The Right Way to Scratch the Six-Year Itch

For Money magazine: Too long in your job without a promotion? Try this.

magazine_money_logo_coverIf you’ve been stuck in your current position for a while, take note: A recent survey by Management Recruiters International found that most managers are promoted after six years; after that you’re a lot less likely to make the leap. If you’ve fallen into a rut at work, these strategies can up your prospects for advancement.

• Have lunch with Bill. There are a few key people in every company (if it’s not Bill, maybe it’s Liz or Dave) who have the power and influence to boost the careers of others. Put yourself in Bill’s path by proposing a project he’ll care about or volunteering to work on the same committee, says Kathleen Reardon, author of It’s All Politics: Winning in a World Where Hard Work and Talent Aren’t Enough. Then arrange some personal contact, such as lunch, to stay on his radar screen.

• Know how your boss is judged. Most employees focus solely on their own goals. Instead, find out your boss’ top priorities and work to make her shine. She’ll be happy to let you ride her coattails to the top.

• Keep it short. Employees who drone on in meetings and write three-page e-mails often appear mired in details, while terse types seem more focused on the big picture and thus more managerial. “If you can’t communicate concisely, you just don’t feel ‘senior,'” says Richard Spitz, global managing director for executive recruiters Korn/Ferry International.

• Move sideways. Having a high profile throughout the company and a broad knowledge of your field is often more advantageous than being a superstar in a single department. So consider a lateral move to a different division. You may spend a little longer at the same salary, but you’ll connect with more people who can give your career a boost.

-Etelka Lehoczky, 2006