Career Progress 101 for Senior Positions: 8 Tips For Breaking Into That Senior Role


Managers who’ve been in their current position for a long time may struggle to break into senior leadership positions. While career progress of this nature can be challenging, you can take steps to increase your chances of acquiring that leadership role.

The following 8 tips will help you map out the perfect career progression plan and achieve the senior position of your dreams. 

Not quite at the managerial level? Check out our article on building an executive career path from the very beginning.

Tip 1: Position Yourself for Senior Leadership

Being a leader and working on those skills is undeniably important when paving your way to the top. However, this isn’t enough. 

You need to position yourself as a viable candidate for senior leadership. This means you’ve acquired the following:

  • Influence (over big and impactful decisions) 
  • Relationship capital
  • Some degree of power at your company

Many traditional leaders have not acquired these line items. Accomplishing them is what helps you remain top-of-mind for higher-level roles.

It’s not uncommon for aspiring senior leaders to think about career progress only in terms of their current role or skillset. Instead, broaden your scope and make sure you’re building relationships and influence across the board; you may even want to take on duties outside your direct position if they can aid in your senior career progression.

Tip 2: The Four R’s

The Four R’s are defined as: rethink, reboot, relearn, and reinvent. Why are these so essential for breaking into senior roles?

An influential leader can rethink processes to make them more efficient, reboot these processes, relearn essential skills or new strategies, and reinvent completely where needed.

Throughout your day-to-day career progress, try and achieve the following:

  • Brainstorm where there are inefficiencies and come up with solutions
  • Make everyone’s job around you better and easier (reducing inefficiencies is a crucial component to this)
  • Exceed expectations, always. The bare minimum is not your friend

Tip 3: Be Proactive

Myth: my qualifications speak for themselves, and people will call me for senior leadership interviews.

Being proactive is an essential part of making career progress towards senior roles. While many highly qualified individuals think their resume speaks for itself and people will find them, this isn’t true. 

Stewart, Cooper, & Coon discovered that CFO openings receive over 250 applications. Seek out opportunities and be prompt with your applications. Constantly review job openings that interest you, check in with your network about possible positions (more on that next), and set job alerts.

Need help finding suitable senior leadership openings? Jennings Executive can match you with the perfect role. Learn more today.

Tip 4: Stop Neglecting Your Network

Meg Guiseppi, a C-suite career strategist, remarks that far too many executive job seekers neglect their network while they’re securely employed. This is a problem because many of the best paths to senior leadership are paved with who you know, not what you know. 

One survey found that as many as 85% of roles are filled via networking, and the same is true for higher-level positions.

Career progress for aspiring senior leaders means maintaining your network and constantly seeking new connections. Check in with people, get lunch together, send birthday messages, attend networking events, and much more.

Tip 5: Avoid Being a “Jack-of-All-Trades”

One common misconception about job hunting that exists at all levels is that being a jack-of-all-trades is better than honing in on specific skills. While it’s true that senior leaders need to have worn many hats, the most successful candidates are those who focus on a particular goal.

Demonstrate in your job search that you’ve accomplished a lot, but make clear that you’re using that experience to hone in on a specific goal. Should that goal align well with the roles you’re applying for, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Tip 6: Make Clear You’re Interested in Senior Positions

Your career progression plan needs to include express interest in senior positions. As you prepare for a career transition into one of these roles, let your manager and current leaders at the company know you’re interested in this type of leadership. 

Ask for feedback and input on what you should do to prepare for this change; let them tell you what they feel your strengths and weaknesses are. Seek guidance on what steps you can take now to further your career progress towards these higher-level roles.

Tip 7: Solve Problems Without Being Asked

Do you notice problems or inefficiencies at your current company that others are avoiding? Perhaps other people haven’t seen these issues. The pinnacle of being a high-level leader is taking the initiative and solving problems. 

Without being asked, work towards solving these issues, just as a leader would. Becoming complacent is a killer for those interested in career progress towards senior leadership. 

Even if you’re unable to solve the problem, you tried when nobody else did. Win-win. And, if you solve the issue successfully, you’re going to gain significant visibility at the company; this is essential for senior leadership consideration.

Tip 8: Work with an Executive Search Firm

Sometimes, you need the right firm to connect you with the right role. That’s where an executive search firm comes in.

Here at Jennings Executive, we have over two decades of experience placing candidates into senior roles in various industries. Don’t spend your career waiting for the right moment. Instead, let us help you find it now. Learn more!

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