[HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL]
Forget the notions that all is fair in Corporate World and learn the tips and tricks that get
you noticed and promoted quickly.
How to Climb the Corporate Ladder
There were many days when I sat in an office and just wondered would it ever
happen. Would I ever get that important promostion that would get my foot on the
corporate ladder? I looked at many people around me, who I knew deep inside had
certainly less ambition than me, and without in anyway sounding snobbish had less
intelligence than me.
What had they done that I couldn’t work out? This article will tell you how I went
from a standard engineer to Head of Sales for Major Corporation in the United
Kingdom within 4 years. There was no instant overnight success and there was
actually no secret at all. I know now but was completely blinded back then by
something that blocked my path, and would have done for another lot of years had it
not been for a few words from a close friend.
Bear with me as I give you a little background before showing you what made the
difference for me. My seven steps for success are on the last page but I would
recommend reading through this first as it eill help inform your decisions. I started
off in the company as an apprentice and in those younger days our careers were
almost mapped out for us. We would attend training courses, go back to university
and interlink both of these activities by an overall grounding in the
Sixteen of us started on the same day, and at the end of our 3-year term as an
apprentice, fourteen of us remained with one dropping out and the other moving to a
different country. We had all qualified and I can tell you there was one heck of a
party on the last day.
From there we were all dispersed to different work streams within the corporation.
The typical plan that had been laid out was that we would move from an apprentice
grade to the lowest engineering grade available and with our background and
knowledge we would work our way up to the highest grade of engineer and eventually
management. The hideous timescale to reach a management grade would be at least
ten years and back then that would be considered a fast track approach.
None of us set our sights much higher that the highest engineering grade and out of
around 4,000 employees only 250-300 were at this grade so we considered this to be
ambitious. The actual reality of the situation only came to realisation when it became
more than apparent that promotions were done more by length of service than on any
individual ability. For someone young and ambitious that was not good news and at
the same time it also posed a huge dilemma. The actual job I was doing was
interesting, rewarding and of value to customers. In addition to this the actual salary
for the work I was doing was very good as were the general terms and conditions.
I was convinced that should I give this up, it would be hard to find a replacement job
that was either as lucrative or as rewarding. This was also the time of the Thatcher
years in the United Kingdom so unemployment was high and the risk of not finding a
job overwhelmed any desire I had to gain a quick promotion.
I remained in this position for around ten years and like all my colleagues none of us
even moved to the next grade, never mind the top engineering grade. In the eleventh
year two of our apprentice year got a promotion, and believe it or not because we
started on the same day the promotions were then decided by alphabetical order. That
just made me so angry at the time and I went into a real distressed situation. A “B”
and a “D” had been promoted and I was an “M”. There were at least seven other
people in front of me and unless a miracle happened it would be another ten years
before anyone would get promoted again. That was a pretty depressing moment.
The interesting thing here is that every other apprentice also stayed and some fifteen
years later we were all still there and all still at the same low grade although again it
was a well paid role. However for me that was no longer enough and I started to get
itchy feet. By this stage I was married with a young family and I had already started
to build up a nice pension. You may have heard of a business term called the golden
handcuffs and this was the start of my journey towards those.
All they simply mean is that you are approaching a stage in your career, twenty years
later when you are in a good job, with a family to look after and a nice pension
building. The opportunity to leave was close to no longer being an option and the
handcuffs were on though not tightened.
The First Big Decision
A single opportunity came up as the company was looking for clerical sale’s staff and
looking to downsize the number of engineers. I checked with my other colleagues
and none of them were interesting citing various reasons for their decision. They
liked the freedom of the van out on the road, they didn’t want to do a sale’s job, it was
too risky and many others. For me the risk was none of those but I wasn’t sure if I
could cope with the migration indoors and being seated at an office desk all day long.
The final decision which helped me make my mind up was when working outside one
December a huge lump of ice fell down the back of my neck. That was it for me as I
knew then I was getting too old for all the physical work and I applied to move
internally to the sale’s role. I did my first interview in twenty years and actually got
the job. I will never forget the first day in the office environment in a large corporate
organisation. Outside you were isolated from the whole corporate thing as mostly you
just worked away on your own.
Then suddenly I was immersed in the whole corporate structure and language at a
time when political correctness was raising its head. I was pretty sure I would not
survive this working climate and thought I had made a huge mistake. The only thing
that kept me sane was being sent on a twelve week training course and so I escaped
briefly from corporate town.
The next few months I was kept busy by implementing the learning I had taken but
the whole office thing was a huge struggle for me. It was tough enough having to be
desk bound but the whole internal politics and constant analysis of the many key
performance indicators would drive anyone crazy.
Despite all of this I noticed something I had never seen before. Promotion seemed to
be a lot easier and was actually based on ability and not being the most senior person.
That intrigued me and one day out of the blue I was approached by one of the people
who had trained me and informed me that a manager wanted to speak with me about
doing something for him.
My previous background in engineering and my understanding of the end to end
sale’s process was of value to him and he wanted me to work on a project for him. It
was probably one of the most interesting things that I had ever done and was also very
good for raising my own profile. This was probably the first time I discovered what
the “secret” actually was. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that you need to
have some ability or particular skill, but after that it is all about networking.
Suddenly I was speaking on a daily basis with managers as they discovered the
project I was working on which was about the cost of poor quality. The more I
explained it to them, and then the more they wanted associated with it. I was learning
very fast as so many seemed suddenly very keen to jump on the proverbial band
wagon. That was one lesson I stored away for a rainy day.
