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Move Up That Corporate Ladder

by Derek

Do you currently work in an office as a low-level employee? Do you ever have dreams of rising up the ranks and becoming a Vice President someday? Maybe you have your sites set on the CEO. Whatever the case may be, if you’d like to rise to the top in a hurry, here’s some valuable tips that I have learned along the way.

Ladder of Knowledge

1) If You’re New, Don’t Try to Change Their Process in Your First Week

There are quite a few young professionals that think they’re going to move to the top of the company within 4 years, so right out of the gate they begin to question the process and make an effort to change the system that has been in place for over 20 years.

It’s good to be young and ambitious, but it’s not okay to challenge the operation of the entire company in your first week. Unless you are instructed to evaluate their process and give your input, just make an effort to learn your position  in the first 6 months. Once you have your duties down-pat, then you can start asking your boss if you could take a deeper look into the process and perhaps give a report of your findings. You’ll be much more respected if you take this route.

2) Offer Your Assistance to Everyone

At my place of employment, I am considered to be extremely knowledgeable in Excel. I often have employees come up to me and ask how the can write a function or fix a problem they’ve been having with the formatting. I honestly don’t care who it is that’s asking me the question – I am going to make sure that I answer their it to the best of my abilities. First of all, I do this because it’s for the ultimate good of the company; second, there’s nothing wrong with being labeled the office “Excel Guru”; and third, I really am just a genuinely good guy that likes to help (hopefully you are too).

People talk, and the more good they have to say about you the better. If you are promoted in the future, it’s best to have people agree with the change (because you’re an all-around great employee) rather than grumble about it because you’ve made their life at the office a living hell.

3) Seek Out a Mentor

If you are currently employed as a Financial Analyst, but you’d really like to be the Director of Merchandising someday, then seek out a mentor in merchandising (preferably at the Director level or higher). Let them know that you’re interested in what they do, and that you aspire to work in their field someday.

Mentorship doesn’t have to be difficult. Set up a meeting once a month and let them know what your future goals are and why. Generally, people love to help, and an extra 30 minutes a month really doesn’t amount to much for them, but for you, it could mean a few more rungs in that ladder!

4) Work Yourself Out of the Job

Most people spend all of their time trying to make themselves irreplaceable. They refuse to make work instructions for their job, and they often boast that no one else knows how to do what they do. These people are going nowhere in life. What you want to do is work yourself out of a job.

I know, it sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it. I mean, if you work yourself out of a job, then you have no job anymore right? Wrong. If you spend your time to stream-line the process and make it so efficient that you’re no longer needed, you won’t be thrown to the curb, you’ll be embraced and rewarded with a new position. Anyone that can save the company money and can increase efficiency will be kept around for a long time.

Have you instituted any of these tips? What additional tips would you give for those that wish to move up in the company?

photo by degreezero2000

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle February 1, 2012 at 6:16 am

Great tips! I’m on the President track at my job, so it’s always good to know this information.

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Derek February 1, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Sounds pretty sweet! Good luck to you!

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Jai Catalano February 1, 2012 at 6:20 am

Derek I love your thinking on this. Work yourself out of a job. I am passing this off into the twitter world. Good stuff.

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Derek February 1, 2012 at 5:22 pm

It’s definitely not something that most people will advise you to do, but I think it’s genius!

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krantcents February 1, 2012 at 8:08 am

Part of this process is figuring out what skills and experience you need for the next step and getting it. You always want to be ready for the next step.

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Derek February 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm

One step at a time huh? Yep. I’d first look at the end result, and then figure out the steps that it’s going to take to get there.

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Money Beagle February 1, 2012 at 9:14 am

Part of what you have to do is network. Don’t be a kiss-a$$ but you should definitely make sure that the people who make decisions about who goes where know your name and face

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Derek February 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Great point! I’d like to build my career in the finance department, so I’m getting to know as many people in that field as I can. Networking is huge!

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Thomas - Ways to Invest Money February 1, 2012 at 11:45 am

I think that the best advice is to find a mentor and working hard. Mentors make a world of a difference and no one likes it one the new person comes in trying to change everything. Make sure you know the people who make decisions and stay away from people who complain about the job and blame stuff on everyone else.

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Derek February 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm

The mentor is a pretty key component to success because he/she can tell you exactly how to get where they are – because they’ve already done it!

And yes, definitely stay away from the complainers. They aren’t going anywhere.

