I'm a software developer in a company that has a very clear set of steps for salary (atleast for software developers) determined by how much responsibility you are taking, how independent you are, how much experience you have etc. Since I pretty much just graduated I'm clearly lacking experience and I won't deny that. I'm just trying to figure out the following:

In the few months i've been working there I am noticing that my workpackages are more in line with the salary step just above mine, the only thing missing would be the recommended experience threshhold. I've already tried to talk to my boss about this, but it seems that experience seems to be weighed much more than the other factors in those steps' descriptions. That wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for other company documents that seem to put much more importance on those other factors when considering a promotion.

Now what I'm wondering is whether it is normal for me to be assigned work packages for the next step before being promoted to it (since i thought it would be like: do your current job well -> get promoted -> do those things well -> repeat), or if it is just another take of the company living things differently than described in company documents (which happens also with other things, sometimes in my favor, sometimes not).

Since this might be location dependent I added a tag.


7 Answers 7


It really depends on your company how they approach promotions, it can be different for different roles in the same company.

Traditionally a lot of companies worked they way you described, you do your current job well and then get promoted and with the promotion comes new responsibility. The problem with this approach is that excellent performance in your current role is not necessarily a good predictor for decent performance in your new role and more and more companies start to realize. Let's take an example:

Alice is a great software developer, she is writing high quality code, can identify the cause of bugs quickly and works very fast. All her good works gets her promoted to be a team lead. Unfortunately Alice's communication skills are not very good and she fails to on-board new members of her team properly, while she focuses on write a of code herself.

To mitigate this companies can either establish trial periods, or start giving a prospect tasks where she can proof herself. E.g. Alice's current team lead might start delegating some of his managerial responsibilities to see how Alice will handle the new tasks, before suggesting her for promotion.


Since you just started it's too early to judge these sorts of things.

In your case, doing your job and the step ahead seem to be the same thing. This should work in your favour, and since your manager usually has a big say in your reviews etc,. following his advice would be your best choice for the time being.

As you gain in experience both with your work and your work environment you'll be able to judge things a lot better. But at the start you should always just put your head down and soldier through the work as well as you can.


In a nutshell, yes. As a manager, yes, I want to see the employee perform at the next level before promoting them because I don’t want them to fail at the next level. I have seen strong junior people get promoted too soon and they went from being a top rated junior employee to a bottom rated employee in the next level in the very next cycle. Remember, it’s not just your career on the line as managers may well be rated on the success rate of their promotions.

But, having said that, I have seen bad companies—or at least bad managers—hire junior people and throw senior work at them because the junior employees were easier to find.

Take the document that describes the requirements for each level, print it out, and read it very closely. Make an honest assessment of how you’re doing at each of the attributes. Mark it up with green, yellow and red highlighters to Identity what you’re doing at the next level and what you’re not.

If you are truly honest with your assessment, it is very unlikely that you’ll have an entirely green page. Watch for phrases with conjunctions such as “completes their tasks on time with minimal oversight (green) while helping others complete their deliveries (yellow) and designing architecture to support future improvements (red).” if you do wind up with an entirely green page, proceed to the next level and the next until you have more reds than greens.

Repeat this exercise every 6 months and when you really believe that the you have mostly greens for the job description at the next level, then talk to your boss about what skills you still need to demonstrate to be promoted. It’s entirely reasonable that your boss, being better versed in company politics may add MORE things to the list... things they think will be necessary to secure your promotion or to ensure your success. But in all cases, it’s part of their job to clearly enumerate the steps you need to take. If you get vague, wishy washy answers about the requirements to advance from an entry-level,position, it’s time to look for a new job.


In two of the companies I've worked in, the official guideline for promotion was that you performed at a level close to TWO steps ahead. So eg. a junior demonstrating senior skills (junior -> medium -> senior). Suffice to say, seeing people promoted was rare. But it is quite common in IT to have people change jobs for a promotion instead of getting promoted inside a company.


You're asking a very difficult question here: the promotion path within a company is extremely complex (especially within larger companies (I suspect you're working in a larger company)).

I'd advise you the following:

  • First have a chat about this with HR: tell them you're interested in a certain career path, and that you'd like to know what to do. (As you show being interested in a long career path, normally they'll see this as a good thing.)
  • Have a similar chat with your manager about this.

Why am I telling you to have the same discussion with two different persons?
It's because in my career, I have known quite some managers, blowing smoke in my eyes:
They were telling me "As long as you don't have this particular skill, you can't be promoted.". I worked further in order to acquire that skill (during that time I went working for another direct manager), and then the new manager said "Ok, but you are also lacking another skill for being promoted, ..." (after some years I was the most skilled employee in the firm, and still no promotion).
By asking different people the same question, you can verify their answers.

One other thing : be aware of the invisible network(s) in your company : within every company there are (mostly invisible) networks (like people meeting each other after work, people knowing each other from (high) school, ...), if you find patterns between those networks and career improvements, you need to check if you fit in or not. In case not you might face the simple fact that you never get promoted. (I'm not trying to discourage you, I'm merely warning you what might happen)

In my career I did have two promotions:

  • The first one was linked to the fact that I was the know-it-all of the department: next to my programming work I assisted my teamleader with planning, administration, reporting, quality assurance tasks, so when he went to another department, I was the logical replacement choice.

  • The second was simply due to hard work: I was doing nothing else than my programming/testing work, but I was doing it so well that my direct manager (although heavily opposed by the general manager) forced a (very small) promotion for me.

Good luck


The common misconception about "experience" is people look at number of years you worked at a company or certain tools/languages you used. But ideally it should be tied to amount of quality work you have done and variety of your skill set which makes you ready for the "next level".

My advice to you is keep track of your contributions to the projects you work and how you go "above and beyond" to take on more than your level requires. Bring them up appropriately in your one on ones and especially on your year end reviews. Be open with your boss about you wanting the promotion and back your case with solid examples.

Creating a good quality work is not enough if you want to advance, you should be able to help with others in your team when they need and ask help, you should volunteer to on-board new employees, these opportunities are different in each company but if you take the right steps and hopefully your boss is able to see them, you should be able to get promoted when the right time comes. The general thought is "you should be doing your job in the next level and title will follow".

Having said all of these keep in mind when it comes to promotions raises etc. it mostly depends on your boss' (and his boss') decisions, and politics sometimes come to the picture. If you are promised for a promotion and you don't get it, there might be a better opportunity in another company.


As has been discussed, this is heavily dependant on the organisation, and neither approach is a good hard and fast rule.

In the examples where you are promoted to a role before doing that work, they tend to be exemplars of the Peter Principle:

an employee is promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent

This, as a general rule is not good for either the people, or the organisation.

In organisations where you are promoted based on your experience in the duties, you see situations like the one you see. Specifically, you get people doing "higher-level" work, without the associated rewards to show that they deserve the promotion.

Typically, your company will assign you work that they think you can do, irrespective of the particular role or level. It is then the responsibility of promotion and raise requests/assessments to line up people's role with their duties.

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