I’ve been stuck at the same level for the past 8 years and would love to learn how to push beyond that and be considered for roles at the next level (both internally and externally). I often am pursued by recruiters for roles that I’ve done in the past, which makes me believe that the work I am showcasing on LinkedIn and my resume is not reflective of where I want to go. – Rebecca, tech lead
1 – Stop worrying about your resume and LinkedIn profile (till Step 4)
In general, your best bet for growth in the immediate term is your current employer, rather than some outside recruiter discovering you. You do want an updated resume and optimized LinkedIn profile that showcases your potential and gives prospective employers enough compelling information that they’ll want to talk to you. But these documents are just a start in a long vetting process for senior roles.
As a first step, get your current employment situation in order. At your current employer, you should have a positive track record, a network of supporters and more insight into how promotions are decided (and therefore how you should navigate the process).
2 – Design your own performance review with growth in mind
Don’t just assume your track record is positive and recognized. Even if your employer has its own performance review, it will probably not give you all the ammunition you need. The regular review process is more focused on what the company can get out of you. You need your own performance review to uncover your path to advancement.
Schedule time with your manager, as well as other senior leaders who are in a position to decide on the roles you want. Ask them for feedback specific to your potential for these roles. Are you a viable candidate? If so, what is the timeline and how can you close the deal? If not, what is missing?
3 – Address the gaps most critical to the role you want
Doing a good job in your current role is insufficient to landing a bigger role. Sometimes there are specific skills, such as people management or budgeting, that just aren’t part of your responsibilities now. Find a way to get new skills while keeping your same job – ask your manager to expand your role, volunteer for something that requires the new skills.
Sometimes there are specific types of experience you need to have under your belt, such as having direct communication with clients, launching a new product or office or doing a stint abroad. I once coached an aspiring Chief Marketing Officer who realized that working outside her home country was a prerequisite for the type of marketing she’d like to lead. Unfortunately, her current employer was domestic only so she knew that filling that gap in her experience would require her to leave.
4 – Actively target growth roles at other companies
You may be able to fill your critical gaps by taking on different roles with your same employer – or, like the aspiring CMO, you may have to go elsewhere. In order to ensure that your next role isn’t just more of the same, focus your job search on growth roles. A growth role might be a higher title, but it also might be the same title at a bigger company. Growth might be in the resources you are assigned – a bigger team (or your first team), bigger budget. Growth might be learning something new – moving laterally to another functional area, working abroad, serving a new market or different clients.
Since your goal for leaving is to get new skills, expertise and experience under your belt, you will need to actively sell hiring managers, recruiters and other decision-makers on your potential. Your resume and LinkedIn profile should focus more on measurable impact to the company bottom line and less on how specifically that was done. This way, you are not pigeon-holed into specific tasks.
5 – Grow your current role while lobbying for the official promotion
A job search takes time, and senior-level hiring generally takes longer. While you dedicate time to your job search, you still want to work on growth options within your current company – both to learn new things and expand your role, as well as to raise your visibility among senior decision-makers and negotiate for an official role change, title bump, salary increase, etc. Unless you know for sure you’re not being considered for more or your company has frozen all promotions, manage your current company as if it’s one of your job search leads. This means, continuing to network with decision-makers and continuing to negotiate.
Remember that “No” is really “Not Now”
Even if you’ve already spoken to your manager about a promotion and got shut down, remember that each No is simply a reaction at that point in time. If you change something – what you ask for, when you ask, how you ask – you may get a different response. So, ask for a growth opportunity that isn’t a promotion specifically. Ask for a promotion a few months down the road. Ask more convincingly once you’ve had a chance to apply some of the above recommendations. You may get a different response to your next request. At the very least, you will also have started a job search outside and will have other options in your pipeline.