I work at a really sought after big security company. But I am stuck with all the corporate policies that prevents people from easily moving internally into good positions.

I interviewed for a senior level dream job at an upcoming startup in the valley. Not having much experience my hiring manager offered me another job that is tangentially related to the job I love. And if I perform well on that semi related job for six months I could be considered for senior level position that I would love to do.

How can I make sure that promises for a promotion will be kept?

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    Have you read the FAQ or tour for how to ask good questions here? Questions of the "should I take this job" type are off topic for this Q/A site. – enderland Mar 16 '13 at 23:11
  • Thanks. I just edited my question to be more specific about my doubts. – Mike Warren Mar 16 '13 at 23:23
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    I once read something somewhere along the lines of "Unfortunately, a programmer can never achieve the same rank climbing in the same organization, as he can by taking a better position in another organization." It might have been from "Code Complete" or a similar book. – bobobobo Mar 17 '13 at 1:39
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    @bobobobo: There's nothing in the q or the OP's profile that says this is a programming job. This is supposed to be a site for any workplace. – GreenMatt Mar 17 '13 at 4:58
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    Well, security, startup, valley all point to it being a programming job -- – bobobobo Mar 17 '13 at 13:39

Read Between the Lines

Let me translate this for you:

Not having much experience my hiring manager offered me another job that is tangentially related to the job I love. And if I perform well on that semi related job for six months I could be considered for senior level position that I would love to do.

The hiring manager is saying, "You are not qualified for the senior position. If you would like another open position we have, we are more than happy to hire you." That is what he is promising.

On the future with the company, all he is saying is "you can re-apply for the senior position in six months". You admit yourself you don't have much experience. The chances of that senior position really being open in six months if it's an upcoming start-up are low. The chances that you will go from "not having much experience" to being prepared to take on that senior role are likely low.

But it isn't impossible!

Of course it is a non-zero chance that it could happen. You could be a born natural for the company and the role. And that senior level position could sit there open for the next 6 months as the entire company realizes your inherent merit.

Much more likely is that you will be put in the junior level position, and remain there, with promotions in line with the position you were hired for rather than the position you applied for.

Regardless, you're not going to get a promise from the hiring manager. Want to test the waters? Ask him if you can speak to the other senior-level management and get their word that they'll hold the position open for you for the next 6 months.

Warning: this has a high probability of having the hiring manager revoke the offer for the junior level position. He/she may very well expect you to read between the lines, and pushing too hard at the start may leave a poor taste in his/her mouth (as well as indicating that you are only interested in the senior level position you admit you aren't qualified for rather than the company and gaining experience which is what the company would expect).

Each According to their ability...

What it comes down to is whether or not you'd be okay with just working at the junior role for the next 6 months and working your way up the ladder. If you like the company, isn't that more important than your job title? Is the title more important than the experience and potential for growth you'd get from the new job anyway?

To get a similar senior-level job in the future, will this be a stepping stone (regardless of if you get it in this company or not), or will it be better for you to stay in the current job? That's how I think you should make your decision.

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You should get the manager to define clear targets that you have to achieve to satisfy the "perform well" part.

Talk to him to find out if there is a risk of him coming in 6 months to you claiming that there is no budget for the promotion or that the person currently holding the position cannot be moved, thus not giving you the promotion.

When you talk with him in this kind of detail, you will see if he tries to evade or give you targets that are too vague or seemingly unachievable.

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    I like this; short and sweet, but to the point. Have your manager detail the specifics so nothing can fall through the cracks and have promises unexpectedly broken. – atconway Mar 20 '13 at 18:34

Having been down this road a few times, I have to say "Be careful, be very careful!" As witness to this, here are some experiences of my own:

  • Shortly after college, I interviewed for a job for which I felt qualified, given that my degree was an exact match and the advertised job was listed as a junior position. Instead, they offered me what I considered an even more junior position in a related, but different, area. They said it would take two to three years in that job to become effective. I'd already done a very similar job on a part time basis during college. (Also, my subsequent experiences lead me to believe I - or nearly anyone with my education - could have been productive in much less time than their estimate.) I turned that one down, and was glad I did, as that company was out of business in that two to three year window they said I needed to become effective.

  • A few years after the above, I took a job where I thought my initial duties would be on one project. Instead they assigned me to a different project "for about three months" (closer to four in reality). After completing that project, they put me on a follow on project to the first one I worked on - rather than the one I was hired for - since now I was an expert in the sort of work. This second project took over seven months. By the time they finally put me on the project I was hired for, I was burnt out and disgusted with the company. To add insult to injury, a few months later they pulled me off that to fix problems found on the first project. I didn't stay much longer.

