Author Topic: U.S. megacorp employees - what's a typical promotion schedule for your employer?  (Read 1643 times)

Miss Piggy

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Out of curiosity, those of you who have been with the same employer in the U.S. for several years, how much time typically goes by between promotions for good performers?

I was with a previous employer for almost 10 years (until 10 years ago). I don’t recall all of the details, but I was regularly promoted (every 18 months to 2 years-ish) and over the course of 10 years, my salary more than doubled.

At my current employer, people are very frustrated because they’ll be in the same role/job/seat for 5 to 7 to 10 or more years, only receiving the typical 3% +/- in raises every year. And yet, they are afraid to leave. I plan to FIRE next year, so I don’t really care about my long-term career prospects there, but I would like to see my colleagues have far better career paths. If all goes as planned, I’ll FIRE with about 2 years of tenure there.

Was my experience at my previous employer skewed or abnormal? Is my current employer abnormal with its rare promotion schedule? Is the norm somewhere in between? I’m honestly a little bit pissed on behalf of my current colleagues and their stagnant careers, but maybe I shouldn’t be…perhaps times have changed since the early 2000s, and people are just happy to have a damn job. I don’t know.

ixtap

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I think you are seeing market changes from pre recession to post recession.

Similarly, it seems a lot more people are less willing to leave the known evil than they used to be.

rantk81

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2004-2012:  Worked for an awesome and successful company. Was promoted every 2-3 years. Never went more than 3 years without a promotion.


2013-Now: Kind of working for the "same" company. It was acquired in a huge leveraged buyout. The company is now under crushing debt, and doesn't treat the employees well. I have not been promoted once.

FamilyGuy

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In my experience in IT industry for the last 11 years, you will get promoted to roles in full speed if you meet the conditions below. (within 1 to 2 years)

If you & your project is highly visible - always.
If your project is critical and has lots of ups & downs and you're the one who is solving & delivering.
If you are not shy of people & have a lot of people skills (tactics) with some technical skills as well.
Well, if you're the most trusted & reliable for your manager and he/she likes you.

If you don't fit into any of them, the other approach is changing jobs/employers every 2 or 3 years. You can always demand more in terms of job role and salary at your new job.

MaybeBabyMustache

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I've worked for two major corporations, both with similar promotion trajectories in aggregate for employees. In both companies, I've been in the "high potential" path, which means unusually fast promotion trajectories.

I've been promoted 11 times in 21ish years.

A typical promotion rate highly varies based on role seniority. For our junior team members, 24-48 months is average, and gets increasingly longer the more senior you are.

@Miss Piggy - I'm assuming that promotions slow down the more senior you are (e.g. the time between them/things you need to learn/projects you need to deliver all take longer). Perhaps that's not true in your industry, but has been a common thread at all of the places I've worked, or friends/family members have worked. Could that be the case in your situation?

Viking Thor

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It really depends on the company org structure i.e how many layers there are and how experienced and well paid the people at each level.

At my megacorp most people taper off or don't make it more than 1-2 promotions. Four promotions and you are like $450k-500k in total comp. I am not sure what they make above that but it's more than enough for a mustacian to retire quickly I'm sure.

DeepEllumStache

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Probably depends on the industry.

Mine is a much flatter MegaCorp (technically ~7 layers). Started at layer 2 and got 1 promotion in almost 10 years. Promotions don’t follow a predictable cadence. Instead we’re encouraged to move around laterally to try new things. Considering that there are 10 people in my layer for every person in the layer above me, promotions require political maneuvering since being amazing at your job is table stakes. I’ve seen people make it to the next layer up in 1 year (that was surprising) and others take 15.

Being promoted to the next layer typically also requires you to manage people which is frightening since there are a lot of talented people that should be rewarded but shouldn’t be left in charge of a pet rock.

LPG

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Wow, some of these stories are making me feel better about my decision to leave my current megacorp (After about a year of looking, finally found my next move. Gonna take a few months for everything to fall in place, but I'm happy to be a bit patient for something that feels like a good fit).

Our company has a policy that nobody can be promoted more often than once every three years. If you perform exceptionally well, that's the best you can get. If your performance is poor or mediocre, I'm sure it's far slower. If they need somebody to move up a level (E.g. From technical to management) and nobody has hit the three year mark, they'll hire from outside since nobody is eligible for a promotion. In years without promotions, the biggest raise the company has ever given was 3.2%. From what I've heard (Rumor, not the most reliable source of information...) typical is more like 1.5 - 2%. So, yeah, it's not a good place for career advancement.

