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How to get a promotion to director level

Career advice for those looking to move up the ladder

If you're looking to get a promotion to director level, or for another senior management position you've probably already got your sights set on what that position is. But do you know all the things you need to know to get there?

Find out our key points for promotion...

Training/Education

With training becoming more accessible and flexible for senior managers to fit around their schedules, it is even more important to ensure you have the relevant qualifications.

The right course for you

Depending on your chosen career path, there will be a number of study paths you can take to support you. MBAs are desirable for aspiring MDs and CEOs, while Chartered CIPD status is a must for HR Directors. Each business function will have their own course or qualification, so make sure research those most relevant to you. Your organisation may also have its own preferences for qualifications they'd like you to have, particularly for aspiring Financial Directors, so ensure you find out what these are as well. Not only will further study increase your knowledge, it will also show your commitment and investment to reaching that senior position you desire.

For those looking for senior positions not in a Finance-related role, we do recommend brushing up on your Financial knowledge as well, you may be surprised how much Finance impacts on all other departments.

Get senior management on board

Depending on the structure of your organisation, seek out the people who are most likely to be able to assist you in your career development within your current organisation – that could your current Manager or Director, or even CEO. Schedule some time in with them, being upfront and clear about what you want to discuss.

Two-way dialogue

Clearly communicate your career goals and recent successes, and ask what opportunities there may be coming up in the next six to twelve months. If you're really serious, you'll probably have already identified a future challenge or opportunity, potentially before anyone else has thought about it. Having made your case, ensure you also listen to their advice and experiences – they were probably once in your shoes. At the end of the meeting agree on an action plan or timeframe for next steps, and make sure you follow up on this. At senior levels, this may be a long-term plan, but don't let that deter you, as patience really is a virtue!

Strategise and network

The overriding skill required for senior Managers is the ability to develop and deliver strategies, which requires a different mindset from your current role and the responsibilities that you may have been involved with up until now.

Champion new projects

Whatever your current role or department, there will always be some new project or development going on, and someone will be required to lead it. Directors or MDs may be too busy or not have the inclination, so take an opportunity to throw your hat into the ring and volunteer for it. Then make sure you take the time to get a full understanding of what is involved. Prepare a thorough and well-presented written strategy document (try to use a house-style for this if your organisation has one), and discuss this with your Manager and/or project sponsor. Once signed off, put your team together, and deliver your project efficiently, effectively and on time, demonstrating your capabilities.

Reach out

You may not know everything there is to know about the project, so make time to network with anyone in your organisation who may be able to help, or who may be affected by the end outcome. Value their responses and come back to them again at the end of the project to complete the circle of communication. You will then be seen as someone who can manage the project and internal expectations.

Don't try to do it alone

Even with the best will in the world we can all get side-tracked, or bogged down in one thing or another, and lose perspective on our endgame. But enlisting someone as a sounding board or to help you keep on track can be very valuable.

Use a coach or mentor

In your networks, find somebody who would be prepared to give you an outside, unbiased perspective on your career development, and be there for advice and guidance when required. A good mentor would be someone who is more senior than you in their career, who has perhaps taken a similar path but who isn't someone directly involved with your day to day work. Share your career plan with them, and check in with them every few weeks for support, or guidance, and listen to their wisdom – you never know what you might learn!

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