I moved from one project to another and I did deliver some impressive results along
the way. This type of work had got me noticed and also the manager who had
engaged me initially had formed a great working relationship with me. We became
great friends and are now golfing buddies but it was him that taught me all about
corporate world and how to move quickly up the chain.
My grade when I moved over was of a similar pay scale to the one I had left as an
engineer, so financially I was no worse off. In addition to this however overtime was
plentiful, and I also made sale’s commission from time to time and I was doing work
that I thoroughly enjoyed. Life at that moment was pretty good and I would have
settled for that, which would of course have been a huge mistake.
I had realised quickly that most, but not all, of the managers were actually nothing
exceptional yet they had moved up the ladder. That caused me a bit of head
scratching at the time and once again it was the manager who had brought me in to do
the projects who set me on my way. He told me in very clear terms that my ability
was high but that I needed to learn to play the game. At first I wasn’t sure exactly
what that meant but it didn’t take me long to work it out.
Only a few months later I applied for a new role and got promoted to a training
position. I can’t tell you how good that felt having waited so many years. What made
that even better was the fact that the new role was yet again a very satisfying job to
come into every day. I had also realised that it was important to understand the
interview techniques that were being used and how to make sure you had all the right
answers. Once again it would have been a very easy option to sit back and just enjoy
the new role and the extra money. However now that I had the taste for promotion I
was still very hungry.
Climbing the Coporate Ladder
I remained in the training role for around a year and I have to admit I enjoyed it a lot.
I did however keep a close eye on any other jobs that were being advertised and one
day I noticed a training manager role. Before I would not have applied for this
believing I was not qualified, but with my new background I thought I would give it a
go. I went back over my interview techniques and applied. I have to be very honest
and tell you that I was surprised when I was informed I had been successful. It also
taught me a sharp lesson and a simple one that if you are not in then you can’t win.
This was my first step on the managerial corporate ladder and although a very junior
management position, it was a start and I had done this all within the space of a year
since I moved across from the engineering side. There were actualy times when I
thought it was all a bit too easy and something was going to go wrong. It is very
strange how easy it is to allow self doubt to come in so please never make that
After a year of doing that I then transferred across to broaden my experience by doing
a service operational role and managing a service team. That was all about widening
the management portfolio and after that I started to look around again. A higher
management post was advertised but this time within Marketing. As part of my own
self development I had attended various courses and marketing had always been an
interest to me. This was the next step up the management ladder so I mad my
application and was unsuccessful. That was my first set back and I was confused
because I had done in my opinion a very good interview.
The element I had not realised was that being good at interviews was no longer
enough and having great ability was not enough either. In corporate world and to
move to higher levels in management I had missed out the obvious thing –
networking. Where other caniddates had visited the marketing department and got to
know a few of the people I had remained isolated believing that my track record,
ability and interview skills would be enough to get me through. Let me tell you now,
nothing could have been further from the truth.
Climbing the Corporate Ladder – The Next Level
This was a different level and required a new approach. There is no question that you
do need to have a good track record and that you do need to have your interview skills
in top condition, but to move to the next level was so much more than that. My goog
friend and now mentor explained it rather easily. This is now about what you know
but all about who you know. I had not known a single person who was either doing
the interviews or who worked in that department.
I soon resolved that issue and went about developing realationships with various
different departments. No longer did I stand around with existing colleagues at the
end of management conferences, preferring instead to meet new people and find out
what they were doing. This proved to be a great tactic and is something I still do
today. I cannot stress enough how imprtant it is to do that.
A few months’ later two positions were being advertised in the same marketing
department and I was successful in obtaining one of those. When in that post I
continued to do what would be considered high profile work and also to network
constantly. I found that by asking people’s opinions and engaging them they were
very willing to help and it opened up many new doors.
I also continued to extend my width of knowledge by involving myself in projects
outside my normal marketing role. Width of experience is vital to allow you to meet
key job application ciriteria and volunteering for work that gives you this experience
is very important indeed.
The next role I applied for was a senior management position with bonus and
company car perks so I was keen to get there quickly. Again after a year in the
marketing role a new and challenging role was advertised in channel management. I
networked with the people involved, got my head around what would be expected and
came up with a plan to deliver that if asked at the interview. This proved to be the
clinching winning strategy for me. Whereas before all the interviews had been
primarily based on achievements and working examples of success, this interview had
also included a “What would you do” aspect.
Thankfully I had thought that through in tremendous detail and the promostion, the
company car, private medical health care, car parking space and bonus were now
mine. I have never forgotten the day I got my company car and drove it into my
reserved car parking space. I felt like I had just won the lottery. In just under three
years my wages had doubled from the time I was an engineer and I had not finished
With reference back now to my other fellow apprentices, one did eventually get
promoted to a junior management role many years later. Two people left the business
and made their careers elsewhere and sadly the remainder are still engineers at the
same grade as when they started.
I won’t bore you with the details but I was promoted twice again in two years and
now lead our sale’s organisation. The principles used to get there were exactly the
same. I have now captured below what I believe are the seven key things you need to
do if you want to climb the corporate ladder quickly and with success.
1. Always be prepared to change, embrace change and don’t avoid it as that
is how business is today.
2. Do not become invaluable in your own job as this is a major drawback.
You can be very good at your job but do not empire build to secure your
job or you will be stuck there or replaced by automation.
3. Learn, understand and revise your interview techniques every month.
4. At the lower levels of promotion you need a good track record and good
5. Learn how to diversify and broaden your skills base.
6. At the middle level you need the above and a whole lot of networking.
7. At the senior level it is 100% networking as it is all about who you know.
I hope this has helped those of you who are considering moving up the corporate
ladder. I found this programme was the best way to achieve quick success so why not
try Corporate Success.