When it comes to climbing the corporate ladder quickly, the word journey takes on a different meaning. As opposed to roads, flights, road-trip playlists, and wonderful vistas, the corporate journey involves boardrooms, cubicles, mentorship, and self-improvement.
I’m here to discuss some of the elements of this journey for those who want to keep that career graph constantly moving in an upward direction and fast. In order to be successful there are so many things that add up to make you grow in your professional life.
Even though there’s no definitive answer set in stone, there are ways to climb every rung of that corporate ladder and ensure progression is always going quickly up, up, and never away. I might not have all the answers, but here are some of the things that worked—and still work—when I was working for a large company:
Differentiation: The single biggest thing that helped me was achieving a high degree of differentiation—what is the unique thing that I bring to the table that the other fellow contenders cannot?
Differentiation can be achieved through unique personal strengths, expertise in an area, or knowledge about business that is very important to the company.
I have a friend who has a unique ability of hunting (prospecting, if the word seems primal) and bringing in new clients and new logos in the IT services business in the US. Undoubtedly, these are essential, valued skills. No wonder he is a much sought-after individual for both large and small IT services companies.
PIE Model: Many years ago, I worked for GE and I learned of a model called the PIE model, which has stayed with me ever since: P stands for performance; I, for Image; E, for Exposure.
When you are at a junior level, Performance is the most important aspect. As you climb, Image and Exposure become increasingly important, with Performance being a hygiene factor.
Without P, I and E won’t help. Image, basically, is your brand—what you are known for. Are you a turnaround artist? Or are you an excellent operator who gets the job done every time? Or are you an innovator?
Exposure has two aspects to it: The first aspect depends on the kind of exposure you have across different aspects of the business.
Are you just a B2B sales professional? Or do you have experience running a business or managing sales? Have you demonstrated the capability to go beyond your expertise and manage diverse assignments?
The second aspect of exposure depends on whether you as an individual have exposure to all the leaders who are going to decide on your progression, or putting it the other way, do the leaders know you enough through your work to back you when the time comes to pick the next leader?
This is clearly important because people support those they know over those they don’t—a simple human trait, one that works in our favour.
Great Mentors: You have to have very good mentors to climb the corporate ladder. Not only that, your mentors should be good leaders and good coaches who can guide you. Such mentors should also be rooting for you in the leadership forums.
A mentor can manifest in any role or designation, if you have the chance to be groomed by your boss, grab that opportunity with both hands.
- Having a great mentor at a leadership level in your company cannot be overemphasized. The amount of knowledge and exposure gained with a professional chaperone is incomparable to growing solo.
- New Skills: Someone early on in my career suggested to me that I should add one new skill to my resume every six months. This is something I do even now, and it has helped in unimaginable ways.
- This new skill could be a new language, a three-month certification course, learning more about lateral departments within your organisation, even developing your powerpoint skills. The development process is like a box of chocolates; it’s better when you mix it up!
- Extensive Reading: Reading is one habit that everyone aspiring to climb the corporate ladder should inculcate in their daily regimen. Reading will make you knowledgeable, increase your analytical and strategic thinking skills, and give you the ability to form your own opinions on a variety of subjects.
Knowledge can never be superfluous, especially in a corporate set up. I am always amazed by the sheer breadth of topics that leaders of companies are able to speak on, which is why adding pertinent knowledge to your repertoire is an essential life skill, even a life hack.
And this helps you stand out when you speak to leaders informally at a party or in meetings, making networking a delight. After all, who doesn’t like sounding smart? But it’s even better when you can walk the talk.
While all the above is great, one cannot ignore the question of luck and being at the right place at the right time. The trick is to have all the aces up your sleeve when opportunity comes calling. So, don’t sweat it if you still haven’t made it big. At the end of it, it is just a job; your real job is to keep growing as an individual.