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The Surprising Reason I Pushed Myself Towards a Promotion

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PromotionBefore I went off on maternity leave I successful obtained a promotion in my company. This promotion was 3 years in the making and took a lot out of me. Previously I talked about some of the books that I read that helped me. What I didn’t mention was the different reason that I was able to push through 3 years of struggles to get to where I wanted to be.

Round 1:

Late 2013 I reached out to my higher ups to understand the process for promotion. At the beginning it was all sunshine and rainbows. I was getting support that I needed from the right people, I was given opportunities to work on some cool projects, I took more work to “prove” that I could handle a higher level of working before I was actually promoted. At the end of 2014 I got an interview scheduled. There was tons of prep work with my boss and their boss. It wasn’t perfect they were confident that I was able to ace the interview. That interview came and I went on a 2 week vacation. Before I left I was told that when I returned I would have my answer. The whole week my boss avoids me. I knew I didn’t get it because if I did he would have pulled me aside. On Friday afternoon we went to Starbucks and he told me. We came back into the office and we talked some more and I left for the day. It was a disappointing weekend.

No Dice This Time:

The next couple of weeks I had formal sit downs with my managers and their managers. Previously the company would promote people that were good to the next level. Going forward they wanted to make sure they would promote people who they felt would make it to an organizational leadership level. For perspective that would be 10-15 years away but they wanted to see that I had potential. They didn’t feel that I had “it” yet so I didn’t get promoted.

New Project To Prove I “Had” It:

In early 2015 I was sat down and offered a new project. I would take on an additional role with an internal focus on top of my 40+ hours a week work. The associate director was also brought in as a sponsor of my promotion to help me. Originally I would work on this project for a year and that would be enough experience to get another shot at an interview. The amount of learning and growth I experienced on this project was great.  There was more facetime in front of the leadership team to increase my exposure.  I ended up working on it for only 9 months before a new opportunity was “given” to me.

New Amazing Opportunity:

Mid-2015 I was asked if I wanted to take on a new role. This would be an amazing role where I could go in and create a role in 2 major organizations. When I asked about how this would impact my interview process I was told that it would give me more tools for my toolbox and allow me more examples to share how I am able to work at a higher level. Basically, more time waiting.

I took on this new role in late 2015. It was the role of a lifetime and something I look back on fondly. The role and the situation I was placed in helped me grow professional like I was taking rocket fuel. If a role like that came up again I would take it in a second. Going where the growth is like jet fuel for professional development. It was working in a startup with the financial foothold of a Fortune 500.

Round 2:

In the spring of 2016 I was told that we were kick starting the promotion prep again with the goal to have an interview late summer of the same year. This time it was going to be even more intense with more prep interviews with people from Canada and the US. The added complexity was that I didn’t work in the same office anymore. I was offsite and it was a 1 hour drive across the city. I felt much more prepared than I did 2 years before however I also knew what I was going up against. It was almost as if not knowing exactly what was around each corner made it easier to deal with. I knew where the bumps and turns were so I would tense up.

All Became a Bit Too Much:

Towards the end of the process I almost gave up. The mental toll it was taking on me was reaching a breaking point. One afternoon I saw a co-worker at my office and I broke down in tears when she asked how the process was going.  Later that day I was driving across the city after a full day of work to probably my 6th prep interview that year. Stressing about being late I started wondering out loud if this was worth it. It was difficult to keep it together. There was a final day when I would have no more prep interviews and I told myself that I would say after that point that I was not interested in pursuing this any further. We wanted to start a family and we had been delaying it because I knew getting pregnant would likely bump me down on the list. After 3 years I wondered what I was wasting my time for.

Lean In:

At the same time I was done my latest audiobook and I picked up Lean In. I had already read it several years before and I figured it would be a good refresher. It was the one thing that pushed me to continue on. It was a reminder that a lot of the things that were working against me were a product of my male-dominated organization. The more women that are in positions of power the more things change for the women part of the organization. I came to realize that the one thing that would push me through this last challenge was forgetting about myself and focusing on others.

In Limbo, But Worth It:

The interview date came and went and there was a lot of confusion on where I would go and when it would happen and even what the format would be. As a family we decided before that we needed to make a move on our family plans regardless of what the outcome was. Even if I was pregnant I would be able to fly to the US for the interview as long as it wasn’t too late. 10 days after I found out I was pregnant I was sat down for yet another prep (we were going to prep until the interview was scheduled, lucky me) and I was told that the female associate director made the decision to promote me. Her logic was that we didn’t need to ask the US to get involved for new hires, so why couldn’t we just make the decision for this too.

She changed my life that day and I intend to do the same with whatever power I have.   

It’s Not About Me:

I believe that everyone should have the same advantages that I have had. Most of my managers are male and I knew that if I wanted to change that I had to get in there. My company is supportive with family leave but it isn’t perfect. More women in power will help that. Until men starting taking on much more of the primary childcare women need to share their experiences as parents and employees and make it easier for new parents.  I need to make it better for the people coming behind me and getting into power will help that. I do not want a single person coming behind me to experience what I went through.  If I have a seat at the table I can provide real perspective to the mental toll that it took and some of the reasons that people are giving up on getting promoted like almost did. There are other people I work with who want people behind them to go through the same struggle that they did. Most of them are male voices. That’s not how it should work and I want to be a rational voice to help push past that.

I shared something this weekend on Twitter that I feel so strongly about.

Promotion To Help Others:

By focusing on someone other than myself I was able to continue the push required to get to where I wanted to be. That is why I got promoted. Sure, I will get more opportunities and money eventually but I didn’t have to get promoted to do that. It’s for a future Sarah who wants to do more and make a difference in people’s lives. I don’t want this process to take 3 years for anyone else. I want better for the people behind me because no one should have to go through what I did.



  1. That sounds like an excruciating and stressful promotion path! I’ve always worked for smaller companies and have never had to go through an interview process like that. We have annual reviews and I’ve always received consistent raises but having only a few co-workers means our roles are constantly shifting depending on what’s on the schedule.

    Kudos for sticking it out and using your success to make things better 🙂

    • Couple of Sense says:

      It was a very long process and not something that many of my other colleagues stuck around for. With the company being so big I think the structure makes sense but there is quite a bit of red tape that isn’t always required. Pros and cons for sure. Having only worked in this company it’s also not much else that I know so since I didn’t want to leave the company and roles at my previous level were uninteresting I didn’t have much of a choice if I wanted to stay. Do you find that in your company there is lots to do that challenges you? If that’s something that you want of course.

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