Saturday, December 29, 2012

Levelling up in the real world.

Here's a great post from Victor Wong on What They Don't Tell You About Promotions.

All of his points are so, so true -- and I thought I'd add some more from my own experiences and perspective. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what entitles you to a promotion, so let me get those out of the way first:

What does not get you promoted:
  • Being the oldest person on your team. (Really, some people seem to believe this.) It's not about how old you are; management or senior positions are not about babysitting other people.
  • Being in your position the longest. Your position does not expire after a certain date, and you don't level up just by doing your job.
  • Doing your job the best of everyone else on the team. It's not about how well you do what's expected of you; it's about what you do above and beyond your job description.
  • Needing the money. Sorry, but that is not a sufficient reason for your boss to actually give you more money, much less move you to another position. You have to prove that you're worth it.
  • Working the hardest on your team. Again, it's not about fulfilling your current responsibilities. If you are working much harder than others, your boss might be looking at you and thinking, "This person doesn't know when to stop." Or your boss might decide, "We really need this person to keep the group afloat, so we're not going to change her job." It might even be, "This person has to work harder to do the same job as everyone else -- he's not as competent."
  • Taking a course or two to prepare for your next level. Courses are nice, but there's no guarantee that you can actually execute on what you've learned. You need to prove that you can do the next higher job by actually doing it. Think of a promotion as an acknowledgment of what you've already been doing rather than a change into a brand-new set of responsibilities that you haven't done yet.

Here are some other things that will keep you from getting promoted:
  • Not playing well with others. If you upset people inside or outside the team, it creates extra work for your boss, who has to smooth things over. When you create extra work for your boss, you are totally not getting rewarded for it. 
  • Taking a negative view of things. If you complain about other people, your workload, or talk about customers as if they're idiots, you're not going to level up. Nobody likes a pill.
  • Having no helpful ideas of your own. Your boss wants a problem-solver who can be trusted to do it the right way without creating other problems (see above). Just reporting on problems isn't enough.
  • Not seeing the big picture. If you are thinking only about your current job or your current team, you're not thinking big enough. You need to prove that you can approach things from your boss's perspective (or that of your boss's boss). Even better, you should be coming up with ideas that they haven't (but that they like).
  • Not doing the job your boss wants you to do. You may be the most brilliant person in the world who is going to change the whole industry; you may think you have the right answers (and in some cases that might even be true). But people who haven't managed teams have no idea how annoying it is to have an employee who won't just do his fricking job because he thinks he knows better. If you don't agree with your boss on how to do things, go find another boss. You'll be doing everyone a favor.

And finally, here's one that not a lot of people think about:

Being irreplaceable. Yes, being irreplaceable will keep you from being promoted. If you are so key to operations that you can't take a vacation or sick day without things falling apart, you are not going to get moved to a different position so that things can fall apart full-time. If you are already a manager, your job is to make sure your team has the skills and empowerment to take care of anything that comes up in your absence. A succession plan is vitally important in every organization. Your own boss will feel much better knowing that you have a stable and successful team, and knowing that you're not endangering operations by indulging your ego's need to feel special.

When you are looking out for the welfare of your organization instead of focusing on what you can get for yourself, that's when you'll be given the chance to do more and own more.