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I have been working in a start-up. I started out as a designer despite having 7 years experience. Some time after I joined, the startup started looking for a senior designer with 4+ years of experience.

I started to talk to my manager about possibly being promoted to senior designer, and I was told to wait for the performance review 6 months down the line.

A little while ago, they hired someone with 4 years of experience as Senior Designer.

I had my performance review earlier this week. My manager talked about everything positive, but when I asked about a promotion, he asked me to wait.

  1. Can I ask why someone with lower experience was hired as senior designer and I am not being promoted? If so, how should I ask, ideally by avoiding his ego?

  2. I feel that I let myself down, either in affirming my stand or in soft negotiation. Is a negotiation possible, or should I start looking elsewhere?

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  • At your employer, are the job titles simply a recognition of skills, or do they represent levels in the pecking order - that is, the new hire is coming in with more authority than you? Dec 31, 2022 at 11:51

3 Answers 3

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There are two issues to unpick here:

  1. Why someone else was hired: you need to let this go. It doesn't matter how many years of experience they have, they were able to convince your company they were able to work at the level of a senior designer; good companies do not base promotions/hiring on how many years someone has worked for - some people work for many years without improving their skills.

  2. Why you aren't being promoted: this is what you need to be pushing on. Ask for a specific set of criteria that you need to fulfil to be promoted, and how you currently match up against those criteria.

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  • Thank you. 1. I agree with you and generally don't think of year of experience as criteria. But, I don't the new hire to have any better skillset. (I may sound biased here) 2. Any comment on the right way to ask for specific set of criteria? Don't wish to rub the ego of my manager knowingly or unknowingly!
    – Lata
    Dec 23, 2022 at 8:39
  • Just ask. "Hey, I'd like to discuss career advancement. What would you need to see from me to justify a promotion?" Be aware that the answer is likely to involve increased responsibility; promotions are often into positions you have already demonstrated you are working at.
    – keshlam
    Dec 24, 2022 at 22:52
  • -1 I disagree with this answer. The years of experience is clearly something they care about given that the job listing required at least 4 years of experience. You can't take both sides of the fence saying it is both useful, but also useless as a metric. This company chose to list a new job offer with lower requirements than an existing employee already had. This is directly and intentionally ignoring her. Jan 3, 2023 at 11:23
  • @TheEvilMetal "good companies do not base promotions/hiring on how many years someone has worked for" Emphasis original Jan 3, 2023 at 11:24
  • @PhilipKendall good companies use records of accomplishments as proof of capability. Years of experience is one of those proofs. Proof of capability that they are ignoring. If there were other factors contributing then I'd expect that feedback when asking about the promotion. Not this weird runaround. And if you're complaining about years of experience being proof, it's as much proof as most experience on a resume. At least it's verifiable. But it seems like you're heading to the same conclusion as me: This company sucks. Jan 3, 2023 at 11:28
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Can I ask why someone with lower experience was hired as senior designer and I am not being promoted? If so, how to ask ideally by avoiding his ego?

It's a pointless question: You already know the answer. You asked for the role (which would be the most natural thing to happen) and you didn't get it. That means your management feels you are not a good fit for the role and/or you don't have what it takes.

I feel that I let myself down someone either in affirming my stand or in soft negotiation. Is a negotiation possible or should I start looking elsewhere?

You can try to have an open discussion with your management. Ask about a potential career path. Ask specifically about what criteria and requirements you would have to meet for a promotion, what metrics could be applied and whether you could put an actionable plan together to get you there. That's a standard "career growth" discussion.

If your boss engages and comes with something credible you can try it. If your boss is evasive or non-committal, you have your answer. "Wait" = "No". Brush up your resume and start looking. Given what happened so far that's unfortunately the most likely outcome.

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Note this somewhere: Nothing moves without pressure.

Electric Current moves because of voltage. Water moves in a pipe because of air pressure.

You are not getting a proportion because there is no pressure on your company for it. You are already working there. You have a set level of skills that don't magically go up if you are promoted.

The other person is given a higher position than you because he wasn't willing to work at lower position. The company has pressure to give him the higher position, he wouldn't work otherwise.

The technical term is leverage. Just talking with your manager will get you exactly what you have got: Promises of Consideration, Ask To Wait. They don't give you anything.

Now suppose your company hire some junior staff. They would need a supervisor on them. Then you may be promoted.

So, look at what leverage you have. You have none here at the moment. So move on to some other company where you do have some leverage. A company that do not have people of your skills for example.

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