Let’s say 2 companies give you different levels, but the compensation is the same. Is it better to have the lower level to have lower expectations? Zooming out, how should I think about level and its overall importance across my career.
Level and promotion are decent career goals as they're fairly concrete, but I strongly believe that you shouldn't focus that much on them and level should never be your primary objective. Here's why:
All that being said, getting promoted is a perfectly fine goal to have as a I mentioned before, and we have excellent resources on how to do that:
Can you ask where you sit on the comp bands for each level? If you're on the lower end of the higher level, you'll presumably get larger salary increases in the first few perf cycles. And you may also have more success asking for more salary and/or equity.