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What are the Real Reasons People Get Promoted and Others Don’t?

What are the Real Reasons People Get Promoted and Others Don’t?

If we want to move onwards and upwards in our careers, we need to climb the ladder. It may seems like it’s a long game of politics but that is not always the case. There is usually an element of fogginess and it’s not entirely transparent how the promotion process works, so what are the real reasons that people get promoted or not?

Jason M. Lemkin, CEO and Co-Founder of Echosign which was acquired by Adobe and then worked as a VP in Adobe provides some insights into the process from his personal experience as found in his Quora Answer (Thanks to Jason for letting us share this answer).

get promoted 2

    I’d like to provide some insights from my experience as a VP as a leading F500 tech company, and as a reasonably successful start-up CEO.

    Promotions in the F500 are indeed complicated, but let me focus instead first on Performance Reviews, which is a penultimate step to promotion, and something in my F500 experience that materially impacts your compensation.

    And here is my learning.  Reviews go into High, Strong, Good, and Needs to Improve basically in all Big Tech Cos.  (Some have SuperHighs, but that’s rare).  And in my experiences, even at Adobe, even at a F500 leader with 10,000 employees … there were zero politics in becoming a HighBecause it’s so clear who the Highs are.  

    The only real issues, the politics, is the fact that some groups have too many High candidates (often the outperforming products), and some have too few, which warps the curves a bit.  So it’s actually harder to be a High in an outperforming group than an underperforming group.

    Having said all that … really no politics.  This was pretty surprising to me.

    Now, of course, not every High can get promoted.  But even the promotions, while not always the decisions I might make or you might make — were always based on results.  

    I know some of you will say your experience is different, but I’m going to suggest once you strip away the emotion, and once you see how the sausage is really made … that it’s probably the same in any growing tech company of any scale that has solid, experienced management.

    So now, How to Get Promoted?  In both (x) my Big Tech Co experience, and (y) my post-20-50 employees in a strong start-up experience, to get promoted, here are my learnings:

    1. Demonstrate successful leadership. 

    This is what everyone is looking for.  Everyone.  Someone to take and carry the load.  As long as you have an experienced boss — they will take notice.  Because what we all really need ishelp — real help getting our initiatives done.  If you can get one of my key initiatives done for me — not talked about, not analyzed, not discussed, butdone — you are a rockstar.

    2. Work in a hot or at least warm area of the company.

    No need to promote anyone in the EOL’d (End of Life)  products — though it does happen.

    3. Don’t schmooze.  Just engage and be positive and respectful.

    Schmoozing is a turn-off.  Instead, as you Demonstrate Leadership, also positively (never negatively) engage with your peers and colleagues outside of your small group.  Be critical as needed — but always positive.  Naked criticism will get you worse than nowhere, it will get you in the cellar.  Your peers’ feedback, even if just informal and word-of-mouth … is critical to your promotion.

    4. Don’t sell up. 

    Yes, I know selling up sometimes “works” in Big Companies, but it doesn’t really get you promoted  — and really it’s a sign you are weak.  Focus instead on selling down, and selling across.  On getting your colleagues to follow your ideas and insights.  That’s how you demonstrate true leadership.

    5. “Dress” for success.

    I don’t mean that completely literally (but yes, dress a little better than the rest, it can’t hurt).  I mean act and carry yourself like someone that cares.  That always goes the extra yard.  Never look at the carpet, or yawn.  Never be late to a meeting — ever.  Always be positive, give constructive feedback, but never destructive feedback.  Never be cocky, but be confident in what you know is correct.

    6. (Try) to Be Patient. 

    Even if you do everything right, there can only be so many promotions.  It may take another whole year.  This isn’t politics per se, but companies of any size have a finite number that can make.  Don’t give it more than one extra year, but assume it will take one more cycle than it should.

    7. Ask.

    Ask your boss how and what it will take to get promoted.  If you don’t ask, you probably won’t get.  Just be ready to get some tough feedback when you ask, and be ready to grow, change, and learn.

