Getting That VP Title

You’ve been a Director for 10 years and by now you thought you’d be a VP but there’s nothing that indicates that’s going to happen anytime soon, even though you’ve received positive performance reviews.  You may be thinking to yourself, what went wrong?


You went from individual contributor to a manager within a few years and then moved rapidly to Director. There was no doubt in your mind that by now you’d be a VP, and for the first time in your career, no promotion looms.


People who had accelerated growth early in their careers can find themselves stalled at the director level. The reason for this is that while the promotions from individual contributor to manager to director are important promotions, they’re not comparable in magnitude with a promotion to a VP.


So what does it take to break through and get that VP job?


Here’s our “Take Five”:

 1. State Your Intentions – Let your boss know that you want to be a VP and start outlining a plan to get you there. What projects do you need to work on and milestones do you need to reach before being a VP? Could you strengthen a certain skill set, like learning financials? Be sure this is part of your annual plan so that your boss (and you) can monitor your progress towards your goal. 

2. Leadership – This is different from just managing a team.  A leader thinks strategically, not just about their department, but about the issues that affect the company. Think outside the box about growing the business, always keeping in mind the company’s strategic objectives. When you come up with a new idea to grow the business, be the person who both organizes and then leads the cross functional team. This will help set you apart from your peers. You’ve heard the axiom “You have to do the job before you get the job.”  Start acting like a VP to give you the competitive edge.  

3. Increase visibility – Make yourself known to other functional leaders in your company, not just your peers. When VP’s are selected, they often have visibility across the organization and a positive image with other departmental leaders. 

4. Get a VP Mentor – In addition to your boss, look for another senior level management person within the company to act as your mentor. This may mean approaching an SVP or an EVP to solicit their support in your preparation for promotion. The benefit to this is that you have support from another area of the company. 

5. Join a Board – Find an organization that you would like to contribute to as a board member. This does not have to be related to your company’s industry. As a board member, you are helping to shape the future and policies of a company, and that experience will enhance your chances of a promotion to VP within your company.  

The pyramid does get narrow at the top, and clearly not every deserving director can be a vice president. The ones who do get promoted do so by first acting like a VP.


About whelanstone

I'm originally from New York - lost my accent when I moved down to Florida - and made San Francisco my home in 1985. I've been recruiting & coaching for 12 years, with the best partner (Fred) you could ask for, and love what I do. When I'm not busy working I write screenplays (haven't sold one yet) and travel - Morocco this past summer was fantastic. Fred and I started this blog because we wanted to share what we've learned along the way. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we do writing it.
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