For some, the American Dream goes something like this: You enter the workforce at an entry-level position, start at the bottom of a company, and climb the corporate ladder to achieve success and financial security.
But career advancement doesn’t come easy. It requires hard work, discipline, and determination to land promotions and work your way up the ranks. That said, there are a few tactics you can leverage to obtain more responsibility and control in the workplace.
In this article, we’ll show you what you can do to get ahead and climb the corporate ladder. We’ll also give you an alternative option when this path isn’t right for you or if you want to change things up.
How to Climb the Corporate Ladder
It’s important to remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. The path is long and challenging. Instead of blindly working without a road map, employ some of these strategies to stay focused and speed things up as you climb the corporate ladder.
1. Have a can-do attitude
Those who are willing to do whatever it takes to make it to the top are the ones who will see the quickest results. This means volunteering for projects and taking the approach that no task is ever beneath you.
Be the first one to throw your hat in the ring the next time there’s an opportunity to take the reins of an assignment or project. Your willingness to help out and put in the extra work won’t go unnoticed by upper management.
The same goes for completing tasks that may seem below your pay grade. Just because certain responsibilities aren’t part of your job description doesn’t mean you can’t put in the extra effort to help out.
2. Let your work do the talking for you
The best way to show your managers, senior employees, and vice presidents that you should be next in line for a promotion is by showing it through your work.
Put 100% into every assignment that comes your way. Nothing else matters if you aren’t completing work that stands out from the rest. If you do great work, people will take note.
Whenever you complete a project, ask yourself, “Would I be comfortable putting this work on my resume?” If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board and improve your output.
3. Build a robust professional network
Networking with your peers is one of the easiest ways to get ahead in the business world. Establishing a strong network of connections within your industry will open doors to new opportunities that may not have been on your radar.
Networking doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as grabbing coffee with someone every few months to keep in touch. At the very least, you can send an email to maintain an open line of communication.
You can take your networking one step further and seek out professional mentors. A mentor can help you a great deal as you progress through your career. They can give you invaluable feedback and guidance as you work your way up the ranks.
Keep in mind that networking is a two-way street. Be willing to catch up with old colleagues and professional acquaintances when they reach out to you. Don’t just wait until you’re in a time of need and start messaging your entire contact list on LinkedIn. This will come off as ungenuine once your motives come to light.
4. Avoid office politics (and politics altogether)
Contributing to toxic workplace politics is a surefire way to stifle your career progression. Avoid feeding into the office gossip and rumor mill — it won’t get you anywhere that’s good.
Partaking in office politics can quickly tarnish your reputation. You don’t want to be known as the person who is talking behind someone’s back or picking sides when disagreements arise.
Even though you’re not always going to get along with everyone in the workplace, you can always be circumspect. Your best bet is to take the high road whenever you come across conflicts with difficult coworkers.
5. Keep your head up
As tempting as it might be, don’t dwell on failures that you experience throughout your career. Things won't always go as planned along the way — it's the nature of the game.
The trick is to pick yourself up and get back to work. Reflect on your failures and see them as an opportunity to learn and prevent the same mistakes from happening again.
Once you're back on track, you can evaluate your setbacks and realize you're stronger and more resilient for going through those experiences.
6. Expand your skill set
Expanding your skill set throughout your career will set you up for new opportunities. The business world is continually evolving with new in-demand skill sets that crop up regularly.
There’s a wide range of soft skills and hard skills you can pick up to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. These can include things like sales strategies, problem-solving, and analytical reasoning.
Always be open to learning new skills. For example, take the initiative to learn a new tool that your company is trying to implement. You'll be a highly valuable and indispensable asset if you become an expert in certain areas.
7. Be data-driven
Nothing will impress your superiors more than taking a data-driven approach to every project and decision you make. It's one thing to make claims about what you think is happening with business, but it's another to be able to prove your claims with factual data.
Today, there is a seemingly infinite amount of data that can be gathered to support your work. Take a step back and explore how you can use data to deliver work that shines.
Upper management will likely notice when you bring quantifiable results to the table. The more you can show that you're thinking about the same business objectives they are, the more likely you are to get a promotion (and a raise).
8. Keep your eye on the prize
It’s essential to have a clear vision of your career progression. You aren’t going to jump directly from the mailroom to the corner office. There will be different milestones you must achieve before you make it to the top.
Understanding your career path and knowing which job title you need to obtain next will make the road to success seem more attainable. Focus on the next promotion or goal at hand.
Climbing the corporate ladder won’t happen overnight, so be patient. That said, there are other options if you’ve been trying to claw your way to the top for years and feel as though you’ve been spinning your wheels.
Climbing the Corporate Ladder vs. Starting a Business
The corporate ladder isn’t the right path for everyone. Starting your own business has enormous growth potential and can speed up the time it takes to reach your financial goals.
Much of what we mentioned above also applies to entrepreneurship. The difference is that with starting your own business, you’ll always be your own boss and can take full control of your career. You get to see the direct results of all the hard work and effort you put into growing your own business.
The thought of quitting your job to pursue your own business can be intimidating. Luckily, you don’t have to embark on the journey alone.
How Main Street Can Help You Launch Your Business
Main Street gives you the added comfort of starting your own business with knowledgeable mentors who have done it before. Instead of trying to figure out everything on your own, you have access to a professional team of mentors along with the technology and tools you need to succeed.
With Main Street, you limit the uncertainties that come along with starting your own business. You’re given a blueprint to success and reduce the risks of launching something by yourself.
Ditch the Corporate Ladder and Start Fresh
Previous generations have held climbing the corporate ladder in high regard, but it doesn’t necessarily retain the same luster it once did.
What’s your version of the American Dream? Does it involve climbing the corporate ladder, or would you find more fulfillment in starting your own business?
If climbing the career ladder is your ideal path to success, then great. But if not, it might be time to team up with Main Street to get your own business off the ground.