I just started in this company full time as a software engineer 3 months ago. I was an intern for 2 years before I came in full time. The job is in the defense industry so I was required to get a clearance in order to do my job. So coming into the job as a level 1, I thought about asking for a level 2 position because my active clearance already gave me access to do real work versus being paid for a year to do nothing on our off base location. I also worked and have taken on projects that full time engineers would have taken. When I inquired I was told they don't promote that way and I would have to wait. However, a friend of mine just got hired on with no prior military clearance at a level 2. This means he will get increased pay and benefits, but I feel a bit cheated considering I will be paid less while actually doing work. I wish I had known sooner so I could better prepare, but now I am not sure how to approach my meeting tomorrow. Should I wait for the end of the year to discuss a possible promotion? Is this the proper meeting to discuss a promotion? Any input would be great.
You came in at entry level because you are entry level. Having a clearance doesn't change that. Your friend may have lied to you as to what he came in at or he may have some experience that makes him seem more than entry level or they may feel he has better technical skills or maybe he just wouldn't accept the offer until they upped it (or he had another offer on the table at a similar level). Who knows. It is irrelevant.
There is almost always someone who is higher than you who you may not feel is as good as you are. In every large company, in pretty much every medium company and even in many small companies. That is because some people are better negotiators, some people have skills you don't know about, some people have better political skills and many people overestimate their own skill level. You need to simply accept that and not let it bother you. Instead concentrate on what you can do to get promotions and better or more interesting projects.
What you need to do before asking for a promotion is have some accomplishments to prove your value to the business. What you can do right now is ask your boss what he feels you need to do in order to be promoted to the next level. Then go out and do those things and do them well. Then you ask for the promotion.
Don't ask for a promotion yet. It's okay to feel frustrated and underpaid, if are qualified for a higher level position. The problem is that you don't seem to have really planned this out, especially with your boss. The two of you should work together to outline what they want you to accomplish to be successful at your job and how you can grow to learn and take on greater responsibility. The result should include specific action items that will help you work toward promotion (not guaranteed promotion, but progress toward it). Using this approach will allow you to ask your boss whether they think you are qualified for the promotion now or what it would take to get there.