A few weeks ago, I completed my self-review as part of my company's performance review process. This is the second self-review I've completed while at the company, and as I was working on my self-review, I saw (and was able to call out) a significant amount of growth since my last review. I'm ready for a promotion (I mean, I felt like I was ready for a promotion last review process, but others in the review process felt differently, and I respect that even if I don't agree).
As I sit here stressing out over whether or not I will get the promotion I want (there have been some delays, and while I know my manager is advocating for my promotion, the final decision lies with HR), I've been thinking a lot about why this promotion means so much to me. What difference does it make whether I'm an Engineer 1 or Engineer 2? Thinking about it, there are a few reasons why this promotion means so much to me.
I'd be lying if I didn't say that one of the main reasons why I want a promotion is because I'm hoping it comes with a raise. I've been at my current company for 18 months and being paid the same exact salary I was given when I first started. While my starting salary was at the high end of the range I gave during my interview process, that number was based on my last job and I didn't know if it matched my company's expected compensation for the range. My company doesn't have any transparent salary bands (at least not that I'm aware of), so I have no idea if I'm being paid similarly to others at my level. I'm hoping that with a promotion they'll raise my salary to whatever they're paying other engineers at the E2 level and I no longer will be worried about whether I'm being underpaid.
I (mostly) enjoy my work, and while that is a reward in and of itself, it would be really cool if my company recognized and rewarded my work. I have been recognized a few times by teammates (although not super often), but never on a company-wide level. Even when I worked on part of a large company-wide initiative, my name was never publicly mentioned as part of the work. I get that engineering exists in its own little world and isn't super important at the company level (which is an entirely different conversation), but even if the recognition isn't public, it would be nice to have a (semi-)tangible acknowledgement that the company actually values my work.
I often feel like I can't be my authentic self at work. I try to hide the things that make me different, even though they can sometimes be a big part of who I am (for example, at a recent team tea tasting event, the person coordinating knew that I could only have kosher tea and didn't send me the tea samples they sent the rest of the team, but I didn't say anything to anyone else about why I wasn't drinking the same tea they were). I know that part of why I feel so disconnected from my team is because I separate myself (not because I have to but because I'm scared that people will reject me), but I also sometimes feel like my authentic self would not be welcomed at work. Some of our recent diversity initiatives (which are super super important and I'm glad we're putting a big focus on that) have somewhat reinforced this feeling because I don't fit most of the traditionally "different" checkboxes (which are what was being looked at in all of our diversity discussions), but I still feel different and feel like I do have concerns that may impact my ability to feel comfortable at work. Being recognized and promoted will serve as a reminder that I am wanted and welcomed at work, and I'm hoping that once I have that reminder I will feel more comfortable being my authentic self around my teammates and coworkers.
Next Step In My Career
I got into engineering later in life. While I do sometimes question my journey, I understand that I found engineering at the right time for me. But the truth is, I'm closer to retirement age than some of my coworkers (particularly the ones at my level). And while retirement age is just a number and people do work past that age (or retire earlier), I do sometimes feel like the clock is ticking. I don't feel like I have the time (or really the desire) to figure out what's next. I'd like to be in a position where I can grow into doing more of the work I enjoy and advance in my career, and getting a promotion would be a good sign that my current company is a place where I have opportunities to grow my career at a pace that makes sense (although honestly it's been a bit slow so far, but some of that is COVID-related).
As I think about why I want this promotion, I also need to accept the possibility that I won't be included in this round of promotions. I'm hoping I don't have to worry about that, but if I do in fact not get the promotion I want, then I'll need to take some time to reflect on both my own performance and growth and my place at the company. Am I doing everything I can to set myself up for career growth? Is the company giving me opportunity to reach my growth goals? If the answer to the first question is no, then I need to figure out what I should be doing that I'm not (and if it's even an option for me). If the answer to the second question is no, then I need to start looking for growth opportunities outside my company. I'm hoping that I have opportunities to grow within my company, but I also need to acknowledge that it's possible this isn't the right fit of person, place, and time for me to grow to my highest potential. And that's okay. I still appreciate everything I've learned in my current position, and no matter what happens with my promotion, I will continue to grow and take those learnings with me.