When you start to analyze how and why people get promoted in any large organization you can see that interesting patterns have developed. The important part in understanding those patterns is making sure that you are using them as you develop your career plans. I imagine every organization is different to some degree, but there must be some universal truths as well.
Can you accelerate your next promotion or opportunity within the same company?
Note: I’m not commenting on the topic of how to do it by moving out and around other companies.
Here are some thought starters on the topic:
- Which matters more–your skills and track record or the actual role? Look around, are some positions geared towards faster advancement opportunities just because of the role itself and not even the skills or work you might be able to do within that role? Yes! Sure, it does even out over time, but if you can get it to work in your advantage earlier it could be a good bet.
- Do certain groups seem to be have a better track record for advancement? If no one from the group your in has been promoted within in the last few years, how much harder would it be to work out for you? Go where it’s more normal.
- Can who you work with help or hurt your advancement? Not just the team, but what business partners are you working with and do those groups generally aid in your career development in some way? For instance, supporting or collaborating with other groups that are fast-growing and expanding probably give your position a better chance of advancing vs. collaborating/supporting a group that is historically stagnant or declining.
- Are the skills you’re learning in that particular role going to help or exponentially accelerate your growth to the next level? Finding a role that helps is not nearly as transformational as a role that will accelerate exponentially. Of course, the latter type roles could also bring about a bigger risk as well. One good example: my company (this is public info) recently had a mid-level job posting for a person to work directly on a deep and daily basis with one of our new Executive Members that has an amazing track record of success. I’ve never seen a role like that and the things the person would be exposed to and get to interact with, not to mention the networking aspects, would be almost even a level above exponential acceleration. Seek those types of roles. (For those of you wondering if I follow my own advice – I didn’t even try because of the 60% travel requirement and I was a new father at the time. Sometimes life decisions easily outweigh career decisions.)
- What can you create to completely change the career growth trajectory curve? Who says you absolutely have to follow the traditional trajectory through each level of your company’s hierarchy? What can you create or do that is so amazing that it helps you radically jump through the organization?
I’m not saying you should use promotions merely as a way to guide your career planning. In fact, I’ve taken some interesting steps back or sideways in my career to learn different skills that have proved to be absolutely more valuable in the long run. What I am saying is that you should understand the different ways advancement happens if you hope to continue growing through your career.