If You Want It, Then You Aren't Ready For It

Are you just dying to get promoted?  How about seeing your individual engineering role turn into a lead role?  Many people focus on that next step in their career, and with good reason.  We all look for ways to grow and challenge ourselves.  But many times, people hit a point in their careers where that next step isn't based on your current work load or even your current performance, but instead on your maturity.  And that's where it gets tricky. 

You wish more than anything to get promoted.  Hopefully, you've learned that you need to ask for what you want.  Actually, that's very good advice.  Many people assume someone will notice their work and therefore they don't announce to their boss their intentions on getting promoted and that they think they are ready.  And they should let their boss know so that if their boss doesn't believe they are ready, they can have an open and honest conversation about what skills the engineer still needs to exhibit in order to get promoted.  But sometimes I see this desire for a promotion to actually hinder getting the promotion.

If you are at a place in your career where the next promotion or next role puts you into that group of seasoned and experienced people, then you need to show maturity in how you handle getting there.  If you become obsessed with getting a promotion or getting into that next role, this could backfire on you.  Now be careful because although you don't think you are obsessed about it, your management may think you are.  Are you doing certain tasks and stretching yourself because you like the challenge and want to make the company better, or because you are hoping it will lead to a promotion?  Are you marketing the work you are doing in a way that sends the message to your boss that "I did this great thing so you should promote me"?  If so, you are going about it all wrong.  At these higher levels, people more focused on their career and personal satisfaction are not the right people for these roles.  These higher level roles take sacrifice, a dedication to the company, a willingness to suck it in or say you are wrong, and sometimes the need to promote others' successes instead of your own.  So basically, it takes maturity.  If you aren't perceived as mature, you will never get into those higher levels.  Someone who continues to go to their boss asking for a promotion is perceived as self-centered and not focused on what is good for the sake of the company.  You will not make it to those higher ranks without some self-sacrifice and letting go of the idea of a promotion.

In my first half of my career, I followed the good advice of asking for a promotion.  I had evidence to prove why I thought I was ready and I had good discussions with my managers on what further skills they needed to see from me.  But there was a distinct point in my career where I stopped asking and I started showing maturity.  I did large, impacting work that saved the company money, saved the team time, or just proved to fix a huge problem that nobody else had the ability or foresight to fix.  Do something like this and the promotion will come.  Make your evidence unavoidable and obvious.  But at the same time, learn to be happy with where you are at.  Take a good look at your coworkers who you think are levels above you and decide if you really can do their jobs or if you'd even want to.  If you are truly honest with yourself, you may be surprised at what you conclude.

So if you are a more senior engineer and want a promotion, and if you want it more than anything and your boss hears about your desire regularly, you probably aren't actually ready for it.  Be patient and apply your energy to showing your maturity and your patience, and it will eventually happen.