized companies are much more likely to promote from within.

“”If you’re a programmer at a small to medium-sized company, they visualize you as a programmer,”” Hess says. “”They don’t see you as a manager unless you’ve been a manager and that’s why they have to bring in from the outside.””

To get a more definitive answer, Hess suggests looking at the company’s promotion history and strategy. “”If the top guy knows what he’s doing then he will have succession plans in place. Those succession plans include people who are moving up, like a manager becoming directors, directors becoming senior directors.””

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