written by: Mike Sweeney•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 5/21/2011
Successfully climbing the corporate ladder requires personal dedication and a focus on doing what's best for the company, team, and other employees, before yourself. Being patient and driven, while setting measurable goals and staying on plan are key to successfully reaching the top.
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Where Does Your Ladder Lead?
Your first step, so to speak, is to identify what the top of the ladder looks like to you. What about it is so appealing? Is it the income, prestige, or challenge? Once you have clarified the goals you want to achieve in the company, it will become much easier to stay on target.
Be careful not to set your goals so far down the road they may be hard to achieve within a reasonable amount of time. For example, if you are early in your career, setting the top goal as becoming CEO might be making things harder on yourself initially. If this is truly your goal, then it might be wiser to have several ladders to climb, with the last one being the achievement of CEO. Otherwise, it might get a little frustrating with the primary goal so far away. It's at those times when you are most vulnerable to losing your focus and giving up on your climb.
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One Step at a Time
As it is with ladders, the surest way to the top is to go slowly and methodically, literally one step at a time. Moving too quickly, too erratically, or trying to skip a few rungs of the ladder at one time, only increases the likelihood of something going wrong.
To develop the corporate ladder that works for you, identify the departments, people, products, or services you feel need to be part of your learning process in the corporation. Each of these areas will become a rung on your ladder to achieve along the way. These are your smaller achievable goals that lead to the bigger picture as you move through the company. And depending on what you select, each individual rung can also have its own ladder of success to climb. That just means you are breaking down your goals into smaller chunks or action plans. This will help immensely when problems arise or something is not going as planned. You can revert to these types of activities to see what needs to change. Since these smaller chunks are much more manageable on a daily basis, it should be easier to determine what to do.
Let’s say managing the marketing department was one of your identified steps along the way. What will it take to get that job in the future? Is there training to attend? Are there mentors to work with? Do you need additional schooling to be qualified? These are the types of questions you need to continually ask yourself along the way. As you progress through these milestones, put each one in perspective and keep looking forward to the next step. Once the process starts getting more comfortable with each achievement, you can begin evaluating how the overall goal is working for you and make any needed adjustments.
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When Things go Wrong
Inevitably, some things will go wrong. They always do. Maybe a goal set is not achievable in the way you originally thought. Maybe a mentor isn’t working out. Maybe the marketing department isn’t what you thought. It could be almost anything. If something doesn't work out as expected, what do you do?
Look at these problems as roadblocks. Ideally, they are temporary. Climbing the corporate ladder takes perseverance and personal dedication, with an unwavering desire to see it through. Without this single-mindedness, it is very easy to let the roadblocks alter your perspective. Use roadblocks as an opportunity to test your flexibility, your resourcefulness, and your ability to adapt to change. Whether the roadblocks are people, resources, or projects, you can still keep moving forward. Growing your career can be as rewarding as it is frustrating. Look at these impediments to your success as temporary and a natural part of your career development process.
Russell, Joyce E.A (April 17, 2011), “A checklist for climbing the corporate ladder." St. Petersburg Times retrieved at http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/workinglife/a-checklist-for-climbing-the-corporate-ladder/1164190