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Climbing the Corporate Ladder: 2018 Edition


Your dad will happily tell you that the only way to find success in your career is to be loyal to your employer. In 2018, that’s just not true. Despite overwhelming evidence that turnover is bad and that fidelity to a stable workforce is good, most employers simply don’t treat their workers with much respect.

It’s not that employees are worse than the good ol’ days, when your dad was employed; rather, the fault seems to be with employers. Perhaps the recession encourages employers to believe that their candidate pool is wider and better than their current staff; perhaps employers are trying to be pre-emptive and planning for attrition. Regardless, you can be almost certain that you won’t receive any worthwhile promotions from your current position.

If that’s the case, what is an ambitious, young, talented professional to do? How are you supposed to climb the corporate ladder, and quickly, in an environment that simply doesn’t offer promotions? Here are a few ideas to keep you moving up in your career, even if your employer isn’t cooperating:

Start Your Own Business

You don’t have to climb the corporate ladder if you start out at the top. By launching a startup, you begin your corporate career in a leadership position, with all the prestige, authority and pay that commands.

Still, starting your own business isn’t something you should do lightly. First, it takes several years for a new venture to claw its way out of the red, meaning you’ll likely need a day job — or another form of income — for much of your business’s youth. Additionally, businesses aren’t infallible; despite immense amounts of effort, your business could crash and burn, taking with it your big dreams, your life savings and more.

Being an entrepreneur is rewarding — just ask Kylie Jenner, Bill Gates and other billionaires — but if you aren’t well-organized, willing to take risks and naturally imbued with leadership skill, you might want a more traditional career path through employment.

Go Back to School

There’s a reason employers continue to choose other candidates over you: your credentials. There is plenty of competition on the job market, so you should be doing everything you can to make your resume stand out. In most cases, that means you should seek additional credentials, through certifications or full-on degrees.

For the past few decades, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) has been the pinnacle of degrees for professional development, launching ambitious workers into leadership positions. However, given the number of MBA programs available — not to mention the number of job candidates with MBAs — is an MBA still worth it? The answer, from hiring managers, is an unequivocal yes. MBA programs offer ideal training in critical skills and fields of knowledge for future leaders, so earning this degree promises a good leap up the career ladder.

 Find a Good Mentor

A mentor is more than a shoulder to cry on when your career doesn’t go exactly your way. Mentors connect mentees with their established professional network, which means having a mentor could be your ticket directly into prestigious, difficult-to-reach positions. The vast majority of available jobs are filled through networking, so having a mentor is a tactical career maneuver that can put you ahead.

Be (Pro)Active

You can’t expect the perfect jobs to fall into your lap. You need to be on the lookout for openings at your ideal employers, so you can submit your applications well before the positions are filled. When you are waiting to hear back from a potential employer, you should avoid being passive; by calling or visiting the hiring manager, you’ll but your name at the front of their mind. Remember to follow up with interviews, too.

Volunteer, Constantly

This doesn’t mean devote your time to charitable causes — though you might do that, too, to pad your resume. Rather, you should volunteer at work for as many projects and tasks as you can conceivably take on. By doing this, you will show your eagerness to engage with the company, potentially setting you up for raises and promotions. Additionally, this allows you to gain more experience faster, increasing your knowledge and skill for future positions.

Take Big Risks

If you are unwilling to take risks in your career, you should resign yourself to a life of mediocrity and middling pay. To excel in your career, you will likely need to relocate more than once, enter into industries and fields you aren’t exactly familiar with and meet and engage many hundreds of people. Success is only achieved through risk, so you need to get over any risk-related fears before you succeed.


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