Climbing the career ladder is usually a mix of impressing people, performing well and being visible over many months or years. It takes dedication and a real desire to reach the next level and keep on going.
There’s rarely a universal clear and consistent path no matter the company, industry or position. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few near-universal strategies to ensure your career continues to grow and “climb the ladder”, as so many hope to achieve.
As always, it helps to take stock of where you are and where you’re trying to go.
Why do you want to climb the ladder? Understanding the reasons why you want to grow and get promoted will help you understand the right path. Perhaps you’d like a more flexible schedule, better pay or more interesting work. This important step should also help you decide if this is truly the route you’d like to go.
What will it take to climb the ladder? Deciding how you’ll achieve it can create understanding as to how you will accomplish your growth and establish a timeframe in which you’d like to accomplish your ascension. Do you need to move to another city? Will you need to switch companies?
It may be helpful to chart your path using a flow chart and starting with your current position. Between each promotion, write what it will take to reach the next level, like more training, management skills, certifications or other factors. Speak with people currently in the roles you seek to grow into and learn from them what it takes to grow and expand. They will be able to speak from experience and offer suggestions.
Get the basics right
While climbing the career ladder can be complex, it starts off relatively easy and simple. By getting work basics right, you’ll set a good foundation.
Ensuring that you are always on time, meet deadlines, do your tasks well, get along with your colleagues and contribute to a positive work environment are the type of bare minimum requirements that must be met before most anyone can be considered for a promotion.
Without the fundamentals, it’s tough to advance. If you don’t crawl well, it’ll be tough to run, so to speak.
Progress isn’t instantaneous, so be patient but proactive. You’re unlikely to become the CEO in two years, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice good habits and set yourself up for that next promotion. Ask yourself each day or even each hour how what you’re doing contributes to reaching your goals.
As with anything, growth isn’t one big step, it’s a series of smaller steps that add up to a big result.
Get your manager on board
Healthy, productive work environments encourage growth, so speaking with your manager and anyone else involved in your progress is a good idea. They can help make suggestions, introduce you to people who you should know, and bring you in on projects so you can gain experience and eventually serve as an internal advocate.
They may also be able to put you on the radar of those above them in higher positions and help you find out if you’re eligible for additional training paid for by the company.
If you sense that your manager may be the type who is paranoid about those who work for them “taking their job”, tread carefully. This may be a secret mission that you undertake on your own; workplace politics tend to heavily influence ladders.
Climbing the ladder will often require taking initiative and helping yourself. When you created your chart showing how you’ll reach your goals and get promoted, you probably realized education will be a major factor.
Getting the proper certifications not only shows you’re serious about growing, some promotions actually require you to have a specific level of training or a certificate. If you enrol before you’re up for a promotion, you’ll expedite the process.
Because promotions usually lead to management and leadership positions, having the ability to motivate and manage employees, make decisions and consider big-picture concepts will be key. Senior positions typically require a broader understanding of business including marketing, human resources, accounting and more, so be sure to focus on a well-rounded education.
There are many ways, in the classroom and online, to get this education and training, even with a work schedule to consider.
Leadership and higher positions will mean being proactive and stepping out of your comfort zone.
As you progress, be sure to show your ability to take on projects or work that may be more difficult or even above your experience level— and be sure you do all in your power to be successful in those projects.
Volunteer to help new staff, get involved in complex decisions and if you have the chance to lead a big initiative, do your best.
Even if you’re a few years or months away from a promotion, it can be helpful to express interest in openings when a senior colleague leaves the company or gets promoted themselves. It can give you a chance to demonstrate all you’ve achieved so far and your desire to accelerate your career.
Ask for the opportunity
If you don’t ask, the answer will always be “no”.
Ask for the promotion, the training, and the chance to try out a new skill or project. Find ways to be resourceful and take on more than you’re asked to do.
Many people remain stagnant and at lower positions because they didn’t consciously focus on growing and learning, expanding their knowledge and skills and preparing themselves for the next step. Climbing the ladder is rarely an accident.
What is your dream career path? Where do you want to be in one year, five years or ten years?
What will it take to get there— and what can you do today to move towards your goal?