Advancing Up the Corporate Ladder

By: | Category: Women at Work

In baseball games we often hear the announcers state phrases such as “he advances to third base, getting closer to home plate”. Baseball is a sport where the rules are clearly defined, and players have clear instructions on what they need to do to advance and succeed. Career advancement is not that clear. Improving your career trajectory can be complex and confusing. During my own career I have had both upward and lateral moves and have had the opportunity to learn new skills and advance my career. I was fortunate enough to be able to experience entrepreneurship and open my own firm and have continued to evolve my skills along my career path.

The truth is, there are no correct answers. Every person needs to evaluate for themselves what will make them happy and where they seek to advance to. For some the path is clear and their passion is unshakable. For others, it is a journey of self-discovery that may include many twists and turns along the way. Looking at advancement as just a linear upward path in salary or title is short sighted—those things come eventually all on their own. The important part is to continue to improve your skills both in breadth and depth.

Disappointments may happen along the way, they do to all of us. It is important that you always maintain perspective and understand that if the path you seek is not available to you now, it still may be achievable in the future. Additionally, there are numerous paths each of us can take. When one door closes, another one opens.

If you are still unsure of your direction, here are some tips that will help you find clues along the way and discover your strengths:

  1. Become an aggressive listener. Inspiration can be found all around us. Keeping your ears open at work will may help you identify opportunities that peek your interest. Company meetings, informal peer discussions and even water cooler chats can provide you exposure to opportunities you may not have otherwise been aware of. Volunteering for these opportunities can provide great learning opportunities for you but can also be extremely beneficial to your company. Great managers recognize employees who are willing to go the extra mile and contribute to the team. Participating in these activities can give you great visibility, reflect positively on your annual review, and help boost the accomplishments on your resume for potential future steps in your career.
  2. Be ready to learn something outside of your current wheelhouse or expertise. Opportunities will arise for you to contribute to the company in ways that may seem completely out of your realm of experience or knowledge base. Say yes! Then delve in and expand your horizons by exploring new areas. l you may stumble across a passion you never knew existed.
  3. Ask for an opportunity for growth. I often hear friends complain about how they couldn’t believe they weren’t considered for a position or promotion in the company. Sometimes, great people are overlooked simply because they didn’t display enough initiative to ask for what they want. When they don’t hear from you, managers envision their own career path for you. Don’t let this happen to you. Take control of your direction, even if you’re not quite sure about the final end-point. Be formal about your requests. Put them in writing and setup a meeting to discuss your goals with your manager. Be sure to outline what you hope to accomplish for yourself and how it can benefit the company. Your action may surprise people, and you may be demonstrating the requisite amount of gusto your manager was hoping to see from you to move you to the next level.

The most important thing to help you determine whether advancement is the right option for you now, is deciding whether you are currently happy right where you are. If you are unsure, take your time assessing your strengths and improvement areas and the answer will reveal itself to you in the process.