The pursuit of a PM promotion
A promotion is a tangible milestone in a PM career and a strong validation of your employer recognizing your impact on the business. Seeking and pursuing this can be elusive, daunting, and full of misconceptions. But a purposeful pursuit can be a powerful tool to drive clarity, learning, and growth in your career. Here, I share a framework on how to perceive and pursue a PM promotion.
Dare to aspire
Like money, career aspirations are fraught with limiting beliefs and perceived as a selfish, aggressive, and materialist motive. On the contrary, a promotion aspiration could be a healthy force to expedite your learning, accelerate growth and multiply your impact, as long as you don't pursue it for the sake of it.
First, start with being honest about why you seek a promotion. Is it a bigger title, a higher compensation, a broader portfolio, access to more opportunities, people management, passion about a specific business area, or simply because you believe you deserve it? Knowing the why will help you cut through the noise.
Second, check if you are harboring common misconceptions. For example, I used to believe if I get promoted, it will disrupt my work-life balance, or I would be perceived as being selfish or aggressive. Or, you may think it's not the right time. While these may be true on some occasions, validate these assumptions before you hold yourself back.
Often, a level-up leads to utilizing your skills more effectively without necessarily creating more work. So, your growth is a win-win for you, your manager, and the organization. In fact, career growth is a critical retention criterion for organizations. Also, there’s never a bad time to have a career discussion, unless you just got promoted or really struggling in your job. And, if you are struggling in your current role, it’s even more essential to have a career conversation to assess where you are and aspire where you want to be.
Define what success looks like
In most organizations, career discussions are encouraged for the reasons mentioned above. So, set up a time with your manager to evaluate where you are, how you are performing, and what you aspire to achieve. This is a great opportunity to align your career goals to how you can impact your organization.
Co-define what success looks like with your manager. And identify the gaps to get there. Note, your impact is a function of the opportunities you have and how you leverage them in a given period of time. So make sure you have substantial opportunities to get there and a timeframe to accomplish those.
Impact = (opportunities X execution)/ time
This exercise helps your manager to evaluate growth opportunities for you and your team. So, it's a total win-win.
PM impact is typically assessed across multiple dimensions including,
business - drive revenue growth, cost reduction, customer adoption etc.,
product - envision and execute the strategy, build, launch and operate products/features, etc.,
people - foster a customer-centric, data-driven product culture, help success of others, etc.
Objectify the criteria and determine relevant activities for each of the pillars so you and your manager can build a path forward and know when you have achieved it. And then come up with a reasonable timeline to get there. Note - the success criteria get more obscure as you rise higher in seniority. So, access your network of mentors and allies to drive clarity and explore opportunities to get you there.
Prime your brain for the north star
Now that you have clarified the why and what, you can operationalize the how. This is where the rubber meets the road. The good news is, you have set the direction. Now it's a matter of getting there within the desired timeframe.
To effectively utilize your RAS, place your aspired goals front and center so you can see them every day. For example, print your picture with the new title. This primes your brain and helps you organize your calendar and prioritize your activities with that lens.
Enjoy the process
Remember that promotion is a means to an end. It’s a vehicle to drive learning and growth. But it shouldn't be a goal in itself. The journey is where the magic happens. Leverage this process to get ruthless feedback, identify growth gaps, push your boundaries and align your efforts towards a bigger purpose.
The journey is also humbling in recognizing whether you get promoted depends on external factors like budget changes, re-orgs, and market changes. And yet, you commit yourself on this path for your own growth, learning, and contributions.
Striving for promotions is an effective strategy to expedite growth and maximize learning and contributions in a given period of time. It starts with getting clarity on why you truly seek it. During this phase, you may need to replace limiting mental models with healthier ones. You then define win-win success criteria with your manager and build a path towards your north star. And then you trust the flow immersing yourself in the process without getting obsessed with the outcome.