Effectively getting promotionsFeatured
Earlier this year, much of the Internet celebrated the announcement of a record breaking number of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list. That number was 37 (or 7.4%), up from 33 in 2019. In a country where women represent 50% of the workforce and 56% of college graduates, how can this possibly be seen as an achievement? In tech, the numbers tend to look even worse: while 47% of the tech workforce is female, the majority of tech companies (54%) don’t have a single female executive.Faced with such disheartening statistics along with challenges like workplace harassment and pay disparity, women often struggle to ask for and receive the promotions they deserve. While I am still relatively green in both my career and in the tech industry, I am incredibly proud of the success and upward mobility I’ve achieved. I could not write this article without also acknowledging that I am also incredibly lucky: I benefit from the privilege of my white skin and middle-class upbringing, which came along with an incredible private education. Starting with this step up has made my career success undeniably easier than many, and thus I’m eager to share what I’ve learned about how to effectively get promoted. I’ll provide these learnings in the form of four main points: Understand your company’s career mobility opportunities (ideally before you accept an offer)You can only achieve so much success in an environment that doesn’t foster career development and upward mobility. I’d recommend inquiring about career development opportunities at a company as early as the phone screen or first interview. This is a question that any recruiter should feel comfortable answering (it’s a red flag if they aren’t) and should reflect positively on you as a candidate that you prioritize your own growth. Some key questions to ask are: What is the process for being evaluated and recommended for a promotion?Are promotions offered mid-year, or just at year end?Are merit-based raises offered outside of the standard promotion cycle?Ensure that there is a clear, mutually agreed upon, written job descriptionEspecially within startup environments, job descriptions can be fuzzy and / or non-existent. This makes it which makes it incredibly difficult for both you and your manager to measure how well you are doing your job. If you find yourself in such a situation, push for more clarity. Once again, it should reflect positively on you as an employee that you want transparency in what is expected of you and, on the flipside, should be taken as a red flag if you’re met with resistance. Set goals on a quarterly basis Any company with 30+ employees should have a formal performance review process in place. This number is slightly arbitrary - but essentially, at this point, a company should have a more-than-bare-bones HR function (2+) employees, where the responsibilities go beyond the realm of just recruitment and payroll. At this point, you should expect the company to have a clear process for employees to be evaluated for promotion at least once a year. If you’re working at a larger company (100-150+ employees), you should expect the company to have a standardized performance review on a bi-annual or quarterly basis, which may include setting goals in regular increments and retrospectively evaluating your progress against them. Whether or not your company does have a standardized review process built out, I would encourage you to set quarterly goals for yourself. These should be SMART goals, meaning specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (reference). I’d also recommend building career development opportunities, such as attending a conference or completing a certification, into your quarterly goals. This means you’ll be rewarded (hopefully) for furthering your knowledge. Finally, at a company of any size, you should be given the opportunity to review your progress to these goals with your manager at least twice a year.Be your own advocate In addition to setting quarterly goals for yourself, you should participate in some form of time-tracking. This is incredibly important within startup environments. While time-tracking is often viewed as tedious (it is) and antiquated, it’s also an incredibly powerful tool. Keeping track of how you are spending your time on a regular basis will bring to light any additional responsibilities or special projects you are asked (or ask yourself!) to take on outside of your job description (another reason why it’s so important to have a job description). Regularly taking on additional responsibilities is (or should be) a clear stepping stone to career mobility. If you are constantly assisting other teammates, taking and organizing notes from important meetings, compiling and leading presentations, or working late or overtime, you should expect to be promoted. But an important note on working overtime: be mindful of falling into the trap of working longer versus working smarter. Long hours are one way to show your hard work and dedication, but should not be a prerequisite for career mobility. If you are doing your job well, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get it done within a 40-50 hour week. If it’s vocalized that you’ll be expected to work 60+ hours a week to get promoted…red flag. Finally, I want to acknowledge that so much of what we know of the workplace has been turned on its head by the COVID-19 pandemic. A couple things to note on getting promoted while working remotely: - Don’t drop 1:1s with your manager. If your manager regularly suggests skipping your 1:1 meetings, push back. This is an invaluable time to request feedback and show off recent achievements. - Look for opportunities for spontaneous network-building. When you are in a physical office, you’re often presented with opportunities to interact with higher ups in a more casual setting (i.e. in the lunchroom or elevator). These can be opportunities to show the value you bring to the company, and are difficult to recreate in a remote-first world. To be honest, I don’t have a clear cut solution to this one, but I’d love to talk to anyone who thinks they’ve figured out the solution to spontaneity in remote work.