Further Questions: What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?

Julie TodaroWhat is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization?

Most library environments do NOT provide many (or any!) opportunities for promotion and within those environments who do, promotion can be very different. In fact, most libraries do NOT include what can be identified as a career ladder, or promotion track. And many more libraries do not include (at all) opportunities for “advancement” or different, typically higher level jobs employees can work toward. One of the frustrations of libraries in general is that many employees cannot move up – in terms of salary or title – unless they take on management responsibilities of supervising people and/or budget activities and while this makes sense, not everyone WANTS to manage other people or organizational dollars.

In those libraries that have a more typical “promotion” process – it/they can be explained as the following:

…you successfully complete work roles and responsibilities (above and beyond) and it is indicated on performance documents, when you have reached a status (years of service, project or work completion, exhibition of specific and possibly unique strengths or competencies, etc.) you earn and are awarded a different, higher level title and more money…but not necessarily additional roles and responsibilities… (Example – Librarian I’s might be at the lowest level and you progress to a II or a III.)

…you successfully complete work roles and responsibilities (above and beyond) and when you have reached a status (years of service, project or work completion, exhibition of specific and possibly unique strengths or competencies, etc.) and all is indicated on performance documents, you apply for (within a prescribed number of years) different, higher level title and more money or to retain your job (!)…but – again – not necessarily additional roles and responsibilities… the application process includes employees creating a portfolio that is vetting by either or both internal (in the library) groups or external (outside the library) groups and – ultimately – a decision is made on levels achieved successfully which can include retention in – or release from the organization. (Example – Assistant Librarians or Professors, would progress to Associate and then a Full Professor)

…you successfully complete work roles and responsibilities prescribed not only by position descriptions and your goals and indicated on performance documents, etc, but within your profession’s or institution’s process– for example – a career ladder. As you move up or make progress upwards on the ladder’s “steps” (which can consist of a combination of years of service, completion of roles and responsibilities, etc.) you reach or achieve different levels of status. These could be illustrated by one or more of the following – titles indicating growth, progression or status, salary increases, benefits, perks (such as flexible schedules or “first pick” at work schedules, etc.) This may include different, higher level title and more money…and often management responsibilities for people, money, collections, etc. but often times – not many additional roles and responsibilities…(Example: Librarian, Level I or Assistant Manager to Librarian, Level II or Manager)

…you are successful in your position and it is indicated on performance documents, and you choose to apply and compete for other jobs/positions in the organization – typically at higher levels – and if you get the position – you get a new title (and the title may or not indicate upward mobility) but if the position is at a higher level based on job responsibilities, it should mean an increase in pay with typically different, sometimes completely new roles and responsibilities. (Example: Reference Librarian to Assistant Head of Technical Services; or a Children’s Librarian to Adult Services Librarian – no increase in pay; Children’s Librarian to Assistant Head of Adult Services – increase in pay due to moving to management NOT because of a move to a different functional area.)

In general, most think a promotion SHOULD mean you have gone above and beyond or you have taken on higher level roles but it may NOT mean that in organizations where career ladders or ranked processes have paths for increases in pay but NOT new roles and responsibilities.

So I think the original question was what do I have in my organization? I have a combination of the above with titles that indicate progression, and successful movement among titles achieved by successful performance of work roles and responsibilities AND successful ranking (internally by supervisors) on not only annual performance documents but on (every three years) portfolios.

Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility?

Good question. I think when staff members “do their job well” (and forgive the awkward phrases) and do it quickly AND ask for more, it is an indication they need to be challenged more not only within their own position, but with a higher level position with more, different roles and responsibilities. It is one of the joys of being a manager – when you see someone master an area quickly and want more…sometimes this is achievable within their position but often it means they have to go higher. One of the challenges of managers is when they have this situation but no jobs open or no career ladder! So they create structures within which they can both challenge and reward without the more formal processes.

Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates?

I have seen both, that is, some organizations will allow for movement within an organization without formal, external postings such as private institutions or organizations where internal structures (unions, career ladders, standards and guidelines, etc.) make this possible. In my organization, I have both…that is, I can choose to post internally only and have internal competition OR I can post only externally and have internal employees (both part time and full time) compete with external candidates.

To avoid problems in explaining why people were chosen; however, it is always recommended (for legal AND ethical reasons, much less morale) – no matter the institution, position or people – to have individuals fill out the paperwork in order to clearly articulate their directions, then have managers fill out their paperwork to articulate why the candidate was successful.

One great advancement in my organization came a few years ago when they began to allow hourly employees (or non-staffing table/no benefits employees) apply for internal postings. This was a huge step forward for hourly staff – many of whom had worked for many years but were forced to compete with external employees.

Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?

Ask yourself early on in your career, what IS your career path. Although it’s trite, where DO you want to be in five years? Can you “get there” with the job or organization you are in? Does the job you are applying for have promotion? Is there anywhere “to go” internally?

Ask your manager what is expected of you…you both have the job description but what are THEIR goals and expectations for the position?

Find a mentor (or two!), ask that person how they moved ahead in their work (either or both internally or externally) in person or digitally.

Obviously, do your job well, that is, perform your work roles and responsibilities with care to perform at the above and beyond levels.

Seek new experiences within the organization. Ask for new challenges.

Identify the pathways for movement. So IF you seek upwardly mobile positions, and challenges are not available internally, lean in to your association at the local, state and national levels. Seek advice from your mentor (or others) on how to move and what to do within that association to get the competency range and depth needed for either your current job or your next job.

And finally – although the only way up in your organization may be to take a management position and you don’t want to manage others, think VERY carefully before you take on something you don’t want to do. We should all love our jobs and we should seek the work that makes us happiest even though it may not be the top in our organization. In fact, we are in the perfect profession because we can branch out in so many ways in associations AND achieve increasing higher level work AND achieve recognition we may want AND do good things outside our organization.

All too often libraries do NOT provide the promotion opportunities we need and we find we have to leave our current organization to “move up” no matter the position. Ask yourself these questions early.

  • Is it important for me to move up in my profession?
  • Is it important for me to move up in my organization?
  • What do I “need” as an individual to fulfil my need to “move up?” And is my organization going to be able to provide that for me? If not, is my association? Any other outside work?
  • What can I do to move up in my PROFESSION then, rather than move up only in my organization?– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College, ALA President-Elect 2015-2016
Marleah AugustineI can’t necessarily say there’s a “best way” — hopefully, if you are interested in eventually getting promoted at your organization, you’ve been doing outstanding work and shown initiative throughout your time in your current position. If an opening comes up, then don’t be afraid to sell yourself and pursue the opportunity. Internal candidates at our organization do follow the same application procedures as external candidates — the only difference is that external applicants may not be chosen to interview, but an internal candidate (regardless of experience or qualifications) is generally guaranteed an interview.

As for advice for succeeding, set goals for yourself even if it’s not required by your organization. Look for as many ways as possible that you can learn about other departments and other positions. Show an interest in librarianship as a career, even if you’re currently working as a clerk.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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One response to “Further Questions: What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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