The skills needed to get a promotion are quite different from those you need to land a job. Promotions require a different approach to your skills, value, and relationships in your organization. How does one strike a careful balance between passion, ambition, and talent that is needed to get your next promotion?
Let’s discuss how you can stand out, get one level ahead, and get your next promotion. There are three essential pillars to successful promotion in the tech industry.
Today, we’ll discuss:
Learn the steps and techniques you need to become a senior developer, all in one place.
For software engineers, technical competence is crucial to your career success and growth. But it’s important to remember that technical competence involves a lot more than just your coding skills alone. Let’s discuss some ways to think more broadly about technical competence that will set you apart for promotion.
Having tech skills and competence is great, but do you really understand why you need those skills? Do you understand where you fit into the larger picture? If you’re seeking a promotion, you will stand out if you have a strong sense of company organization.
Standing out as a leader amongst developers means moving beyond the joy of engineering to the next-level process of creating a profitable product. An engineer who is thinking one step ahead needs to engage with the “why” question.
One easy way to gain this curiosity and understanding is simply to ask questions. Speak to people in other departments who have a grasp on company infrastructure. Set aside time to develop the skills of a product-minded software engineer.
Technical competence also deals with the larger picture: the how and the why of technical processes. A great way to stand out and be one step ahead for a promotion is actually being able to articulate how you problem solve and code. This is why so many hiring committees ask developers to explain their process during coding interviews.
At the end of the day, your manager cares most about your output, your ability to make their lives easier. Being able to articulate how you can do that shows thoughtfulness, self-awareness, and a dedication to the craft that most developers may not think to express.
Yes, having in-demand tech skills is vital. You need to be competent in the relevant programming languages, frameworks, and so on. But, managers and reviewers view the willingness to learn as more important than any skill in particular. That’s why competence is also about adaptation to developments in the field. To think one level ahead, you don’t just need the skills of today; you need to be thinking ahead to the technologies of tomorrow.
The tech industry is constantly changing, being updated, and flooded with new tools. Technical competence, therefore, requires adaptation to continued learning. Taking a course demonstrates not only technical competence but also a dedication to industry changes. You can show off your flashy technical skills and prove that you’re a valuable, adaptable asset to your organization.
The focus of your technical competence greatly depends on your current level as a developer.
Let’s discuss some of the tech skills you might not think to develop at different stages of your career.
This where you are beginning your career. You aren’t necessarily expected to code as a part of a team yet. Your company may also not expect you to know the so-called “best practices”. Setting yourself apart begins with these two things: showing the capacity for tech skills within a team project; improve your individual work ethic. Your overarching goal should be to get ownership over a part of the codebase. If you are the “go-to person” for a project, your value to a company will be more recognizable.
In this role, your focus should be less about efficiency and more about increasing value, sharing ideas, and leadership. Your manager will be less concerned about your tech skills; they will generally trust that you know what you’re doing. Instead, focus on the design, communication, and mentorship aspects of technical competency. Learning how to prioritize different aspects of technical projects shows potential for leadership.
At this stage, you should demonstrate a capacity for thinking about team processes. It will be your job to make your team more efficient. Your technical skills, therefore, should deal with intersections: the intersections of different skills, roles, etc. Showing a capacity for organization will set you apart for promotion.
This is a big picture job. To be one step ahead, you need to show your ability to manage large-scale thought, organization, and design. Your technical competence should focus on timeliness, as you will be expected to get things out on time.
This role requires a strong sense of ownership over a project and its profitability.
This job requires a lot of writing. Showing effective writing skills will also set you one step ahead.
To summarize Pillar 1: Develop technical competency that moves beyond the skills you might expect. Thinking one level ahead means understanding how tech skills intersect with the larger picture.
Thinking one step ahead to get a promotion is not just about the work you can do. It’s also about the relationships you form in your organization. At the end of the day, you have to get managers and reviewers on your side. So, developing healthy communication skills and relationships is essential to a long-lasting, forward-focused career.
Let’s discuss some of the fundamentals of standing out relationally within your organization.
This may seem obvious, but your manager won’t want to promote you if you’re hard to work with or for. Your managers and reviewers care most about one question when considering promotion: will this person make our lives easier? This means that a mental framework for ongoing career success involves a lot more than your hard skills.
A hard fact of the tech industry is that hard-skills are replaceable. If you are a developer who only brings hard, tech skills to the table, you may not continue to grow in your career. Instead, consider how hard skills and soft skills intersect to make well-rounded, human-centric workers and leaders.
Here are some important skills and traits that managers look for when considering promotion:
This extends to the ability to manage the time of others well, especially if you want to assume a leadership role. If this is something that is difficult for you, consider working on your time estimation skills for projects.
A worker who only cares about their personal success is not promoting the success of the company. A manager will be far more likely to promote someone who is invested in people.
This extends to products that go well and products that don’t go so well. A developer who can take responsibility when things go awry demonstrates growth potential and leadership skills.
Remember that your job as a software developer is essentially about people at the end of the day. Being able to communicate well and solve human problems will push your career forward and set you apart as a well-rounded worker.
Let’s discuss some ways that you can take these skills to the next level and stand out in your organization.
The tech industry is competitive, so some developers think that one-upping their peers will lead to promotion. But, in general, competitiveness is an unattractive trait. Those above you may see it as a threat or red flag for a potential leader. Avoid standing out by pushing others down.
People won’t want to work with you, and they certainly won’t want to work for you. Promotion is not just about “moving up the chain”. It’s also about maintaining a lasting, healthy relationship with your company ecosystem.
Leadership skills are key to promotion, whether this means taking over a project or simply organizing a few members of your team. It’s important to remember that leadership should look different on different people. If you want to think one level ahead, consider the different styles of leadership.
Being able to articulate this will show competency and self-awareness necessary for promotion. What kind of leader are you? Are you a democratic leader? Do you lead by coaching?
To summarize Pillar 2: Be the kind of person that others want to promote.
An important aspect of getting ahead and seeking promotion is being able to prove your worth to your organization. This can be tricky to do, and it can often lead to a competitive spirit that undermines your growth. One of the biggest challenges for tech experts is the ability to demonstrate value and success apart from others. Developing these skills will set you apart. Let’s discuss an effective way of getting credit for your work.
An excellent strategy for getting credit for your work is to be methodical about recording the tasks you accomplish. The reality is that your manager doesn’t remember everything you worked on, so many developers don’t get the recognition necessary for promotion simply because their work gets lost in the weeds.
In order to think one level ahead, you need to be strategic about proving your worth in a measurable way. Take charge of your accomplishments with a “brag document”.
The goal here is to create a document with tangible evidence that can be used during performance reviews. It should document your skills, patterns, and passions in a way that a reviewer or manager can clearly understand.
Develop a set of metrics specific to the interests of your company. The right framework and metrics can change the way others evaluate your success. Is your organization invested more in final products or the bottom line? Is your organization interested in utility or process? Consider these factors as you document and frame your accomplishments.
Remember, managers promote people who make their lives easier, so using the framework of problem-solving will set you one step ahead by aligning your work with the success of your organization. Consider these three questions when documenting or discussing projects you have worked on:
An important note: To think one step ahead, your focus should be on quality, not quantity. Just putting in hours doesn’t actually show potential. Pulling all-nighters doesn’t make you seem dedicated; it communicates a lack of timeliness.
Don’t only advocate for a job title and forget the bigger question: How do I want my job to look in the future? When you state your desires and intentions, think holistically. Those in power will be empowered to move your career towards that vision.
Summary of Pillar 3: Go out of your way to demonstrate credit for your work.
Now, go show the world you’re ready to become a senior developer!
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