What I’ve seen work during my 14+ years as a corporate executive, and now 13+ years as an Executive Coach, are the following techniques:

  1.  Make sure you have a successor.  If you don’t, you’ll never be able to move on to your next assignment.  Make developing your team and succession planning a priority, and make sure that you give your high potential folks exposure to your boss and the level above you, so they’ll feel confident in letting a successor take your place.  Develop that bench!
  2. If you know what you want to do next, request a project to work on for that area.  You’ll get the right exposure and experience to be considered the next time an opportunity becomes available.
  3. If you really believe “they” will “never” let you give up your current area of responsibility, then keep picking up MORE areas and more responsibility within your area to justify your promotion.

For instance, when I was in banking, I started doing projects in the credit card area.  Then became responsible for the operations and customer service departments.  Then the marketing and product management, launching several new products and services.  Then I picked up the credit and fraud areas.  When I had accumulated all the pieces of the pie, and everything that touched credit cards in any way, I knew it was time to add an area or use technique # 4.

  1. Leave your business unit or even company to move up the ladder somewhere else.  That’s what I did actually.  I moved from credit cards to calling cards (yes, a LONG time ago!) and moved from banking into telecom, where I began a whole new path with lots of upside.

My best advice to earn a promotion is counter-intuitive:  accept that you cannot get everything done!  No human being could.  Now given that, what are the 3-4 priorities that will drive your business/create the results you’ll be held accountable for.  Do those things first.  Communicate freely and often about those things so you’ll be seen as a person getting results for the business and strategically in tune enough to know what’s important.  Those are the folks who get promoted!

However, be aware of these commonly held myths which could be potential derailers for you if you buy into them:

Myth # 1 – The # 1 myth that STILL persists out there is the one that says “if I just work hard enough” or “if I just do a good enough job” … I’ll get noticed, promoted, more responsibilities, the big project, a bigger budget, etc.

Working harder doesn’t get you ahead. It’s working on the right things,  cultivating the right relationships and making sure those who can influence
your career know about it.

Myth # 2 – Assertive woman = aggressive bitch

Reality = if you’re not assertive, you won’t get heard.  Yes, women have to learn to be assertive in a way that is different from how men show assertiveness.  But if you are always asking questions instead of making declarative statements, you won’t get what you want.  Figure out a position and state it!  Take  a stand, but don’t pout if you don’t win.

Read “Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman” by Gail Evans for more good advice on that front!

Myth #3 – Other women are out to get me or stab me in the back.  I’ve seen firsthand that women in business need to have each other’s backs, not stab them!  I was blessed to work with a  group of female peers who helped and supported each other.  We made each other better and are still like old war buddies.

Women can help each other be heard.  Many times in a meeting, men will gloss over a point a woman has just made.  Or say the same thing and act like they thought of it first.  It’s very helpful to buddy up with another woman or supportive man in the room.  Someone who can say “hey wait – that’s what she said”  OR “ She just made a point we need to discuss before we move on”.  Simple things like this can completely change how a woman is perceived, heard and respected!