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Here's the situation that I am in and I would like some thoughts about how to act accordingly:

I've been working for in a big company in a scandinavian country for a bit more than a year, hired as a junior in my position (data scientist). During that period the team expanded and several positions were filled, mostly in senior level. I was explained at the time that my profile fitted an entry-level position because of my lack of experience (I've been in academia before, so I had "officially" one year of experience in industry), in particular with respect to the others being hired.

During the first year I put a lot of effort to be productive and take ownership of my projects and to my knowledge management is 100% satisfied with my performance and attitude. I am very dedicated to my craft and I work hard outside working hours to improve my skills, and that has a significative impact on my contributions on my team.

The only thing that bothers me is that in my honest opinion, I have been outperforming some of my senior colleagues in all aspects of the job. Sure, I am probably biased and I might be overestimating the outcomes of what I do... but I am constantly demonstrating the quality of my job and "pushing the bar higher" (said by management), while many of the seniors are just coasting behind unproductive and delayed projects.

Based on that, I decided to tell management during my 1:1's that I would be happy to "apply for a senior position" this year if any was available. I was explained then that I couldn't do it because in my position promotions happen "in the job" (as a career progression). In the meantime, one senior position opened and they decided to hire a temp that has been working in another project for 2 years (and never offered a different contract), way less skilled than I am and with a less technical background for the job. This made me extremely frustrated, so I raised my concerns to my team lead, who said that she needed to see consistency in my output during more time in order to recommend me to a promotion... I said I wouldn't bring this topic to discussion again, so I kept my head down and kept demonstrating that I deserved a better position. Now, 6 months after the incident, two new senior positions were open again and "no love for our boy here".

Given this situation, my questions are:

  1. How can I reset the discussion about promotion and make it more constructive from now on?

  2. Is there a way to nicely point out that you deserve a position more than some of those who have it right now? Besides, am I a jerk to put a lot of thought on it instead of be happy with the job I have?

  3. I understand that year of experience can be an important factor when hiring someone externally, but there are many other factors that can make an employee better than someone with more seniority. In situations like this (not saying it is mine), how can one achieve "balance" fast?

Thanks!

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    I am probably biased and I might be overestimating the outcomes of what I do More likely you are underestimating other people's work. Have you tried to go out, apply for some senior jobs and see if anyone bites? – Tymoteusz Paul Aug 10 at 10:26
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    Is the only answer to why you aren't a senior yet "because of the red tape"? Or are there other reasons you don't have a promotion yet? Because if you're blocked by red tape, you might want to consider looking for a new job and then if you get an offer, quit your current one and (optionally) reapply at your current company for a senior position, and move to the new offer if they don't want to hire you as a senior. – Erik Aug 10 at 10:37
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    You might find yourself very employable elsewhere with what is now 2 years of serious experience. Looks like you current company does not value that so well. – Solar Mike Aug 10 at 12:42
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    @kolibriweiss I didn't say to change it, just go and see if anyone even bites. You will have instant validation of where you stand in the market for a senior dev. – Tymoteusz Paul Aug 10 at 13:21
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    Delivering at a senior level isn't the same as being senior. There is a lot more to seniority than just cranking out work. Do you mentor people? Do your peers consider you a source for assistance on difficult tasks? Are you capable of performing design requirements? How are you at brokering agreement among teammates? Are you capable of leading team discussions on advanced topics? – Joel Etherton Aug 10 at 14:03
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My answer is going to be nearly identical to my answer for a different question on a similar topic. If you want to be promoted you have to be able to show that you're not only deserving of a promotion, you need to demonstrate that the company needs you to have this promotion.

Your "I love me" file (mentioned in the other answer) needs to contain all of the relevant information on your performance that demonstrates senior behaviors. It needs to show your output and focus on how your output elevates the output of your peers. You need to show your mentorship of peers. You need to show how you're leading discussions on design and implementation.

Your company likely has a career ladder that shows the requirements for a senior. You could use the official job postings that you mentioned. Your file should clearly demonstrate that you meet all of the requirements listed in that job posting. If you can show that it does and you're still not being met with promotion you should speak to HR about the possibility of a lateral move. There are no general rules against individuals applying for positions elsewhere in a company. That doesn't mean that your company will necessarily permit it. Your boss may be holding you back so as not to weaken their team. Make the case that it's easier to find a mid-level than a senior, and moving you to the senior position may make the transition easier for everyone.