Scortius

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You guys are making me jealous. My employer has essentially 4 levels and I came in at level 2. Level 3 is the last 'guaranteed' promotion and we have a non-official 5% of the workforce cap on level 4. i guess there's a level 5, but it's more honorary and capped at 1% of the workforce, so I don't think it really counts.

I'm a red panda

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My company has no guaranteed promotions. Many people stay at one level their whole career here. If you are hired at level 1, you are likely to move to level 2 in 5-7 years.  But getting to 3 isn't likely (I'm at 3, hired in at 2 four years ago).  Getting to 4 is highly unlikely (4 people in a department of 100), 5 (2 people in a department of 100), 6 (vice president), and 7 (C-levels) are extremely small.

Raises are 2-4% annually.
I got 10% when I moved from level 2 to 3. My level can have direct reports, but I don't have any. I will not get a raise if I get them, as my title doesn't change.

big_slacker

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Here (big 5 tech company) it's 3-5% merit increase yearly. I've been here 3 years and gotten merit increase + nice bonus every year.

A promotion is another thing altogether. I've had one in 3 years. I'm an IC (individual contributor) but at manager/sr manager pay. The company has numerical levels, each level is grouped into 3's. So say 1-2-3 is Jr engineer, 4-5-6 engineer, 7-8-9 Sr engineer, 10-11-12 principal engineer. Using that made up scale I'm at level 8. Moving to level 9 means a big impactful project and a director going to bat for me. Moving from 9 to 10 (jumping to principal) requires the big boss to sign off.

Long story short, there is not a schedule or timeline for a promo at my level. There are people that hang out in levels 7-9 for a decade. There are people that jump up in a year or two. It just depends on the visibility and impact of your work. I wonder if the people in your workplace are at a level where it's not about hard work and not screwing up anymore, but about seeking out the big, visible, tough work?

fuzzy math

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Thanks for the thread OP!
I was just lamenting this morning about my work's raise schedule. There is no promotion for my position (in healthcare) and no path towards becoming management without becoming an administrator and obtaining a MHA (or worse) which is something that I do not wish to do as it would take me out of clinical duties completely. The administrator level required to match my clinical pay would also be a few levels up so there's no winning at all without an extra degree and a pay cut for a period of time. In theory I could take a job with a different employer where they had a lead role defined but that's a big jump that would require moving.

 I get 2% a year (on average). I consider it annoying that in the healthcare world giving out raises is seen as fiscally irresponsible, which all but ensures that people have to jump employers to ever get a significant pay raise.


Cornel_Westside

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I've worked at two very large companies as a mechanical engineer (currently at a consulting engineering firm). One in consumer electronics, the other in energy manufacturing. Both were relatively similar in progression schedule.

The first company had basically 7 roles on the Technical career track. The top two were kind of honorary titles for people who had made technical history with the company. So basically 5 roles from Jr Engineer to Principal Engineer, although they had their own names for them. They are basically the equivalent of Jr Engineer, Engineer, Senior Engineer, Staff Engineer (if you think of Staff as higher than Senior, I've seen it reversed. Basically Technical Lead), Principal Engineer.

The second company had around 10 levels on the technical track. It was similar to big_slacker's scale, with Engineer 1 being a junior role, 2 being between Jr and Engineer, 3-5 being an Engineer, 6-8 being a Sr Engineer (often with technical leadership or publishing), and 9 and 10 being Principal roles.

Both had very quick progressions to a mid level if you were a great performer. If you worked hard and had aptitude, you would make Sr Engineer (at the first company) or Engineer 5 (at the second company) in 3-5 years straight out of college. After that, it slowed down and you basically had to make a choice for project management/people management/technical track. From there I didn't see a pattern - or I wasn't there long enough to see one. I'm in my late 20s.

If you weren't a great performer, you stalled at Engineer (first company) or Engineer 2/3 for a while. They would try to keep you there with as little increase in pay for as long as possible. I can understand this mentality. Most managers will think of everyone but their star performers as replaceable. It's probably not true - there are lots of efficiencies gained over time in a role, but people can also stagnate in progression if they are in one role for longer than 3-4 years, especially if they're young.

I'm curious about people mentioning a "fast track" or a "high potential" path. Was this simply a trend you noticed? Did managers simply have a mental list of people they'd noted as possible fast risers? Did managers tell people directly they were thought of as future leaders/top performers? Was this specific to new hires/young people?

PDXTabs

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I worked as an engineer for a Fortune 500 company where the ranks were as follows (titles omitted to protect the innocent).

