Digital Specialist: Why Am I Not Being Promoted?

by | May 17, 2024 | HR Series

Stuck in the digital mud?
So was Mio, a talented digital specialist with a knack for crafting engaging social media campaigns. 4 years since she joined her previous company, a well known American beverages corporation, she had consistently exceeded expectations in her role, yet promotion seemed perpetually out of reach. Her manager praised her work, but when it came to promotion discussions, the conversation stalled. Mio wasn’t alone. Many digital specialists, despite their technical abilities and strong contributions, find themselves facing similar roadblocks on their path to career advancement.

The path to promotion for a digital specialist can be deceptively complex. While technical skills are undeniably important, there are other, often overlooked, factors that can impede progress. This article explores the hidden roadblocks that might be stalling your digital career and provides actionable strategies to break through them.

Digital Specialist 1

1. Limited Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Digital Specialists often work within specific parameters or departments, which can limit their interaction with other areas of the business. This siloed working style can prevent broader recognition of their skills and contributions across the organization.

Strategy: Seek opportunities for cross-departmental projects that allow you to showcase your digital expertise to other teams. Collaborating with departments such as sales, customer service, or product development can enhance your visibility and demonstrate the wide-reaching impact of your digital skills.

2. Underutilization of Data-Driven Decision Making

While Digital Specialists are adept at using tools and technologies, they may not always apply data analytics to influence business decisions or demonstrate the effectiveness of their digital strategies.

Strategy: Focus on developing and highlighting your data analysis skills. Regularly present data-backed reports that show how your digital efforts lead to measurable outcomes, such as increased customer engagement or higher sales conversions, which directly correlate with business goals.

Digital Specialist 2

3. Inadequate Leadership Opportunities

Lack of leadership opportunities can hinder a Digital Specialist’s ability to prove they’re ready for the next step. Without the chance to lead, it’s difficult to demonstrate leadership capabilities.

Strategy: Proactively seek or create leadership roles, even in small projects. Offer to lead a small team for a specific digital campaign or pilot a new digital tool adoption within the company. This can serve as a proof of your leadership skills and your readiness for a bigger role.

4. Non-Diverse Skill Set

Digital Specialists might focus deeply on one or two areas of digital marketing or technology, which can be a disadvantage if the organization values versatile skills over specialized expertise.

Strategy: Diversify your skill set by learning adjacent skills that complement your existing ones. For instance, if you’re skilled in SEO, you might also learn about content marketing or digital advertising. This broader expertise can make you indispensable and a candidate for promotion.

5. Communication Gaps

Sometimes, the expertise of a Digital Specialist can create a gap in communication, particularly when explaining technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders, which might lead to undervaluation of their work.

Strategy: Enhance your communication skills, specifically focusing on simplifying complex digital concepts for diverse audiences. Being able to articulate the value of digital initiatives in an accessible way you can bridge stakeholder understanding and boost your promotion prospects.

6. Organizational Inertia

In some companies, especially those not inherently digital-first, there might be resistance to change or a lack of urgency in adopting new digital strategies, making it difficult for digital roles to be seen as pivotal.

Strategy: Champion the benefits of digital transformation by presenting case studies, industry benchmarks, and competitor analyses that showcase the successes and necessities of digital adoption. Your initiative can place you as a thought leader and change agent, aligning you with leadership qualities.

Digital Specialist 3
In comparison to the US market where promotions are generally more performance based, Japan’s is traditionally a more seniority-based system where we are seeing digital specialists wait for up to around 5-7 years for their chance at being promoted. In the US, we are seeing 2-5 years as the standard in comparison. While the promotion timeline for a digital specialist can vary, being proactive in addressing potential roadblocks and demonstrating a well-rounded skill set paves the way to speed up the process. Remember, success in your digital career requires not just technical prowess, but also strategic thinking, strong communication, and a willingness to continuously learn. After checking back in with Mio, she has since moved from the American beverages company, found a new home that valued her skill set in a much more tangible way, and through putting into place the above initiatives, has seen another internal promotion within a year of joining this new company.
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