Embracing corporate America: Climbing the ladder

With mid-year reviews approaching, how excited are you to complete assessments for yourself and peers? And does an engagement survey make you happier than a pig in…. Hey, I see your eyes rolling! Early in my career, I waited for a promotion in a small company with no review structure, spending a years of valuable time being patient. I weathered the recession, taking on responsibilities due to downsizing, and waiting to be rewarded. I was taught by my parents, good things come to those who wait. This concept is dated and flawed in the current workforce environment. Don’t wait for someone to give you a promotion, persistently plan for your next role.

While the masses go through the motions when it comes to performance evaluation exercises, I take them as an opportunity to level-set with leadership. In my experience, it’s one of the most important aspects to ensure your career is accelerating. While I don’t have a fancy title (yet), in my current organization I perform in the top percentile of peers and have been recognized with marketing excellence awards for every year of my tenure. Here’s my approach to embracing this aspect of corporate America.

Transparency in the good, the bad, and the ugly
The greatest lesson I learned working in a Fortune 100 company is owning your weakness as much as your strength. I mean really owning it and not just directly with your manager or during review periods. Be poised enough in your strengths and confident in the assets that you bring to your team to be open about your expertise with your peers and where those same team members can help you grow and learn. The humility in this approach not only builds bonds with your colleagues, it provides a transparent platform for development. Also, collaborate with your leader on which competencies are most vital for you to ripen. This collaboration requires a continuous give and take, requesting support, resources, and responsibilities to drive your growth. Communicating your needs in this way enables trust and allows a mentorship to form between you and your leader.

Persistently planning
I learned the hard way, it’s rare for companies to give promotions just for hard work and time-in, especially post-recession. Moving forward in your career is a result of strategic preparation. Proactively planning what you want your next role to be and persistently developing the skills to needed to move into this role is critical to climb a corporate ladder. As you take on new responsibilities, make sure these align with your career path.

Give a focused timetable
The mid-year review is the opportunity to digest feedback from your leader on where you stand in your current role and to have an open dialogue about your plan if you haven’t done so already. But this approach won’t result in immediate gratification and will require you give and meet goals that demonstrate the resources provided to you will yield value. Take 1 or 2 of areas that need improvement and set a goal-state against each before your next review. Document the progress over this period and at your year-end review, you will have concrete examples showing that value; rinse and repeat. As you build-out skills, you can then present to your leader a timetable of when you believe you will be ready for your next challenge. Your leader now has the documentation to start advocating for promotion in your current team or recommend you for an open role on another team.

When to hold, when to fold
If your manager is not being responsive to this approach or if you feel that individual is not advocating for you as you grow, before jumping ship to another organization, consider seeking mentors within your organization. While a mentor may be removed from your review process, that person can provide guidance on how to manage up. Each rung of the corporate ladder you climb, the expectations increase to successfully navigate difficult situations. Use this type of situation as a growth opportunity to influence your manager to partner with you, so you can both grow. If you are unsuccessful, do what is best for your career. If that requires moving onto another company, given your already established plan, you should know exactly the role to look for. This also stands if you reach all your goal states and you surpass your timetable. Look elsewhere for your next role. Being transparent through this process and exploring all options allows you to stand tall in you’re career path without acting like your simply entitled to that promotion.

Climbing a corporate ladder requires certain level of confidence to be responsive to feedback. Being self aware of both strengths and weaknesses protects you from internalizing any criticism. Owning criticism demonstrates your maturity as a professional and can shine a brighter light on your strengths because you’ve been transparent and humble about your development plan. As you are executing your plan, keep your foot on the pedal, but absorb advice from peers, leaders, and mentors. Make unemotional decisions in the best interest of your career path, not for short-term gratification. The review process may feel mundane and take time away from actually doing your job, but take advantage of this built-in structure to work in your favor.

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