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How to approach the conversation with my manager regarding promotion after working in b2b product marketing for several years and not been promoted

I started a new role recently at the PMM level, and already have several years of PMM experience. both roles were in enterprise software, but the industries / products are very different so there is a big learning curve in the new role
7 Answers
Teresa Haun
Teresa Haun
Zendesk Senior Director, Technology Marketing and CommunicationsFebruary 5

If you haven’t already, I would start by making sure your manager actually knows that you aspire to become a Senior PMM and would like to work towards getting promoted. It’s often implied as most people want to continuously work towards the next level, but that’s definitely not always the case and if you’ve never discussed that desire with your manager, then that’s a key first step. If you’re already performing well and it’s clear that you want to and are working towards a promotion, the conversation with your manager then likely becomes about any skill sets or areas you need to invest in developing further or prove that you have through more projects and experience. This is all to ensure you’ll perform well in at that next level. I think it’s often expected that you prove you can do the job above you before you'll get promoted, especially in smaller organizations or growing areas of a business. This is because there’s not time to get trained or ramped up, instead you need to just hit the ground running once you enter that more senior position. It can definitely be pretty challenging to work towards a promotion though because it does often mean going above and beyond to prove you're ready, by taking on projects that are typically owned at that next level, and unfortunately, often without relief on your already existing responsibilities.

Going back to the part of your question on proving yourself when you’re covering a new industry or very different product and dealing with a big learning curve, I think ultimately maybe it takes you a month or couple months more to learn enough to carry some weight, but if you already have very strong PMM skills, pretty quickly those should start to shine through, making it clear you’re already very experienced. I have someone on my team who switched to cover some new areas recently and is doing it again now, but she’s an incredible product marketer and has already shown her ability to ramp up to new areas of the business very quickly. I do think this is a pretty critical ability, especially in fast-moving, evolving companies and as you progress. For her, these changes haven’t slowed her down one bit. If anything, they just show her strength regardless of the areas she covers, so hopefully you’re in a position to do the same.

Lastly, in case it helps you at all to think about what you might need to prove you can do to get promoted and since you are specifically wanting to move to a Senior PMM level, here are actually some of the key things I included in my internal hiring guide when I was hiring a few Senior PMMs recently. These were for some high-impact positions where there would be a lot of strategic work, like determining how we best position and message our products to targeted audiences and launching entirely new products. I asked our interview panel to look for people that proved they could accomplish the following:

  • Independently lead strategic projects and launches with a thoughtful approach and recommendations that account for all critical factors
  • Take a massive, often nebulous project or launch and distill it down into the critical components and steps forward, while helping to align all involved teams
  • Present effectively internally and externally with the ability to convince the audience of his/her point
  • Be a good cross-functional partner with the ability to collaboratively develop strategic plans that take launches or initiatives to the next level and proactively ensure the team has done whatever they can in preparation to ensure they will be successful
  • Influence others and inspire the broader team to do their best work, including stepping across cross-functional lines at times to pitch in when partners need help or an example
  • Prove their strengths quickly in a new area and become a subject matter expert and go-to resource across the company
  • Be a role model for others on the team, especially as a mentor to PMMs, and inspire new approaches and ways of thinking that make our entire team better

2245 Views
Priyanka Srinivasan
Priyanka Srinivasan
Verkada Vice President Product MarketingAugust 13

Taking my PMM hat off again and putting on a general career development one. I’ve typically approached promotion conversations by first asking, several quarters before I hope to be promoted: “What do I need to demonstrate in order to move to the next level?”

It’s a really important question because it gives your manager some work that they frankly should be doing anyway - laying out a career path for you along with the (clear) markers you need to hit them.

Then I’d probably say something to the effect of: “I’d love to set a goal of a promotion by x cycle. Can we work together to help me get there?” People love to help, and good managers want to develop people.

Finally, I keep a thoughtful, structured account of my major accomplishments - including things like relationships I’ve built with others. Better yet if you can map that clearly to the “focus areas” your manager laid out. This is your case; whether you want to share that with your manager in what forum is up to you. I’ve seen folks keep a running doc that they talk about with their manager briefly ever other 1:1 for a few minutes.

