I’m excited to introduce Kamin Samuel, who has successfully mentored myself and others on how to be promoted (even during one of our hardest economic times back in 2008).
Kamin started her professional career as the U.S. Navy’s first female African-American helicopter pilot. She transitioned into web development at a computer electronics company and within ten years she was serving as Vice President of Global Website Operations at the billion dollar company, Guthy-Renker. Much of her success was in mentoring and training her young, rambunctious staff on how to own their corporate destiny.
Kamin is currently a career coach and author helping international business professionals increase their wealth mindset, improve performance, and develop leadership skills. She holds a Masters of Science in Information Systems, a Masters of Arts in Spiritual Psychology, and a Masters of Science in Spiritual Science. To learn more about Kamin Samuel and her services, visit www.KaminSamuel.com.
During our interview it became clear that Kamin took concrete steps to become a Vice President in only a decade. Her circumstances didn’t just happen by chance or because she kept her head down and worked hard. Here’s what I learned from her:
10 Tips on How to Become a Vice President
1. Know the Numbers
This may be the #1 most important tip. Much of lower management requires people management skills – making sure your team is getting their work done efficiently and precisely. But as you move into upper management, strategy and money management start to take precedence. If you aren’t comfortable with terms like EBITDA, Gross Sales vs. Net Sales, conversion rates, etc. and if you’ve never managed a budget before, then it’s time to learn. Take a finance course or invest in some financial books. Better yet, buy someone in the finance team a couple of lunches and have them explain the corporate reports to you. Ask to sit in on the budget meetings. Ask your boss what financial goals you and your team should aim for. Always be prepared to talk numbers in a meeting, no matter how low on the totem pole you may be currently. People will notice quickly if you are concerned about the company profits.
This Ted Talk helps explain it.
2. Create a Promotion Plan
A Harvard study reviewed a graduating class of students that were bucketed into these three categories: the first category, making up only 3%, were students who had written goals for their future career. The second category, 13% students, had goals but did not write them down. And the remaining 84% did not have any goals. 10 years later, the study measured the same students. The 13% who had goals but did not write them down doubled the salary of the 84% who had no goals. And the 3% that had written down their goals were making 10X’s the combined salary average of the other 97%. Point taken! Have a plan and write it down. Write a one-year, 5-year and 10-year promotion plan. Where do you see yourself in a decade?
With no plan, your career path is at the mercy of your boss and your company. You may move laterally for years, on a wayward path. You also have no markers for success to see how you are doing year over year.
3. Personal Development
No matter how skilled you are, how old you are, or how far you are in your career, keep learning. At the least, find online training courses to help you excel at what you love & also to help you expand on deficiencies.
Find conferences in your industry that you’d like to attend; research exactly what courses they will be teaching, and build a strong case for why your company should send you. And if you do attend a conference, make sure to mingle. Being able to hang with strangers comes in handy when you’re a Veep.
4. Write your own Job Description
Don’t wait for your overworked boss to promote you, especially if you don’t see a clear path to your next title. Instead, write your own detailed job description for what you currently do and then write a new job description for the next position you want to grow into. But this has to come with authenticity –whatever job position you want needs to make sense in the context of what you are currently doing for the company. For example, if your title is “Web Developer” and you write a job description for your next position as “Marketing Manager” this isn’t going to make much sense to anyone. But if your company org chart only has one version of “Web Developer” and you feel like you have mastered the basics, write a job description for “Web Developer II” and “Web Developer III”. Explain (in detail) why you feel you have expanded into a Level II position that deserves promotion. Once you’ve mastered the levels, then try writing a job description for a manager level that would make sense for your career path. You can continue this tip by eventually writing your job description for director and vice president roles.
5. Learn to Negotiate
Women especially struggle with this one. There’s a lot of fear in asking for a raise or promotion. You may think you’re not worth it or they’re going to fire you for being too demanding. But that’s just bologna. If you are a strong and loyal worker, it’s more economical for a company to keep you and promote you than it is for them to spend money hiring and training a new person. Be educated on your worth. You can use resources like www.salary.com to determine the average salary for your position. Changing companies is a great way to get promoted and get a raise. When you change companies, it’s common to ask for a 20 – 30% bump in salary. Don’t be afraid to ask for that much – again, know your worth. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a signing bonus. You can even ask them to “gross you up”. This means that the company will pay the taxes on your signing bonus (so you don’t end up giving half of it away to the ‘ol government).
Oooh this is a hard one. Delegating out work comes with practice, especially if you are new to management. This is because most of your career has been about your own performance and work output. If you are happy being an individual contributor and don’t desire to grow into management you probably wouldn’t be reading this. So stop trying to control everything by doing it all and/or micromanaging. As a manager you need time and space to brain storm, analyze financials, create process, and align with the priorities of other teams. If you are spending all day overlooking every detail of each of your team members’ work or getting involved in every minor crisis, then you are either going to work really long hours or you aren’t going to do your own job well. Trust your employees – and this means giving them more work and responsibility than they (or you) think they can handle. Remember that your employees don’t always have to make the “best” decisions, they have to make “good enough” decisions. Instead of focusing on perfection, remember the 80/20 rule. If 80% of the project is complete and it’s deadline time, be ok with launching with 80% perfection so you can move on to the next task at hand.
Have you ever been in a situation where your boss finds out a major issue at work through someone else than yourself even though you were aware of it? It doesn’t normally go over well. Sometimes we try to cover up or hide information from our bosses because we are concerned about how they will receive it. Or we are just so dang busy we don’t feel we have the time to notify everyone. But by withholding information we create a lack of trust. By over-communicating any issues with a project (especially if it may affect a deadline) you can keep your boss and other executives aware. Communicating also helps solve issues – sometimes a road block that seems unsurmountable to us has a simple solution that just needed the ears and eyes of another co-worker.
8. Understand Urgency
This is back to the 80/20 rule. Yes, we want to produce beautiful work. Yes, we take pride in what we do and sometimes we need to push out a deadline because we simply need more time. But keep in mind that there are always going to be roadblocks to deadlines. And we will nearly always feel like we need more time on a project. If you have 80% of your project complete, figure out how you can launch it on time and come back afterwards to fix and complete the remaining 20%. The further up you get in your career, the more important deadlines become. That’s because you become aware of the financial potential of each project. Think about this, Apple is notorious for launching their technology with publically known glitches. Does that stop them from making money? The company started taking pre-orders on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus even though both phones still had hiccups.
9. Ask for Help.
Ask your boss for help in growing your career. What are your weaknesses? What are some specific goals you should focus on this year? Also, find a mentor or hire a career coach to help guide you and course-correct if you are getting negative or neutral feedback, to strategize next steps, and keep you on track.
10. Be Excellent.
You didn’t think it was just about getting promoted did you? First and foremost, you have to be a dedicated, hardworking, strategic leader. Treating others with respect goes a long way too. Especially from the millennial generation, us leaders receive a lot of demands and promotional requests from people who don’t deserve it or simply are not ready for it. By educating yourself, and showing up every day ready to learn and participate in helping the company, you stand a much stronger chance. Here’s a little secret, most leaders get where they are by serving others. By helping those around you, and doing your best to support your boss, you’ll naturally create a wide ranging team of support. Industries are smaller than you think – your peer sitting right next to you may be the very person who can get you your next job. What comes around goes around…
Interested in hiring a career coach? Learn more at www.KaminSamuel.com.