  • After the above fiasco, I took a new job where I thought I had a clear understanding that I was returning to the work I wanted to do. Instead, most of my job turned out to be "other duties as assigned". I understood that things were in "crunch mode" when I was hired, and I really wanted to work there, so tried being a team player and going along with what was needed. However, they "rewarded" me with a "promotion" into a "lead" position which no one else wanted (it was "lead" in name only, as I had no one working for me). After a while of that, I started looking for work elsewhere, but they decided to bring someone else in to take that job, with promises that I'd be given the work I wanted. By that time, I was pretty rusty at what I wanted to do and things didn't go smoothly, so they actually put me to work under the person who had taken over the job I had vacated.

Sorry if that's too much ranting, but I wanted to illustrate how common it can be for hiring managers to promise something they can't really deliver (or flat out lie). Also, once an organization has you in their employ, they are less likely to move you into a job you want, as from their perspective, they end up searching for two job candidates instead of one.

Thus, my advice is to get a written contract including:

  • The job title you want (not one matching the job they want to put you into).

  • Salary commensurate with the job you want (not the job they want to put you into, unless the salary would be higher for the job they want to put you into.)

  • An agreement that you will be put into the job you want in a reasonable period of time, or be given a sizable raise.

  • Prohibition on being laid off/fired, etc. for a period of time without receiving sizable compensation (say one year's salary).

The point of all these stipulations is to force the employer to stick to their commitment to put you into the job you want. If they won't agree to this, I'd say to politely decline any job offer they do extend.

Honestly, I don't expect that you'll be able to get this from a prospective employer.

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    I think no employer would sign a written contract including •Prohibition on being laid off/fired unless you are super good enough that they must have you. And in that case, the best way is to include you as a business partner, not an employee. – scaaahu Mar 17 '13 at 6:34
  • @scaaahu: I (mostly) believe you're right. However, C-level executives, especially CEO's of big companies, seem to get "golden parachute" contracts quite frequently. My point is that if you're not getting the job you want, you can't trust management to put you into it at some future date and it may be better to pass on the job opportunity where they say they'll get you there at some time in the future. – GreenMatt Mar 17 '13 at 11:20
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    I've never seen those "golden parachute" contracts myself. That's not to say they don't exist. I don't believe the OP is at that level. My point is that your suggestion is not practical. – scaaahu Mar 17 '13 at 13:13
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    That was an interesting answer. I wish you would be more specific about degree type, job type, in the Shortly after college part. (Domain matters!) – bobobobo Mar 17 '13 at 13:43

And if I perform well on that semi related job for six months I could be considered for senior level position that I would love to do.

Key words there are "could be considered". You are not being promised anything. There is no implicit or explicit promise of that promotion and I guarantee that "could be considered" includes "If we have an opening at that time".

If the job offers a track to the one you want whether ther or at some other place, it might be worthwhile to take it. However, do not expect that a promotion is being offered.

Promotion track positions are offered by stating specifically, "If your performance is accepatble after sixmonths, you will be promoted to ..." Generally these are only for career track jobs like developer I to developer II which are basically the equivalent of trainee to journeyman doing the same job. They are virutally never offered when the move from one position to another involves a change of specialization or when everyone who is a trainee is not going to be promoted to the journeyman level. Career track promotions are generally explaned in writing and are usually based on some level of acceptable performance at the lower position, if the promotion is not promised in writing, it is not being promised.

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And if I perform well on that semi related job for six months I could be considered for senior level position that I would love to do.

  • When you feel that you've done enough to earn that promotion, remind your boss.
  • Pay particular attention to his body language and tone of voice to ascertain if he:
    • A) Remembers the promise that he made.
    • B) Intends to use some of his political capital to fight for your promotion.
  • If you gauge that he doesn't intend to fight for your promotion, don't take it personal. Many (most?) managers don't have enough political capital to fight for a promotion for one of their direct reports. Instead, feel good about the fact that you know where you stand with this group in this organization.
    • It's your choice: You can either feel content with your current position or you can revise your resume and start networking with others to find a different opportunity (either within your current organization or with another company). This is called building your BATNA. A BATNA is a critical piece of any successful negotiation.
    • Please bear in mind: Building a BATNA does not equate to leaving. If you find a new opportunity, you don't necessarily need to pursue it. If nothing else, the mere prospect of a new opportunity can bolster your confidence when negotiating for that promotion.
  • Otherwise: Congratulations! You've just earned that promotion that you so richly deserve!
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The only promise I got out of your post was that if you perform well, you could be considered for a promotion later. That's pretty much implicit in the way employment works, and I see no promise there at all.

Even if you were to get that in writing, which is what I would suggest as the only serious way to ensure a verbal agreement gets honoured, it has no value what-so-ever. They can always let you in the running for a position and find any reason they want to rule you out, and they have honoured the agreement.

This smells shady to me, but I'm pessimistic in general when it comes to job offer tactics.

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