There are more women in leadership positions than ever before. From Meg Whitman to Indra Nooyi or Ursula Burns, women are snatching up CEO, COO, CFO, VP and more prestigious roles all over the country, but that glass ceiling is far from gone. There are some generous cracks and dings in it, and strong, smart women have done a stellar job at prepping the pathway for younger women. However, if you really want a leadership position, there are a few ways to speed up the process:
1. Ditch the false modesty
If you need to fake confidence until it’s real, do so. People, including those with the power to promote you, are impressed by those who are sure of themselves and toe the line between bragging and simply being upfront about the facts.
Don’t let anyone take credit for your work, volunteer for committees and groups that might allow you to network better within your company, and make sure you’re both seen and heard at meetings. Nobody can promote you if they’re not even aware of who you are, what your role is, or what you’ve done.
2. Put your skillsets first
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace fashion, your love for a bold lip color or your favorite jewelry while at work. How you dress can dramatically increase your confidence, but this is a fine line to walk. It’s unfair, but you’re going to be judged—for better or worse—based on how you present yourself.
Consider those who will promote or recommend you, and ask yourself if they’d be impressed with your appearance. Making some adjustments just during the work day can pay off (literally) in the long run.
3. Get a mentor
This is by far the best thing any young professional woman can do, but it’s not always easy. You can go through a formal mentorship program, approach someone you admire formally and ask them to mentor you, or it can be a naturally occurring relationship.
Remember when your parents told you birds of a feather flock together? It remains true in the workforce. Choose your flock carefully.
4. Forget the work wife/husband drama
It’s very common to want to bond with those who are like you. This can mean fellow women or those in similar job roles as you. However, forming such a clique isn’t going to impress those who are looking to hire from the inside.
Be polite and friendly, but steer clear of associating yourself too much with those who aren’t on the fast track to leadership. Instead, align yourself with those you can learn from and who can give you a boost.
5. Embrace continuing education
No matter how polished your formal education, lifelong learning is a fantastic way to both network and show your company that you’re serious about consistently bettering yourself. Is there a certification or course you’re interested in that can also make you better at your job (or a job you’d like to have) with the company? Ask your employer about such options because they might cover the cost of the classes, and at the very least, they’ll be aware that you’re advancing your education.
6. Be an attractive passive candidate
Keep an updated CV as well as an attractive LinkedIn profile. Check your online reputation, and remove or bury any unsavory mentions or photos.
Make sure your personal social media accounts are either impossible to find or features strong privacy controls. Employers, both your current one and prospective headhunters, are increasingly looking online to see what candidates might be the perfect fit for a new role.
7. Make short- and long-term goals
Where do you want to be in five years—or six months, one year or two years? Physically write down your professional goals, and reflect on them regularly. Modify as needed.
It’s not easy for anyone to attain a leadership position, but it’s especially challenging for women in what remains a sexist landscape. Having the right tools and information can be a game changer.