10/01/2010 05:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Take Your Boss's Job - With Their Help

If moving up the ladder is important to you, then part of managing your career is preparing yourself to succeed your boss. Just because you've been getting positive performance reviews doesn't mean you're a shoe-in for getting your boss's job. It's likely that your co-workers also have designs on that position, even though they haven't said so. The biggest mistake we see people make is that they assume they are the frontrunner for the job and think it's only a matter of time before they get it. When it doesn't happen they're in shock and disbelief.

What went wrong? Unfortunately, they didn't do enough of the right things to move up.


Here's how to position yourself to be your boss's successor:

Analyze Your Boss's Job: From a macro level, what is your boss responsible for? For example, your boss may be responsible for Sales, Marketing and Manufacturing. Analyze what the key responsibilities are in each functional area to see what you could take off your boss's plate. Be realistic given your current level and what you are proposing. It should be a stretch, but not an overreaching one. Be prepared to have a strong rationale for why it makes sense for you to take on these additional responsibilities, and how you can handle more without compromising your current job.

Work Closer with Your Boss: Your boss is probably working on various projects and could very well need extra help. Look for a situation where the two of you can be involved in every phase of a project. This will effectively make you the co-pilot. By working closely with your boss you will learn the nuances of what makes them successful and cement the bond between you. Working side-by-side will help your boss see first hand how you can step into their job. In addition, if your boss is away, you would be the go-to person on this project, enabling others to see you in your boss's role.

Make Your Case: Approach your boss and give specifics as to why you are the best person to be groomed for the job. Speak to your accomplishments and qualities that make you a logical choice. Acknowledge the areas you know you need to improve upon and ask if there are additional ones. Your boss will appreciate your direct approach and this will separate you from your peers, who may be waiting for something to happen instead of making something happen.

Think Big: People rise within companies because of their ability to contribute at a higher level. Pay close attention to the key issues within your industry. Your ability to speak intelligently about the factors affecting your industry will separate you from the pack. Being clued in will increase your chances of coming up with a solution to strengthen your company's competitive position. Practice thinking like a CEO and look for ways to grow the business.

One thing that prevents leaders from moving up is that they don't have a successor in place. By taking the initiative you are creating a situation in which both you and your boss will benefit greatly.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success