We’ve all heard about job seniority, but what does it really mean? Understanding the levels of seniority in the workplace can help you map out your career path and anticipate any problems you might encounter while climbing the corporate ladder.
There are many steps you’ll encounter along your career path as you move up the “corporate ladder.” And you’ll often hear the term “seniority level” as it’s used to describe someone’s position within a company. But what does that mean, exactly? It can be tough to decipher sometimes, as different levels might mean different things depending on the industry, job title, and even the levels of hierarchy within an individual organization.
In this article, we’ll discuss the concept of seniority as it applies to your career development, including:
What does “seniority level” actually mean?
What are the 4 levels of employment?
What is a job-leveling matrix?
No matter what position you hold within a company, you have some level of seniority. Seniority is applied depending on your job responsibilities as well as your title (i.e. "junior salesperson"), and how long you've been with the company. Seniority helps companies place a structure on their employee list, based on things like experience and skill level, and assists them with putting together stronger departments. Seniority may also affect your salary (longer-tenured employees probably earn more), opportunities for advancement, and how much PTO you qualify for.
How much seniority you hold at a company is generally based on how long you’ve worked there, how much you know, and how much experience you have. It also depends on how your company handles seniority in their workplace—some have very strict policies in place, with workflow hierarchies that will show people from the top levels down, while for other companies it’s more fluid, with seniority changing depending on the current circumstances.
How much experience you have in your field will often determine how much seniority you hold at a company, even if you're newly hired. In general, four levels of employment are fairly standard and you’ll see them quite a bit in job postings. So what are the different types of seniority levels?
Entry-level. Where you are when you first enter the workforce.
Intermediate. You have a couple of years of experience and are less likely to need direct supervision. You’ll also be more qualified for potential leadership roles.
Mid-level. You’re probably in some sort of management position, overseeing day-to-day activities on one or more teams and reporting to higher-level management.
Senior/executive level. Usually given to those with extensive knowledge and experience in a field or industry, along with significant managerial experience. Rather than being a "hands-on" manager, you're more likely to be in a position to set company goals, and policies, and interact with stakeholders and other interested parties.
When you have a clear picture of your seniority level within your company, you’re more likely to be able to plan your career path accordingly. Additionally, it can affect where you fall in a position’s salary range, whether or not you’re affected by layoffs (such as the “last one hired, first one fired” phenomenon), your benefits (how much PTO you can accrue, or how vested you are in your stock options), and a greater say on what projects you take on. And if you are interested in mapping out your career path, but need a little assistance, consider a planning tool such as Career.io’s Career Pathways, which will help you investigate potential career interests, figure out the skills you’ll need, and stay in-the-know regarding job and salary trends.
Job levels themselves are designed to give employees an idea of their career path within an organization. But it isn’t always crystal clear, as it might not give you the information you need to climb that ladder, such as what exactly you need to do to move up. In fact, according to a recent study, 75 percent of employees have little to no idea how to move up in their careers. This issue can be fixed by the use of "job leveling matrices," which are systems designed to demonstrate how to move along in one’s career, including any training, planning, and compensation information.
So what does that mean for your career development? Rather than requiring you to guess what you need to do to qualify for a promotion, a job-leveling matrix eliminates ambiguity by providing a full job description along with detailed instructions and prerequisites you’d need to take that next step and move up. An example of a sales job matrix may look something like this:
An entry-level position. Performs tasks that support the team and its goals, delivers accurate work, and collaborates well with fellow team members.
Entry-level with 1-2 years of experience. This position should start filling key roles in fulfilling sales directives. Should know how assigned tasks influence the team’s operations and goals. Demonstrates strong organizational skills and can anticipate potential issues. Regarded as dependable and trusted by management and other stakeholders.
Mid-level position with leadership responsibilities. Demonstrates robust skills in carrying out sales directives, and identifying which plans will have the strongest results. Can anticipate any problems that might occur and address them quickly and effectively. Valued by stakeholders for their ability to generate quarterly revenue.
Senior Sales Manager
Mid-level position. Responsible for particular features of the sales plan and target customers. Key decision-maker in handling issues and problems. Performs several roles in the sales plan, creating and maintaining the sales budget and making data-based decisions based on projected sales.
Director of Sales
Senior-level. Utilizes experience and know-how to lead strategic sales goals for all regions. Supervises team resources as well as owning significant staffing decisions and data-driven outcomes.
Principal Sales Manager
Senior-level. Spearheads the creation and implementation of sales plans that transform the methods of income generation and create efficiencies to deliver customer products.
Obtaining seniority within a company can earn an employee a better job title, status, priority, or a higher salary. Along with seniority, performance evaluations to determine career growth might also include an employee’s accomplishments, interpersonal relationships with their department/team, contribution to the workplace culture, and supporting a successful and supportive company environment. All this means is that you can’t just sit on your laurels—you should always be looking for ways to enhance and support your professional development.
Need help organizing your job search? Check out Career.io’s Job Tracker tool, which will help you know where you are in the application progress for every job you’ve applied for, save and track jobs, and view it all in one easy-to-use dashboard.
Seniority is applied depending on your job responsibilities as well as your title and how long you've been with the company.
Job seniority levels include entry-level, intermediate, mid-level, and senior-level positions.
A job-leveling matrix eliminates ambiguity and provides a full job description along with detailed instructions and prerequisites you’d need to take that next step and move up.
Jennifer Inglis is a freelance writer and content creator with extensive professional expertise in advertising, media analysis, teaching, writing, and literature. Prior to working for Career.io, Jennifer was a public school teacher, teaching courses in college and career readiness, writing, and public speaking. Jennifer has a master’s degree in Teaching, and is the author of two published novels.