If you can't show that you meet all the criteria, talk to your manager and set up a growth plan for getting there. Explicitly state your objective with your manager, and expect that person to assist you in creating a growth plan to achieve it. Remember, one of the differences between a dream and a goal is a timeline for getting it done. Use the SMART framework, and visit your progress with your manager as often as possible. If you make it a very real, very present topic, they'll begin to take you more seriously about it. You might also find areas where you truly can be better at the job.

Only you can be depended upon to provide reliable feedback and a viable growth plan. So make it your habit to get into regular self-assessment, and begin applying a measurable standard to your growth that your manager can observe and absorb. I would also highly recommend finding a senior you respect who is willing to mentor you on various facets of the job. Be ready to accept feedback and make changes.

Lastly, document everything you do towards your goal no matter how mundane or trivial. Documentation saves the day, it's just the way the world works. If you seek out a mentor, write it down. If you do a task, write it down (and its result). If you change a process, learn a skill, anything that makes you a more senior individual - write it down. In the end you'll either have a solid case for being made senior or a superior basis for a resume that will make you one somewhere else (if/when you choose to make that change).

Edit about timelines: 6 months is far too long to go between feedback sessions. You should be self-assessing every week and meeting with your manager on progress bi-weekly (monthly at the very outside).

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  • I believe this is the right answer. OP seems to be assessing his eligibility for a promotion based on his own criteria. The right approach is to ask management what they expect. You can't play the game if you don't know the rules. – AffableAmbler Aug 10 at 15:22
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    @AffableAmbler: Completely. I have had a number of engineers as direct reports at varying levels of the process thinking they deserved a promotion because of [criteria I don't care about]. It was only after sitting down with them to walk them through our career ladder and prepare a growth plan did we get them to a level where we felt comfortable promoting them. Those that don't generally stay at the same level. – Joel Etherton Aug 10 at 15:50
  • @JoelEtherton Thanks a lot for this detailed answer. I really liked the “I love me” file idea and will start using it right way. I do have regular meeting ps tkpp – kolibriweiss Aug 10 at 21:07
  • @AffableAmbler That’s a good point. In the situation I described above, I did ask what were the criteria and what was missing from my side. The answer (as I alluded) was to keep delivering consistently over time and get his superiors recognition. – kolibriweiss Aug 11 at 6:54
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You state that your goal is to receive a promotion. With a promotion you usually get some combination of increased respect/prestige and an increase in pay so in this case it's important to figure out which one you're mostly interested in. If you're mostly after the pay raise, then you're having the wrong conversation, you should be asking for a raise directly.

If you're mostly after the increase in respect/prestige, then these things unfortunately do take time. From your perspective you may have shown how productive and consistent you are, but you've (presumably) known yourself all your life so you don't need much 'proof'. Your employer and your coworkers have only known you for the limited time you've been working at this company. For all they know, you could be having the most productive year of your life right now and struggle to finish even simple tasks in your normal work patterns, or your productivity could plummet once you're less motivated by the 'newness' of the job.

Obviously this is an exaggeration, but it does point to the reason why companies often want someone to be working with them for a certain set amount of time before they promote them from junior to senior. This doesn't apply when you're joining a new company as a senior employee from the get-go, so if you really want to be a senior sooner rather than later consider changing employers.

As hard as it is, it's not productive to compare yourself to others when it comes to things like promotions (or even salary) and why you should get them. All that does is make you feel bad because you may feel you're doing better based on the metrics that are known to you while the powers that be are judging you by different metrics.

Instead, when you're trying to argue why you deserve a pay raise or a promotion, you want to be talking strictly about yourself and how you are adding value to the company. As soon as you bring others into the conversation, you can come across as petty or entitled, when you're trying to make it clear that you deserve to get more than you're getting right now. So instead, you want to talk about your own achievements and about the increased responsibilities you've been taking on.

If your request is denied, it's often helpful to ask what you would need to do or achieve for your request to be more likely to be granted. Don't ask for a guarantee, you'll almost never get one and if you do get one it'll be worthless in practice, but it's still useful to know roughly where the goalpost is.

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