10 Steps to Climbing the Corporate Ladder

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10 Steps to Climbing the Corporate Ladder

I put this together for a client group, which resulted in a fantastic booklet with action steps and exercises. Here are the highlights.

Step 1: Know where you want to go.

Each step in your career takes you in a direction. Are you going where you want to go? Take some time to evaluate where you are and where you want to be. If you don’t pay attention to where your next step takes you, your career can end up being a collection of short-term steps that don’t take you where you want.

To get where you want to go, you need to make a plan. Make adjustments along the way. Keep your objective clear.

Step 2: Know Yourself – Strengths and Weaknesses

Knowledge of self can be challenging because it involves facing some inconvenient truths, such as your weaknesses. You need to get past the discomfort and develop this tool for yourself. Traditionally, we work on reducing our weaknesses, however, switch it up: promote and develop your strengths. Sometimes what is perceived to be a weakness is really an area of non-interest.

Step 3: Educate yourself

Examine the position you are seeking. What skills are needed for it? Do you need a specific type of training or experience or an additional degree? Updating your skills will keep your current for your existing position and will develop your marketability for advancement. You want to keep current in this world of rapid change.

Step 4: Network

Whether you’re happily employed or looking for your next job, the people you’re connected to will help you find your next professional opportunity. Expand your network within your community and your organization. This does not mean going to meetings and handing out and collecting business cards. That is an old way of thinking about networking. This does mean developing relationships and getting people to know, like, and trust you.

Remember: It’s not about who you know. It’s about who knows you.

Step 5: Think and act big

Go beyond your comfort zone and get involved in overall strategic decisions, where you can. If you are aiming to go higher, you have to start thinking bigger.

Don’t be limited by what you are assigned to do. Not only should you be prepared to achieve the obvious in your current responsibilities, you should work beyond what is expected. If you only focus on your own area of responsibility, you are going to box yourself in.

Find ways to demonstrate your strategic skills. Look to participating in a company-wide project. Look at your current manager. How you can improve further that that? Act a level above.

Know what your accomplishments are and how they impact the company and its bottom line. Be aware of company goals. Promotion is about pushing the boundaries on what you are assigned to do.

Step 6: Communication

Communication is transferring information, whether verbally, written, or non-verbal. Being an effective communicator is essential.

You need to be able to communicate in a way that is easily understandable and be able to contribute to topics discussed at meetings, over the telephone, or in video conferencing.

Be an avid listener. You know the saying that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen more than you talk.

Communication isn’t limited to speaking, either. Remember that writing is equally important. You have to express yourself well, whether it’s writing a coherent memo or email, creating a report, or a formal letter.

Lastly, non-verbal communication (expressions, gestures, eye contact, personal space) is the largest piece in the communication spectrum. This is where ‘actions speak louder than words’. You want to make sure your non-verbal cues match your verbal cues when you are having a conversation or are making a presentation.

Step 7: Get a coach or a mentor

When you ask for help by hiring a coach or obtaining a mentor, you have someone on your side to help you focus, get the right things done, and keep you accountable to the plan. Through the relationship with your coach, you get regular one-on-one attention where you can bounce ideas or practice skills in a safe environment. When you are working on getting yourself promoted and don’t necessarily have the support of your current manager, it is a benefit to have a curious outsider to be a sounding board, a partner for success, and a cheerleader.

Step 8: Maintain Integrity

Be true to yourself and consistent with who you are at work and at home. Do the right thing. Recognize the contribution of others instead of taking credit for their work. Share the credit with your team (if you have one) and be accountable when failures happen. Finger-pointing and blame shifting are not qualities that one seeks in a leader.

Be a team player. Do not engage in gossip. Protect the rights of others. Respect different opinions. Express appreciation whether it was an opportunity provided to you or a favour someone did for you. A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way.

Step 9: Let people know

Sometimes people do not know that you aspire to greater things. You need to let management know that you desire to advance vs. being a continuity player. This may lead to management viewing you in a different light and get you some insight on what you need to do to get a promotion.

And then you need to walk your talk. Be there on time or even early. Be dependable. Offer to work on projects or take on difficult tasks. Avoid procrastination. Treat everything with a sense of urgency. Completing your work on time and with thoroughness shows you are ready to take on more challenges and responsibilities.

Step 10: Develop your leadership skills

A leader is not a position; it is a way to behave. Follow many of the earlier recommendations:

  • Listen more, talk less
  • Have integrity
  • Do your share of the work, share the credit, be accountable for failures

In addition, you may want to develop your leadership skills in other ways:

  • Take on a leadership position with an association
  • Mentor junior employees
  • Volunteer for a position on a local board

A final thought:

If senior managers are recruited from outside of the organization rather than developed from within, keep that in mind and be prepare to look outside the organization when you reach the limit.

Working with Michelle Hamelin, MBA

I am an award-winning business owner and former HR executive who coaches women to get what they want in career and business. I work with you to gather facts, analyze the work, and then help you create a plan to get to your goals. I keep you accountable and emphasize positive outcomes, while keeping an eye on the deadline established. I provide you with candid feedback and offer solutions. I believe that we should have fun along the way, so expect some laughter.

To work with me or to learn more:

About the Author:

Michelle Hamelin provides business consulting and coaching services, working primarily with owners of small businesses. I am a planner by nature, which means I work with you to gather facts, analyze the work, and then help you create a plan to get to your goals.

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