To Swing or Not To Swing – How to Progress Your Career

“How can I progress vertically within a team?”

This question came to me via a DM on LinkedIn, and since then I’ve been thinking about ways someone can advance their career. Inevitably, I fell into conflict – a rapid progression through a pendulum to a different company or a slower progression within the same organization.

Obviously, there are multiple factors that can lead us to want to leave the organization we are working for and, in that process, to match successfully two desires at one time, and take advantage of a possible progression of our career.

But for the purpose of the question above, how is it possible to progress without leaving the same company?

Why does each of these situations bring different speeds to the progressions?

Despite having the potential for a similar end, the situations are entirely different.

In an interview process, there is a sales and negotiation approach. The candidate tries to convince the organisation that he has the qualities they need, generating the expectation of something that is not yet tangible.

Once inside the organisation, if the employee operates within the expectations generated in the recruitment process, he can maintain his stable position. And this is where the question of James (fictitious name to preserve the privacy of those who sent me the message) arises – “How can I progress vertically within a team?”.

This progression cannot occur over a potential future proposal, as it does in the recruitment interview process. In this phase, progressions are based on certainties and facts. A mid-level individual contributor is not promoted to senior for tenure or growth potential. The employee is promoted when he is already operating according to what is expected from the new position. He is great in his role, he performs his work with expertise and quality. Whatever is asked of a mid-level individual contributor, James delivers. You’re not going to promote James to senior just because he does a great job at mid-level. That would be risking losing an excellent mid-level to get a terrible senior. And once the promotion has taken place, going back is not that simple. So how do you handle these cases?

James will have to start growing towards the expectations of a senior employee. And only when you are already operating in line with that expectation can you easily make your case for a well-deserved promotion.

How to increase the probability of success?

Before dreaming of promotion, James should know, with total clarity, what is expected of the new position. Assuming there is a connection between his intention and the job expectation, we can develop a 12-month plan.

The why of the plan is simple and clear.

There are always opportunities within a team for growth. Just select new and challenging tasks for James.

But it’s important to avoid the “Shiny Object” syndrome.

You have to keep the focus on the prize.

We must not forget that the employee will not be able to lower in response to the expectations that are already expected of him.

This will be a cumulative process.

The demand will increase, the load of stress and work too. Knowing how to choose which battles you want to fight is halfway to success. And it shouldn’t be a lonely path. My advice to James would be to share your intent with your line manager and come up with a plan together. If you have the misfortune of having a boss who is absent, it is always possible to find someone within the organization who will take on this role, and who, if successful, can help defend your growth.

Someone external, such as a mentor, also works, in which case the influence within the company is limited or null.

Having this more senior person as a guide will allow James to be held accountable for his progression. There will be no risk of procrastination. James will have to present his results each quarter and readjust the plan if necessary.

It would be a challenging 12 months of growth but exciting months. And suppose the company can’t see employee growth or is willing and able to accommodate the promotion. In that case, James will always be in a better position to get a lightning progression in a swing to another company.

Go get your plan James and get to work!

Yours truly,

Ricardo Castelhano