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3 December 2023 - 7 minutes

Navigating Promotions in the Tech Industry: Strategies for Career Advancement

Learn how to prepare for a promotion and what to expect from it.

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Some people think that promotions happen automatically–you don’t have to do anything specific; once you’re in a position for a certain amount of time, you’ll be promoted to the next role, right? While this would be quite nice, that’s not really how promotions actually work. And in the tech industry specifically, promotions are dependent on quite a few things, including your performance, experience, and skill set. 

But don’t be afraid: promotions will come as you move further into your career and there are many steps you can take to set yourself up for success in the field. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of career advancement, what to expect with promotions, and what you can do to improve your promotion prospects. In addition, we’ll talk about when to expect promotions and what to do if you’re feeling stuck in your role. 

Ready? Let’s dive right in. 

What is a Promotion?

You’re probably totally aware of what promotions are, but there might be a few more details that have escaped you. Before we talk specifically about promotions, let’s differentiate promotions from other types of job changes so that it’s crystal clear: 

  • Promotions: simply put, a promotion is when an employee moves up the job organizational structure, typically receiving increased benefits such as a higher salary or new responsibilities. 

  • Transfer: transfers can be promotions, but aren’t always an upward movement; employees can be transferred to a new area outside of their department and remain on the same tier or even be demoted to a lower level. 

  • Reevaluations: reevaluations are common in companies with lots of movement; if your responsibilities have recently changed or expanded beyond your job titles, HR might reevaluate your benefits to make sure they align with your role. Just like transfers, this could mean a promotion, but it could also mean a demotion. 

People frequently confuse promotions and advancements, but there’s a key difference: promotions relate more closely to your career trajectory and advancements have more to do with your own skill set and knowledge. For example, you may learn a new skill and advance in your ability to write JavaScript, but a promotion would elevate you to possibly the back-end lead instead of just a developer. 

What to expect from a promotion 

Most large companies have clear cut and detailed procedures for what determines an employee’s eligibility for a promotion, but you can expect the following (the exact details will depend on your specific role and experience, of course!):

  • A higher salary: this is the main thing that people think of when they talk about promotions and with good reason: almost every single promotion will come with a raise (and if it doesn’t, it may be time to run!). The exact salary increase will depend on the company’s promotion policies and your place in your career, but you can expect to enjoy a higher salary following a promotion. 

  • A new job title: with a new role comes a new job title, of course! If you’re promoted directly above your current position, you can expect to see a “Senior” or “Lead” added to the front of your previous title. 

  • New and bigger responsibilities: you can’t expect to receive more money for the same work–your promotion will come with new tasks for you and more responsibility for your team. 

  • Leadership responsibilities: as a higher member of the team, you’ll be tasked with leadership duties, such as reviewing the work of the rest of the team, solving problems, and supervising the overall project. 

  • The ability to make decisions: if you’ve been promoted to a high-level role, you may find that you’re now given the ability to make decisions that affect the entire team, instead of just deferring to supervisors. 

Now that you understand what a promotion is, how it’s different from other job changes, and what it usually entails, let’s dive into what determines a promotion and the steps you can take to set yourself up for success.

How to Get Promoted in Tech

It would be pretty cool to know the magic formula to landing a promotion, wouldn’t it?! We agree–but unfortunately that’s not really a possibility. And since we can’t do magic (yet!), we’ll give you some tips and tricks to getting closer to that tech promotion. 

Along with the basics of being a good employee and completing your current responsibilities, the following can help you head in the right direction.

Add certifications to your repertoire 

It seems obvious, right?: adding certifications will help you learn more and therefore be better at your job. We aren’t denying that: it’s definitely right! But in addition to this increased knowledge, taking the time to learn new skills or advance the ones you already have will show your boss that you’re serious about your chosen field and dedicated to your personal growth. 

Some promotions also require certain abilities or certifications before you’re able to be considered and researching this beforehand can help you get one step closer to that promotion. 

Display your work ethic daily 

As we mentioned above, promotions typically come with a salary increase or additional responsibilities and to know they’re making the right decision, management will want to know you’re up for the challenge. To show that you are, you can display your work ethic in everything that you do, being a team player and showing your leadership potential. 

Managers want to be sure about their choice, especially when it comes with new duties, so showing them you’re consistent and dedicated will go a long way. 

Take initiative 

Taking initiative could mean going the extra mile on your work or volunteering for additional responsibilities, but it can also mean setting yourself up for success in your career, taking active steps towards reaching a promotion. For example, there may not be a clear career trajectory for you in your current role; creating and proposing an entirely new role to management will not only allow for more career growth, but also show that you’re willing to do what it takes to reach success. 

Find what works for you

It would be nice to find the perfect career trajectory from day one in tech but unfortunately that’s a bit of a fever dream. After all, the path from junior to C-suite is long and there’s nothing wrong with trying out different companies and roles as you figure out what your ideal career path looks like. Don’t be afraid to take roles at different companies and see what works for you; there’s nothing wrong with moving around, as long as you don’t do it too frequently. 

How to Ask for a Promotion 

The exact nature of promotions will depend heavily on your company and its culture; some may have strict timelines set up and others may be more flexible. Take a minute and read through our tips for asking for a promotion in tech, framing them to fit your specific situation: 

  • Research your company’s practices: the last thing you want is to prepare to ask for a promotion and find out the company has strict guidelines defining when you’re allowed to ask. To combat this, find out how your company handles promotions and fit your plans with what it offers. If you can’t find exact details regarding the company’s practices, feel free to reach out to your supervisor or HR.

  • Build your case: you’re going to have to prove why you should be considered for a promotion–and with good reason! If the company is raising your salary or adding additional benefits, they’re trusting in you and what you can do; you need to show them exactly what a promotion would mean and how it will be beneficial to both you and the company. Using numbers and verifiable data is a great way to do this. 

  • Find the right time: some companies have specific time periods to consider raises/promotions and simply won’t entertain the proposal outside of this window; stressful times for your company may also be a bad time to ask for a promotion. Carefully evaluate the best time for your specific role and then set up that meeting. 

  • Be patient: promotions aren’t granted overnight and your boss may need to review your proposal and get approval from their boss/HR before they give you a final answer. Once you present your case, be patient and allow for a bit of time to pass before following up. 

And while we advise you follow the above list, we also suggest you’re wary of the following:

  • Threatening an outside offer: it’s tempting to show your company that you can leave, but this could have an overall negative effect and make your company think you’re ready to jump ship–and why would they invest in you then?! 

  • Pressuring your boss for an answer: it’s good to know your worth and follow up if you’ve been waiting for a while, but being too pushy or aggressive could leave a bad taste in your boss’ mouth.

  • Feeling let down if the answer is a no: promotions are often completely out of the hands of your manager and may not reflect your work or value; the company could be going through a rough patch or there’s simply a better candidate. Know your worth, but don’t let one ‘no’ discourage you. 

The tech field is full of incredible opportunities for growth and that’s why many people are choosing to pursue a career in the field, ready to take advantage of the career growth that the industry offers. Are you one of them? 

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