    8. Working Hard and Doing a Good Job Is Insufficient. 

    Again, promotion in Big Cos and tech companies of any scale is about leadership, and in many cases, management.  You’ll get well paid if you work hard and do a good job.  You just won’t get promoted all that far.
    Just my learnings / observations in the BigCo.  I’d say all but the second point also apply to start-ups too.

    I know some companies are much more fracked up than this.  But I think / hope maybe 50% of the well run ones work just this way.

    Featured photo credit: A girl with sunset on the mountain in silhouette via Shutterstock

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    Last Updated on May 15, 2019

    10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs and What We Can Learn from Them

    10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs and What We Can Learn from Them

    Apart from making crucial decisions for their own businesses, entrepreneurs innovate and grow their ideas. Albeit there being no cookie-cutter answer that fits everyone’s experiences, taking a look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs today, you might spot some similar traits and characteristics.

    Starting and nurturing a business entails a great amount of hard work and commitment. However, for aspiring entrepreneurs who are prepared to dedicate themselves to their vision, here are 10 most successful entrepreneurs you can learn from:

    1. Melanie Perkins: Know Your Worth and Keep Trying

      Melanie Perkins founded Canva, a Sydney-based business valued at $1Billion having successfully raised a number of rounds of successful funding and boasting more than 10 Million users in 179 countries.[1]

      She told BBC that one of the biggest challenges she faced getting into the business was talking about her company’s accomplishments when she first got to Silicon Valley. She attributed this difficulty to a cultural difference where Australians tend to ‘talk down’ their achievements and this would slow down her fundraising progress for a few years.

      Despite hundreds of rejections, Melanie emerged three years later with a much clearer strategy and stronger investor pitch that prompted a series of fundraising rounds netting the company $82Million of funding in total.[2]

      2. Bill Gates: Keep Learning and Exploring

        If you don’t know Bill Gates, you likely know the company he founded – Microsoft.

        Bill Gates’ story is a prime example of nurturing an idea that might seem out of this world but make sense in the future. One of the most successful entrepreneurs in history did not complete his degree at Harvard University to pursue a vision that the technology would soon become the future.

        He told a white lie to Altair, saying that he had made a computer program for them, therefore pushing himself to create a system that would change modern history.

        “The most important speed issue is convincing everyone that the company’s survival depends on moving as fast as possible.”

        Gates’ success is built on self-improvement and the seeds of an idea.

        3. Elon Musk: Never Stop Innovating

          Traditional thinking suggests that in order to become a successful entrepreneur, one must focus in a single field or industry.

          Elon Musk, however, breaks that rule.

          Today, the multifaceted tech entrepreneur, investor, and engineer advocates for the diversification of skills and businesses by delving into various fields of interest.

          When done right, skills in a single domain can be carried over then applied into contrasting industries to create something new the world might need. Musk owes his accomplishments to a constant thirst for knowledge.

          Having birthed Tesla and a myriad of products across the arenas of aeronautics and software design, Musk continues to evolve as an entrepreneur and plans to innovate for the long haul.

          4. Richard Branson: Develop People First

            British entrepreneur Richard Branson founded Virgin Records in the early 1970s. Virgin Records has since grown into the Virgin Group, today responsible for over 400 companies.

            The billionaire is strongly particular about working with a team that shares his core values and aspirations.

            Branson believes that managing a business can become taxing, thus he acknowledges his employees for putting in the effort that they have.

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            A good leader knows how to raise morale for positive productivity. Utilising emotional intelligence and compassion is a game changer in seeing results within a team.

            Branson’s supports the idea of nurturing a positive work environment, with the belief that credentials must go hand-in-hand with an enthusiasm for work.

            5. Jeff Bezos: A Relentless Focus on Customer Satisfaction

              Having founded Amazon, Jeff Bezos is known to be one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs. The e-commerce pioneer fixates himself on angry customers with the belief that a business’s loopholes are found in the experiences of unsatisfied customers.

              For the 8th year in a row, customers have ranked Amazon as the number one in customer service (according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index).

              While numerous companies ignore unhappy customers, Bezos found success in learning from reviews and surveys. By focusing on customer service, Amazon shows they care, both for their customers and for rising above their competitors.

              While praise and recognition are signs that a business is accelerating, criticism is an opportunity to improve a product or a service.