  • Entry level, college hire with a BS
  • Intermediate, college hire with MS or someone who was promoted from Intermediate
  • Experienced, PhD college hire or someone who was promoted from Intermediate. This is where most of the engineers stayed for their whole career
  • Team lead, occasionally someone would get onto this pay curve without actually leading people
  • Lead of leads, like the team lead, but you lead leads. You might have 20 engineers under you
  • The next step, You lead the leads of leads. You might have 50-300 people under you.
  • The next step, you get distanced from actual engineering, but were nominally a technical contributor. You spend all day in meetings with VPs
  • The last step, like the last one but more senior?

It should not take you more than five years to get from entry to experienced engineer, unless you are an idiot or your boss is really cheap. But promotions and raises did not correlate, because they were cheap.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2018, 05:24:37 PM by PDXTabs »

effigy98

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Usually 2 years at my big software company...

They will dangle the carrot every year though... I put you in for a promo this year, but there is a line, budgets, purple dinosaur feedings, whatever random excuse. Keep executing and maybe you will get one.

- Solve world hunger and make the company 10 billion dollars... 2 years...
- Coast and produce very little, but just enough to not get dinged?... 2 years...
- Take on massive more responsibility, knock it out of the park, make big profits or savings for the company?... 2 years.
- Know someone with promo decisions who really likes you... regardless of your skills... 1 yearish?

I have learned that most people who do not fuck up are basically... 2 years no matter what you do, so kick back, relax, do enough work that keeps the bosses off your back, and hurry up and wait. This is the main reason I suggest high performers get a side hustle instead of pooring your soul into work, you will make a lot more money and gain a lot more skills going that route probably and it is a great backup when you get layed off as many in my industry do when we have a downturn.

It takes two to three promos to get to the next title. So you are looking at 4 to 6 years per title.

We have (abstracted titles).

Grunt,
Worker Bee,
Drone boss,
Tenured Worker General,
Half Deity
VP Deity
Deity

Most people stop at Drone Boss... You are expected to get to this or you are kicked out. You can still be a non manager, just you need this title to secure your future. Very few actually make it to Tenured and many are driven out at this level because they are old probably (pushing 35+)... The others are rare and they all drive 300k+ cars and have angels flying around the car to protect it on the way to work so I have never actually got close to one to observe them and ask how long it took to get there.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2018, 08:22:33 AM by effigy98 »

MaybeBabyMustache

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@Cornel_Westside

I'm curious about people mentioning a "fast track" or a "high potential" path. Was this simply a trend you noticed? Did managers simply have a mental list of people they'd noted as possible fast risers? Did managers tell people directly they were thought of as future leaders/top performers? Was this specific to new hires/young people?

To answer your question from my experience, in the first company I worked at, it was a formal "HiPo" program. It was top 5% of all employees. If you made it into the program, there was specific training & mentorship provided. It was called out that you were expected to be a top performer/future leader. The program covered everyone under director level, so wasn't just new hires, but didn't go beyond director. There may have been a similar program beyond director, but the math  wouldn't work out, given how few directors, senior directors, & VPs there were.

At my current company, there is also a track with additional training, executive coaching, mentorship, etc. There are several branches of it, depending on level. At my current company, the branches of the program go up to senior director. There may be more, but no one talks about it past that, and I'm not a VP, so unclear what happens after that. I'm assuming it's such a small group, there's no need for such a thing.

Cornel_Westside

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@Cornel_Westside

I'm curious about people mentioning a "fast track" or a "high potential" path. Was this simply a trend you noticed? Did managers simply have a mental list of people they'd noted as possible fast risers? Did managers tell people directly they were thought of as future leaders/top performers? Was this specific to new hires/young people?

To answer your question from my experience, in the first company I worked at, it was a formal "HiPo" program. It was top 5% of all employees. If you made it into the program, there was specific training & mentorship provided. It was called out that you were expected to be a top performer/future leader. The program covered everyone under director level, so wasn't just new hires, but didn't go beyond director. There may have been a similar program beyond director, but the math  wouldn't work out, given how few directors, senior directors, & VPs there were.

At my current company, there is also a track with additional training, executive coaching, mentorship, etc. There are several branches of it, depending on level. At my current company, the branches of the program go up to senior director. There may be more, but no one talks about it past that, and I'm not a VP, so unclear what happens after that. I'm assuming it's such a small group, there's no need for such a thing.

