It’s easy to think that competence alone accounts for promotability. I guess that’s the idealistic view some may take, but not you and I because it just doesn’t line up with the reality. According to Women in the Workplace 2016, a study conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co., women continue to lose ground in achieving their next promotion. The higher you look in a company, the fewer women you will likely see. While we all can applaud and be inspired by Indra of PepsiCo and Ginni of IBM, the fact remains there’s still work to do.
There are many reasons for these disparities – both internal and external barriers — such as lack of access to decision makers or the inability to conquer self-doubt but the larger issue at least for today is not to be overcome by these challenges. Instead, consider the steps you can take to turn this around.
For starters, ask yourself these questions.
• Do the right people know what I bring to the table?
• Do the right people know my goals and aspirations?
If either question produces a resounding “no” or even a “maybe,” you have some work to do. Here are a few tips that have worked for other women executives to help pave the way toward greater promotability. See if any of these can be of help on your career journey.
1. Develop Sponsorship Relationships
If you ask Talent Development professionals and successful leaders their career advice, you often hear something like this – Get a mentor! There’s no disputing this is good advice for your career. After all, who couldn’t use some coaching and advice to navigate the political landscape or handle HR issues. But if your goal is career progression, you will need sponsor which may or may not be part of a mentoring relationship. A sponsor is usually an individual who is highly placed in the organization that will mention your name with the right people, will help you achieve greater visibility and developmental assignments, and will fight to get you a promotion. Sponsorship relationships are built on the expectation of career progression which is supported by a research study that shows the correlation between having a sponsor and getting promoted.
2. Practice Self-Advocacy
Many of us have been taught that promoting oneself is tantamount to being self-serving which is why talking about our accomplishments with conviction and self-confidence is quite a challenge. Even the suggestion of such an idea may be cringe-worthy for some of you because of the conditioning that says it best to wait until someone else recognizes what you do. But, you should get this notion out of your head. If no one knows how great you are and can be, then how can you expect to be top of mind when an opportunity arises. This isn’t about being arrogant or conceited. It’s about ensuring that the right people know what you contribute to your team, organization, and community.
3. Look for the White Space
Take on projects that belong to the “white space.” This simply means you will showcase your potential by handling problems that are somehow overlooked by other people in your organization. In a company, problems/issues that are likely to be overlooked by everyone are widespread. This could also refer to the “needs” that are being ignored. Identifying the “white space” that everyone is neglecting would simply help you to stand out and showcase your leadership potential. Be proactive, strategic, take the initiative and find opportunities everywhere no matter how small.
While recent studies show that women continue to fall behind when it comes to advancing in their careers, the best way to fight back against this is to remain positive, turn challenges into opportunities, and be proactive. When you develop strong sponsorship relationships, practice self-advocacy, and actively identify and resolve “white space” issues, rest assured that gaining your next promotion is already a step closer. I promise people will take notice.
About the Author: Michele Thompson Rosario, CEO of Bright Effects, helping entrepreneurs get clients, get traffic, and get results.