How to get promoted (with template)
A perspective on how product and design practitioners can plan for their career advancement.
Two common pitfalls you should avoid
The first pitfall is working hard and hoping the promotion will take place itself. Most people think the company will take good care of them as long as they do the work. This results in too little preparation and unclear expectation to go to the next level.
The second pitfall is too obsessed with the title and the promotion idea. Yet, they haven't delivered enough impact to the team. This can make you come across as self-serving and demanding.
You want to find the balance spot between those two spectrums.
This article is for individual contributors and managers who seek a perspective on how to discuss career advancement.
See career advancement as an ongoing discussion
The common question is, When can I get promoted? The more productive reframing is, What should I prepare to take on more responsibility and deliver a bigger impact? This conversation is not one and done. See it as an ongoing discussion:
Do the work
Take your responsibility seriously. Work with the team and deliver impact to the customers. There is two preparation before you set a discussion with your manager.
Preparation 1: Reflect on your motivation. You should be clear with yourself about what is it that you want? Do you want more challenges? More money? Interested in managing people? A mix of everything above? Be honest, but don't be self-serving—balance the give and take. If you're going to ask for a raise, what is it you offer in return to the company?
Preparation 2: Record your achievement in a brag document. Have you made a small win lately? Have you worked with the team and delivered meaningful work? Prove that you’re capable of delivering impact in your current role. It will help you prepare the discussion with your manager later. It can be useful to establish self-efficacy yourself and avoid impostor syndrome later on.
Set the initial discussion
Once you’ve prepared, talk to your manager. You have two goals in this discussion.
The first one is to express your interest in getting a promotion. It’s best to frame the discussion around excellence and growth while making your reasons for wanting a promotion clear. For example, I’m so excited to be part of this company. Here’s the impact I’ve made so far. I would like to have an ongoing discussion about what it would take for me to go to the next level.
The second one is to understand the procedure. Each company has its own way of promoting people. Here are some questions you can consider:
What are some expectations that I still need to work on?
How could a manager define whether someone is ready to be promoted?
What should I prepare for the promotion to help that?
What competency should I work on if I want to get to the next level?
What’s the promotion cycle in this company?
This discussion is considered a success if your manager is aware of your interest in the promotion. And you get the gist of what to do next to work on the promotion.
1. Establish the goal
It’s time to draft goals after your initial discussion. You should align with your managers about the expectation: the desired result and what the success criteria are.
You want to establish a clear expectation: What does it take to prepare you for the next level? Try to draft it with this template, then align it with your manager.