Btw - don’t sell yourself short with this thing about “the products/industries are so different.” You have experience and surely there are things from your past experience that you leverage in your current one, maybe they are even unique things that only you bring to the table. Look at it from the positive angle and bring that to the table as a strength, not as a detractor for your case.

1044 Views
Hila Segal
Hila Segal
WalkMe Vice President, Product MarketingJanuary 28

Start by writing down your career goals. Answer questions like:

  • What experiences are you looking to get in the next phase of your career, and why?
  • Why do you think this is the right role, time, and environment to deliver on those experiences?
  • What things have you done in your past that give you confidence in your ability to perform in this role? What challenges do you foresee?
  • What are your expectations from management?

Use this career development framework to have a conversation with your manager about your aspirations, where you currently stand and develop a mutual understanding about the next steps to achieve your goals.

1009 Views
Kavya Nath
Kavya Nath
Meta Product Marketing, Reality LabsMarch 25

My advice would be to come right out and state that this is what you’re looking for in terms of career growth and next steps. If you have 1:1’s with your manager that is a great place for this conversation. As a manager, it’s my job to understand what my teams’ careers aspirations are and work to give them the opportunities where they can grow and learn the skills that will take them to the next level. But that starts with the intent being made clear on what your goals are so they can help get you there.

If possible, coupling this conversation with a yearly review or 360-review would help set the stage. It’s also important to come to the table with examples of projects you’ve taken the lead on, initiatives you’ve owned, and what the results were to show that you’re ready for the next step. If there are skills that they would like you to focus and work on they should then be able to identify and provide you opportunities to do so. 

882 Views
Ryan Goldman
Ryan Goldman
Moloco Global VP MarketingMay 6

To be honest, you shouldn't assume years of experience or tenure influence promotion. Promotion, especially at earlier-stage companies, is super aligned to where you create value for the company and being able to align that value to the highest-level corporate goals. This is especially true in PMM, where the metrics and KPIs are not nearly as straightforward as Growth or Demand Generation, for example.

So, don't only be your own advocate, but, more importantly, advocate to develop and work on projects that lead to big, transformative outcomes. Show that you understand the strategic opportunity of the company and that you have a plan for how you, your team, and your partners can drive a meaningful play, even in the presence of internal challenges.

662 Views
Leandro Margulis
Leandro Margulis
Prove Head of ProductSeptember 8

Congrats on the new role! What you are describing seems like a lateral move, you moved to a similar role to the one you had before, but in a different industry. This could be an opportunity for you to learn the new industry quickly and showcase your PMM skills to have an important impact in the organization quickly. One suggestion here could be to talk to your manager about your career path on either an upcoming 1:1 or during the formal review process. I would come prepared to that meeting understand what is expected for the next level and showcasing how you are already performing at that level and/or by when you will be at that level so that can help drive the promotion conversation.

314 Views
Mike Berger
Mike Berger
ClickUp Vice President Product MarketingNovember 11

This is very hard to answer without more detail. Knowing the reason why you haven't been promoted yet would obviously inform how I'd approach the conversation. But my advice would be to simply approach the conversation honestly. Some tips:

  1. Make it clear you believe you deserve a promotion
  2. List the reasons why (focus on the impact you've made)
  3. Ask your manager if he/she agrees with your assessment
  4. If yes, ask about a timeline 
  5. If not, ask them what you would need to do in order to be considered for a promotion

I think #2 above is where things tend to go awry. I put "impact" in there for a reason. A simple laundry list of items you've checked off over the past few years doesn't necessarily translate into "impact". Rather, those who get promoted are able to clearly connect the work they've done with the positive outcomes it drove for the business.

I find that for PMMs who are sharp and deserving of a promotion, the number one reason is that they don't ensure that they are working on things that are important or strategic for the company, and therefore don't easily map to impact. So make sure that at least a portion of your time is spent on these important or strategic projects.

And of course, make sure you are working for a great manager who exposes your work to the rest of the organization, especially to other executives. This way, when promotions are being decided, your work doesn't end up being the company's best kept secret.

440 Views
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