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shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet February 1, 2012 at 11:48 am

One of my goals was along the lines of always being helpful. Even if it wasn’t part of my job, or even if the person was lower on the food chain than I was. My boss’s saw me training and mentoring people. People who needed help when they wandered through remembered the person helping them.
I was an admin, admins talk to their bosses about everything. I helped the other admins at my level, and the executive admion whenever I could.
When I got promoted to a manager position, all the executive directors wished me luck and my old VP (I’m now in a different division) still says hello and asks how I’m doing when we cross paths. They know me and they respect the work I do.
I’ve recently joined a staff resource group at work specifically to continue networking and look for mentors/be a mentor.
And finally, in every position I’ve had, when my boss asks me to take on something new, I say yes. In fact, at the end of every meeting with my boss, I ask if there is anything more I can do. This gives me the chance to show that I am capable of taking on higher level work that I might otherwise not be assigned.
It can make for some long days, but recently, in just about every conversation I’ve had with my boss, he’s mentioned how someone else we work with has complimented me.
I have no doubt that will all pay off in another year or two when I am once again looking to move up.

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Derek February 1, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Basically, be kind and helpful to everyone, and be willing to work hard. That’s certainly important and can get you pretty far in Corporate America!

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Earn Save Live February 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Good tips! I second the idea of finding a mentor. I have cultivated a couple mentor relationships, and they have been invaluable for me in my career.

I also love the idea of back mapping. Find someone who is your ideal – who you want to be in 10 years. Figure out what they did to get there. Did they earn a Masters? Did they move up within one company or switch companies to get a promotion? How do they get along with their co-workers and bosses? When in doubt about your current role or choices, ask yourself, “What would they do?”

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Derek February 1, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Great tips on back-mapping. I just made that point in a previous comment. Find out where you want to be first, and then figure out who can tell you the steps to get there!

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Marissa @ Thirty Six Months February 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm

It took me a while to realize how important having a mentor is. They can open tons of doors and help guide you.

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Derek February 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I basically just got started with the whole mentor thing, but I can already tell it’s going to be a huge asset to my future in the company!

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frugalportland February 2, 2012 at 7:43 am

I agree with these — and at the very same time, I am so, so thankful I work in an office of five.

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Derek February 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Haha! I think I’d like a larger office – more room for advancement. But, the close family atmosphere is cool too.

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Dr Dean February 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

Great tips, being a good person, and living by the Golden Rule makes life so much easier.

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Derek February 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm

It sure does make things easier! I’m glad I learned this early on in life. I can’t imagine being in the same job for life and then wondering what happened!

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Purchase Wisely February 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm

On the work yourself out of a job idea, be aware that can backfire.

I am an administrator for a law firm, something I’ve been doing for over 10 years. At one firm I came in, as a new employee and was asked to improve the processes. I changed mail over to almost paperless, reduced the billing cycle from 25 days to 2 days, computerized the calendar, created an employee handbook and at the end of all that I was told “Today is your last day.” When I asked why I was being let go I was told “You’re not billable, and now that everything’s set up we can have our paralegal run it.” I then spent a year unemployed.

So much for being rewarded for hard work! Perhaps this will work for a large company, but not necessarily in a small/medium sized firm.

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Squirrelers February 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Seeking out a mentor is a good suggestion. It can only help to know the lay of the land from someone who’s experienced and understands the organization well. Managing relationships and understanding how things get done are vital to moving on up. Make sure you choose wisely with the mentor, it goes without saying.

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Derek February 2, 2012 at 2:48 pm

The mentor is key. If it’s someone that’s 70 years old and is only one level above you, then it’s probably not the best choice. If there’s someone in your field that’s 40 and the VP, that would make for a much better option.

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Jennifer A. February 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Great article!

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SB @ One Cent At A Time February 2, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Get noticed, one of the main differtiator is getting noticed. In every meeting, every calls, every one-on-one be better than others.

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Derek February 3, 2012 at 2:24 am

Great point. There are some that are timid and never speak up – these are the people that hold onto the same job for life and never get promoted.

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Jackie February 3, 2012 at 4:56 am

I especially like your last tip about working yourself out of a job. You don’t want to be irreplaceable, because first of all, no one truly is — even if people tell you they couldn’t get along without you. But if they perceive you as being the only person who can do that job, they’re not going to promote you!

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Derek February 4, 2012 at 4:06 am

Great point Jackie. If you’re the only one that can do that job, why would they ever want you to leave!? Haha! Unless you love that job, this may not be the best approach for you.

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American Debt Project February 3, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Really great tips that sound like you’re a seasoned pro! I can definitely use this advice. Thanks!

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Derek February 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Ha! I wouldn’t call myself a pro yet – there’s always something more to learn. But, I’m glad you can use the advice. Best of luck to you!

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