              6. Mark Zuckerberg: Start Small, Think Big

                Valued at over 55 billion dollars today, Mark Zuckerberg built the first version of what would become a social networking giant in his Harvard University dorm room. As one of the world’s youngest entrepreneurs, Zuckerberg undoubtedly took countless calculated risks to get his brilliant idea to its current status with 2.38 billion active monthly users.

                “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

                He’s always daring to explore with a fearless mindset.

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                The young tech entrepreneur never shied away from innovating outside of the box. Soon after Facebook became a hit to users and advertisers, big corporations took interest in buying Facebook from Zuckerberg.

                However, he took the risk and decided to stay with his creation. Turning down billions of dollars offered by Yahoo CEO, Terry Semel, he envisioned turning his brainchild into something much bigger than what it already was then.

                7. Steve Jobs: Live Your Own Dreams

                  Steve Jobs lived a rocky path all his life and an aspect of which is a tumultuous career.

                  The founder of Apple endorsed his beliefs on the temporality of life and limitations of time. He preached about the importance of working on the very legacies people wish to leave behind, an achievement he’s undoubtedly etched into the the archives of human history.

                  Never one to hide under someone’s shadow, Jobs did not live by anybody else’s principles so he formed his own. He tirelessly dedicated himself to building a unique brand of products that became the benchmark for contemporary technology.

                  After his highs and lows through his brief battle with cancer, Jobs concludes with yet another lesson to takeaway from his remarkable life. “No matter how much money you have, even the richest man can’t buy time.”

                  8. Warren Buffett: Balance is Essential to Success

                    Despite being the third wealthiest person in the world, Warrant Buffett sported a frugal lifestyle for most of his life.

                    After buying a house in Omaha, Nebraska for just above 31,000 dollars, he has lived there since 1958. As a leading investor and a founder at Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett believes in setting aside an amount to save and spend only on necessities.

                    With a long term goal as a top priority in mind always, treating oneself can be sustainable once in a while. He advices to save money by deciding first and foremost what aspects to scrimp on and what aspects to splurge on to ensure a happy and balanced lifestyle.

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                    9. Jack Ma: Never Give up

                      On every journey to success, everybody stumbles and arrives at roadblocks. Some more than most, like Jack Ma, who survived countless rejections and failures only to get back up and brave every storm.

                      Ma is the founder of multinational technology conglomerate Alibaba Group. Despite being rejected to Harvard after every one of his 10 applications, Ma was never defeated.

                      His grit and tenacity is a fine testament to the fact that grades do not determine a future. While qualifications on paper are important, the development of skills and an attitude is just as helpful in making a recipe for success.

                      Despite finding himself in the verge of bankruptcy in the 1990s, Jack Ma possessed the resilience to put one foot in front of the other until he finally made it. “It’s important to have patience,” he says.

                      10. Tan Min Liang: Passion Can Pay Off

                        Tan Min Liang is the founder of the leading high-performance gaming hardware, Razer. Always on the look out for new opportunities to connect and scale his business, Tan has been bold in making many of his life’s decisions.

                        Having deviated from a traditional path set by a family that consists of doctors and lawyers, Tan was to find his life’s work and passion while gaming with his older brother.

                        The idea was simple: there were so many games out there to play, however, there were hardly any gaming equipment to match this.

                        So he dropped out of law and began going a different direction, into creating solutions in the gaming industry. At the start of 2019, Tan wrote to tech luminary Elon Musk to which Musk’s reply suggested of a joint venture between two of the most successful entrepreneurs today.

                        Final Thoughts

                        In today’s cutthroat world, the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur is a long and arduous process trailed with ups and downs. A valuable lesson that a good hand of entrepreneurs would love to convey to aspiring entrepreneurs is to keep the spirit of innovation and to explore uncharted waters.

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                        Learning from experience and failure is one direction to a desired end goal. Exhibiting the same dedication and grit so many entrepreneurs have through their unexpected careers – today’s budding visionaries ought to hang on their dreams and leave room for improvement along the way.

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                        Featured photo credit: Patrick Tomasso via unsplash.com

                        Reference

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