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Worked with manager for promotion, but he suddenly got laid off. How to navigate?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer at PowerSchool5 months ago

I read and implemented a lot of the advice from Taro on building my relationship with my manager. I also worked closely with him for a year to position myself for the promotion to Senior. Every two weeks, I would meticulously document senior behavior in my "brag document" that I shared with him through Microsoft OneNote. Every month during our 1:1, I would ask him for feedback on what I needed to continue doing or change to reach Senior. During performance review each quarter, I used all of this to officially document my growth, and secured 3 Exceeds with 1 Meets. By the end of Q4, he was primed to go to bat for me.

Then he suddenly got laid off a month or two before names are submitted up the chain of command for promotion. I imagine others might have or will encounter a similar situation. In addition to layoffs, company reorganization or your manager jumping into another opportunity might have similar effects.

It feels like so much of my effort over the past year was futile. What makes this sting even more is that I'm fully aware of my company's promotion cycle, which is once a year in March/April. Promotions rarely happen outside this cycle.

What are some tactics to navigate this current situation and a strategy to avoid this single point of failure in the future?

Here's what I've done so far

  • Reached out to manager on LinkedIn to console him on layoffs. Fortunately he brought up the topic of my promotion and advised me to pass along a message to my next manager that we were working together on my promotion.
  • My company is still undergoing reorg, and I don't have an official manager yet, so reached out to his manager, which is the Director. The "brag document" in OneNote came in handy since I shared it with him and passed along the message from my manager
  • Started looking at other companies for senior roles. It's difficult to bear the thought of starting over from square one with a new manager within my current company and waiting a whole other year.

Here's my thoughts around strategy moving forward

  • Maybe work with manager's manager, in addition to the direct manager, for promotions. Would work more closely with direct manager, but at least touch base with manager's manager once a quarter regarding the promo.
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Discussion

(3 comments)
  • 3
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    5 months ago

    This is an unfortunate reality of career progression: if you deal with many manager changes, you'll have a harder time for promotions and good ratings.

    I like your strategy. Having occasional meetings with your skip is valuable to get broader feedback and so you can keep them up to date on your progress.

    Two other thoughts:

    • Ideally, unless the layoff was immediate, it would've been nice to have a 1:1:1 meeting with your manager, skip, and you before your manager was let go. This would have helped with transferring context.
    • You don't necessarily have to start over from scratch if you change jobs. Don't reveal that you're mid-level when interviewing. All you need is one company to offer you the senior role. You can get promoted by job hopping.
  • 1
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    Mid-Level Software Engineer [OP]
    PowerSchool
    5 months ago

    Thanks for providing some perspective and brainstorming with me Rahul, you brought up some good points

    For some context, no one saw the layoff coming, so I'm inclined to say it was immediate. Which goes to show that being proactive always pays off.

  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    5 months ago

    It looks like you are already doing the best practices here which we cover in Taro:

    • Have everything in writing (this makes knowledge transfer easy)
    • Build a relationship with your skip if possible (this is admittedly hard to do if you're not senior+)

    You can dive deeper here: "Transition period with old manager and working with a new interim manager"

    While not getting a senior role would suck given how close you are now, I recommend keeping an open mind as level is just a string next to your name at the end of the day and they're not standardized across companies. SDE 2 at Amazon is supposedly "mid-level", but it's a really wide band and many Amazon SDE 2s are equivalent to senior engineers at other companies. More thoughts here: "How should I think about levels when it comes to evaluating jobs and in my career overall?"

PowerSchool is a provider of cloud-based software for K-12 education in North America. Its mission is to power the education ecosystem with unified technology that helps educators and students realize their full potential, in their way.
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