2 min read

How Amazon promotes

How Amazon promotes
Image shows purple arrow on concrete floor

So much of our career can be in the hands of others; if we’re hired, given that next project, awarded a bonus, and often if and when we get promoted. We are encouraged to negotiate, to hustle, to “lean in”… but how can we get others to realise our worth? Why should we wait for others to validate and see our efforts?

When I joined amazon in 2014, I was fascinated that you could be promoted in your current role, rather than applying for an internal move, which was my previous experience. I was surprised that in 2014 you often didn’t even know you were up for promotion in case you were unsuccessful !? The promotion process was centred around a document, a narrative demonstrating how you were already performing at the next level. It was written by your manager without your input.

Luckily the secrecy of the process changed a few years later and it was then down to the individual to write their story, justifying that they had earned a promotion using examples, backed with data and supported by peer feedback.

The process fascinated me. Amazon has a strong writing culture, with key business decisions made following the review of a six-page narrative or press release. In my time at Amazon I helped a number of individuals achieve their promotions. I was successfully able to secure promotions for three people in my team within my first six-months of leadership — one of my proudest career moments!

Here are my top tips for writing your case for promotion:

1. Think about those career defining projects or deliverables and write the story you’d tell at interview. I find the SBI (Situation, Behaviour, Impact) framework to be really effective for structure. STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) can also be a good guide.
2. Use data and focus on the important details — what was it like before, what did you do, and what was the impact?
3. Create a living document — keep writing and use it as a tool for 1:1s, and to help select your next projects or future focus areas.
4. Focus on impact and results. Too often people focus on output — yay, you launched something, but then what!? How many people used it? How much time did it save? What did others gain for it? How much money did it save? These questions help demonstrate that what you did mattered.
5. Ask for feedback — think about the people who have worked closely with you, ask for their insights and feedback on your document. They will often remember things you might have forgotten/overlooked.

Bonus: Be ruthless — if you can’t add to your career story quarter to quarter, ask yourself if you are really developing yourself. Ok, you might be delivering great results for the company and your customers, but are you also developing and delivering results for you? These documents are a great way to keep the focus on building your career, and forcing the reflection to stay on track.