Get promoted before switching job posted on 18 May 2024

Quite a lot of people have been reaching out for a referral to apply to Databricks. Somehow a lot of these folks (probably ~40%) have less than 2 years of experience and have never been promoted.

My recommendation in this case is to get promoted first. The rationale being that it is difficult to understand where you are in your career – e.g. are you a bad engineer that hasn’t grown at all or are you actually very close to the next level?

  • If you apply to a new company, they may do reference check, but these aren’t necessarily the best signals for a plethora of reasons – nobody knows how well calibrated the references are, if they are actually the best ones (maybe you don’t want to provide your closest coworkers because they don’t know you’re planning on leaving) etc.
  • If you do an internal transfer, the hiring manager may have access to your perf and can directly chat with your manager – so they can much better understand your level, growth and gaps. At the end of the day, the risk is much lower in this case

Something similar can be said about senior engineers who never got promoted – did they end up with the title because a company made a hiring mistake?

Being promoted to L4 (or its equivalent) means you are reasonably independent, so while you’ll need time to ramp up on the new code base/system, you don’t need to be hand held all the time.

Lastly, though this might be more controversial, it shows the ability to push through a process – the resilience to do non interesting work but also some useful soft skills, e.g. how well you can argue for your proposal. It also reflects a lack of behavior red flags.

So if this is your first job, you should really try to get promoted once before looking for new opportunities. It will be much easier for you to find jobs and you will likely end up with a more interesting one too.

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