How did they determine this? I'm asking because it seemed informal at the companies I've worked at, and I was never sure if I was in those positions. Based on promotions and how my manager talked to me, they seemed like they thought of me that way, but promotions were slower than expected. Maybe I was considered, but then after a year of just "good" performance, it was decided that I wasn't a true fast track person. The reason I ask is that if I had known I was in a fast track path, I probably would have worked harder, especially if it came with mentorship and leadership training that would now be valuable to me.

MaybeBabyMustache

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@Cornel_Westside - in both companies, it's based on manager + 2 chains up of insight into track record of performance plus what we would deem as "future potential". I've been told in all cases about the programs/inclusion. In my current company, there has to be a sustained track record of performance at a specific level, so it's not just one particular quarter/year. That's a minimum bar, along with the additional lens of future promotion & sponsorship from your exec team.

skip207

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IME in large tech company over the pond we used to get a bump of around 2-5% a year.  Some companies offer a bonus scheme but most people just recognise that as a bit of a scam so few people are bothered about a bonus they will never get so generally went in hard on the pay review because they knew the bonus was not worth the paper it was written on.

Promotions were almost never ever given.  You had to apply or show a keen interest in the role prior to someone leaving and then waiting for them to leave.

In my industry you would often see that managers would stick around for 2-3 years then move on whilst the engineers would generally stay in post for 20+ years.
Most engineers had no desire to step into management.  Those that did were usually younger and wanted to get further up the ladder so were just using the management ladder and would quite often take a lower management role for the same money just to get started out so few people saw the point.   

Before that I worked for the "man" and we had about 5-6 pay grades which you could progress up with time served / performance / market demand.  On average you were looking at 10 years to get from the lowest to the highest.  Pay reviews were every year. After that you could in theory apply to start on the next scale up but this almost never happened as it required you to have certain training in HR and other guff as the next scale up was a supervision role and few engineers wanted to do those courses or even had any interest in it.

SnackDog

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This is a typical question by people who think they are not being promoted fast enough, which is most millenials, regardless of their real or imagined job performance.  You key to promotion is job performance. If you are consistently ranked higher than your peers you will be promoted, assuming you are in an organization that has more then 1-2 levels and promotes people (which apparently some megacorps on this thread do not, which is hard to imagine 20-50,000 people in only three pay grades).  If not, then you will be promoted more slowly.  If you wish to be promoted, you should be effectively functioning competitively at the next level or higher.

Viking Thor

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I think the difference from reading is some companies have lots of baby promotions with small increases in pay and authority while other companies have fewer  categories and bigger jumps.

At my Megacorp as mentioned earlier there are 4 tiers relevant to most people in this board - let's say starting  with an entry level job that requires college degree and some skill, working in Marketing, Tech, Finance, etc.

Most people in this situation make the next level in a few years (L2).
The next L3 makes you a leader of 1s and 2s, a lot of people make it this far but certainly not everyone.
L4 makes you a leader of L3s and basically an entire organization.

These are all pretty big jumps in pay and responsibilities, for example a 3 makes like triple of a 1.

At level 3 and 4 you can also get increases in pay and responsibilities without moving up a level. For example as a 3 I've received pay increases 3 times for laterals with increased responsibility. These are of course smaller than the increases for moving up a level.

Now, in actuality there are many more levels at the company but these are the most relevant. For example there are several layers below what I'm calling 1, like lower level operations, call center, etc. These are many levels and employees but below the typical college grad professional starting point.

Like in the U.S. a 2 would normally not be a mgr but in India they might have a large team of lower ranking employees.

Same thing at the top- there are a bunch of levels above 4 but this applies to less than 1% of employees and people on this board could retire in a year or two on their pay so less relevant to the discussion.


chemistk

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Outlier here (non tech, non engineer [though, by my username, you can guess what I do])

We....don't really have a promotion schedule.

I know dozens of people who have worked for decades at exactly the same level they started at, or perhaps one level higher. Most of the time, unless you're in one of the 'favored' groups (something to do with cost savings, data, or marketing), you're pretty much waiting for someone else to vacate a higher level. We've heard plenty of whispers that the company has really tried to clamp down on managers creating new roles to promote high performers into.

Our company follows more of a band structure - 5 bands, band 1 (entry level) has 3 tiers, bands 2-4 have 2 tiers, and band 5 (c-suite) is a singular tier. It's easy to move from 1.1 to 1.2, takes time to move to 1.3, takes someone retiring to move to 2.1, and above that could take decades.

The worst is that once you hit the upper pay limit in your band, you don't automatically move up a band....you just get a small additional bonus where you yearly merit increase would have been.