Should You Be Promoted Every 3 Years?

ZipRecruiter Co-Founder and CEO, Ian Siegel thinks employees should be on a consistent cadence of being promoted, or there is a problem. Basically, he said it should be every three years. Do you agree?

Early-career employees should aim to get a promotion around every three years, according to Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter. “If you aren’t moving up after three years, there is a problem,” he said.

Let’s say you start your new job right out of college at 22 years old.

First job title (Individual Contributor): HR Generalist 

Second job title at 25 years old: Senior HR Generalist

Third job title at 28 years old: HR Manager 

Fourth job title at 31 years old: Senior HR Manager

Fifth job title at 34: HR Director 

Sixth job title at 37: Sr. HR Director 

Seventh job title at 41: Vice President of HR

I’ve told this story before but I had a goal coming out of college that I wanted to be a Vice President by 35 years old. I spent the early part of my career chasing titles. I became a Vice President at 38. Upon becoming a VP at 38 I immediately realized it didn’t matter at all!

Titles are organizational-size specific. If you work for a 250 person company (or a bank or a startup) becoming a VP of whatever probably isn’t too hard. If you work for a company that has 25,000 employees becoming a VP is going to take some time. Also, are you really a Vice President when you have 2 direct reports, or when you are responsible for an organization of hundreds or thousands?

The reality is titles are basically meaningless to everyone except yourself.

I think Ian’s math actually works out for large organizations. If you start working for large companies, the three-year promotional cycle probably works out in most normal economic environments for above-average performers who meet the following criteria:

  1. Have the desire to continually move up.
  2. Have the ability and desire o relocate.
  3. Have a specialized skill-set or education.
  4. Have a willingness to go cross-functional and learn all parts of the business.
  5. Have the ability to play the political game.

You don’t get promoted for just showing up and doing the job you were hired to do. Every idiot in the company can do that. Showing up doesn’t make you promotable.

There are probably a few things that can help you move up faster than I think most upwardly mobile professionals don’t know. You need to make your boss know that you want to move up and you’re willing to work with them to make that happen. Working with them doesn’t mean trying to push them out, it means you will work to push them up.

You need to have a developmental plan that your boss, and maybe the boss above them, has signed off on. This plan is your responsibility, not their responsibility. If you think it’s your boss’s responsibility to make your development plan and push for your promotion, you’re not someone who should be promoted. Own your own development, with their guidance.

Understand that three years is an average. You will be promoted sometimes in six months and sometimes in six years. In some career paths you’ll be promoted three times in three years, but then not again for nine. The right amount of patience is critical in getting promoted. One of the biggest mistakes I made in my career was jumping companies for a title because I thought my current boss wasn’t going anywhere and three months after I left he was promoted and told me I was in line to take his spot. I loved that job! I had no patience.

Being promoted has nothing to do with time and everything to do with you putting yourself in a position to be promoted.

#InternalsFirst

In the past 30 days, I’ve spoken to a dozen Talent Acquisition leaders across a bunch of industries and markets. There was one common theme, “Holy crap, our req load just doubled or tripled almost overnight!”

The conversation always went to how and what can we do to get more candidates faster!

One, out of twelve, actually had the insight to comment, “we have to make sure our internal employees, first have the option to move into some of these roles, if they desire”.

She mentioned they branded this movement within their organizations – #InternalsFirst! 

The reality is, and she knows this as well, it’s not one or the other, it’s both, but I love the focus on internals as we come out of the pandemic and start increasing our hiring. Yes, we need to fill these openings, but also, yes, we need to engage our internal talent, or we’ll have a much larger problem in the second half of 2021.

We give our internal talent a discount on value. “Oh, yeah, Jenny, she’s good, but we know her and her capabilities, what about Mary, the new shiny, candidate we know nothing about!? She might be 8% better than Jenny!”

Stop it. You’re embarrassing yourself! Mary isn’t better, she’s just new and shiny. Mary has that new employee smell! Jenny lost her new employee smell and now she just smells like everyone else.

As we come out of the pandemic, our internal talent is starving to be engaged. To be noticed. The worse thing you can do, when hiring picks up is to forget about them. To make them feel like an afterthought.

#InternalsFirst