The biggest leap you will make in your career is from Director to Vice President. The jump from Director to Vice President is so difficult because a Vice President is commonly an officer of the company with implied legal liability.
The Board and “C” level employees are certain to vet a prospective Vice President very carefully because it is extremely costly to remove a VP once in place. Firing a Vice President creates bad publicity and can affect the stock price, not to mention the disruption of running the business.
1. The clearest path to jump to a VP level job is to be promoted. More commonly, currently in place Directors are promoted to Vice President because they have proven they can stand up to the challenge and the scrutiny of the Board. They have proven themselves in a manner no outside candidate can. Even if you are not especially interested in a longer career with your current employer, a promotion is your clearest path to VP. Take steps to make that happen possibly using a Coach. Once you have achieved VP status, you will be seen as a VP candidate generally. The key to promotion for a technology executive for any position, is to be seen as a business person who understands technology.
Significant first step? Ask. Let your manager know your career goals. “Roberta, my goal is a promotion to VP within the next 18 [or what you feel is fair] months. Shall we discuss what you need to see to to consider me for VP?” Discuss a timeline and mileposts. That doesn’t work? Ask someone else.
2. To get to a VP level job from outside the company a candidate must be so outstanding they can be compared favorably with the Director in place. This takes excellent credentials, notable references and usually, a referral to the company by a respected Board member.
Your job is to connect with Board members and “C” level executives in a way that demonstrates your expertise and experience. Become a speaker and a contributor on your area of expertise and you get not just name recognition, but the panache of positive publicity.
3. Focus on companies with half the revenue and half the personnel of your current company. Position yourself as the person who can get the company where it wants to go. Understand that a Vice President is all about strategy whereas a Director is about tactics. Calibrate your vocabulary accordingly. Make absolutely certain you know and understand the target company’s corporate mission before you approach them. Tailor your remarks to include their mission.
Your next challenge is to find opportunities as a Vice President. One quick method is to meet and impress existing VPs and encourage them to forward inquiries in which they are not interested your way. For more advice on making the jump from Director to Vice President read Job Search Debugged.