You've done your desk duty and you're ready for the next big career move. While putting in the hard work while meeting deadlines, delegating effectively and taking on bigger and richer assignments demonstrates a determined work ethic, there are several other not-so-obvious strategies you can put in place in order to secure promotion into leadership roles. Here's your five-point practical plan for leadership success:
Work your digital rep
"When I was in jobseeker mode, I actively contributed to online groups in my career sector and shared articles from business heads I admired," says Victoria, 35, a vice-president at an environmental research company who recognised the power of promoting herself as a "thought leader", or expert in her field. "I also suggested to prospective employers that they view my recommendations on LinkedIn in lieu of written references. By paying for premium access I could see who was viewing my page and then directly follow up with them."
Victoria's online dedication paid off, and she was approached by her current employer about a job that was yet to be advertised. Why? Because of her dense online profile, she'd effectively already made it halfway through the interview process.
Sally-Anne Blanshard, director of Nourish coaching consultancy, says online recruiters are always snooping around social sites, so make them work for you - recommendations in particular are a hit with future bosses.
"If someone you worked with is saying, 'I love what you did with this project, thank you so much,' let them know you're building your digital footprint and ask them to please repeat what they said on your LinkedIn page," she advises. "It's instant online evidence as to why you are good at what you do."
And as always, beware the double-edged sword of social media: while it can help raise your profile it can, just as swiftly, ruin it.
When given the opportunity to shine, seize it. "Becoming a voice and learning to interpose a room with opinions, and not feeling you're asking silly questions, is where women really let themselves down," says Paul Wilson, chair of the Australian Human Resources Institute. To channel confidence in meetings, he suggests feeling the fear and speaking up anyway. "Clarify, come in at critical points with a perspective and be prepared to ask questions."
"I had to learn confidence," admits Alana, 29. "I knew I had the skills to rise to the challenges of a promotion, but until I spoke up in front of the right people I was always going to get overlooked. It wasn't until I met with a career coach that I realized my mistake had been to wait for someone to approach me, instead of me maximising my visibility."
Sara Watts, vice-principal of operations at the University of Sydney, says practice makes the difference: "If you're shy, practise talking to people in a safe space to get used to the idea that it's OK to have an opinion and express it."
And you don't need perfection: speaking up with 80 per cent knowledge is better than staying quiet.
Sign up for internal training programs
Internal schemes are a sure-fire way to secure leadership skills, as well as declaring you are looking for acceleration to the top.
"Mentors and internal education schemes are incredibly important in helping overcome the reticence that some women have to plough forward," explains Peter Wilson, author of Make Mentoring Work (Major Street Publishing, $34.95). "I interviewed 90 of Australia's top business, government and society people, and every one of them had a mentor - and they're still looking for people they can learn from in their daily life."
Channel your ambition
"I was described as 'ambitious' by everyone from high school teachers to aunts and uncles," says Olivia, 34, CEO of a digital advertising agency. "But they delivered it with negative connotations. As a result, it took me several years to feel comfortable voicing my desire to push forward with my career. Eventually, I found an environment that allowed me to communicate my vision for the company and myself. It was a case of practising assertiveness versus aggressiveness."
Wilson agrees that the way to channel ambition is by using a direct style with an underlining humility. "Not heavily bragging, but showing a positive, purposeful tone," he says.
This behaviour can be implemented at any stage of your vocational climb. When hiring, many companies pinpoint leadership qualities even from entry level. "I look for people who are taking responsibility for their own development and display a willingness to be stretched. It helps if the person lets me know that they want to progress," points out Watts.
Use the C-word
The latest buzzword in the business world is "collaboration". "It used to be called 'teamwork' and now everyone loves 'collaboration'," says Blanshard. "It takes skill to be able to deal with different types of people."
This is especially true with cross-generational management because, says Blanshard, "You're adapting to working with your grandmother as well as your little sister - resisters and early adopters."
If you find yourself in this position, Blanshard advises taking the initiative in proposing changes in the way people do things. "Come up with alternatives instead of accepting the 'this is how we do it' process," she says. "Challenge the way the business operates so you're coming at it from a different perspective and being noticed."