What Your Boss or HR Won’t Tell You … Moving Up the Corporate Ladder

What your boss or HR won’t tell you … moving up the corporate ladder

Look, by now I’m sure you’ve read a lot about moving up in a company. You’ve heard "Dress for success." You know to be the first in the office and the last to leave. You keep track of your accomplishments and do all the other “no shit” stuff. That is great, do it! I’m going to propose a few twists and other ideas — real world stuff that your boss or HR probably won’t tell you.

Be a team player, but stand out from the crowd

Of course you should be a team player. That’s part of being a good colleague and an excellent leadership quality. But, when you’re in a room full of super successful people so how the hell do you stand out?

Everyone in your company or at the recruiting event wants the same thing. To land that great job. Move up the corporate ladder and move fast!

You need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. When you finally meet the person responsible for giving you a shot, you better stand out! You NEED them to remember YOU — not the other 20 people they just met before your introduction.

When I first started at GE, I put my head down and worked my ass off. I helped my teammates, landed some big deals, and flat out executed. My goal was to stand out with my performance, and I was on my way!

The only problem ... nobody at the top knew who I was. My boss knew and loved my performance. As for our team's leader ... no freaking clue. In fact, during one of my presentations, he asked his right-hand man who I was. I’d been on the team over a year.

Why? How can this happen? I put my head down and executed, but didn't find a way to stand out from the crowd. Just like me, my teammates all performed and were successful.

After reading "Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't" by Jeffrey Pfeffer I found a way to stand out. I recommend reading this book to anyone entering the corporate world. I'll give you some tips below, but you’ll need your own way to stand out.

Get in shape

I’m sorry. This might piss a few people off, and I agree 100% with those people. For me, it’s all about performance. What you do and how you do it! So it sucks, but there's evidence that getting in shape helps your career. It should have nothing to do with performance or promotions. But, if anyone tells you this isn’t true, they are lying or naïve. People judge. It’s a sad and simple fact. Here's a Business Insider article on the topic, "Attractive People Are Simply More Successful."

As an example Daniel Hamermesh found:

· Attractive people, both men, and women, earn an average of 3% or 4% more than people with below average looks

You can find his book on Amazon, “Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful”

Working out and getting into shape has benefits outside of income

So take the advice to dress for success, but also get into shape. Studies show that as you get into shape, your self-confidence increases. Exercise is also a way to relieve stress, decompress, gather thoughts, etc. These are all facts. Shoot, you can even learn new skills or expand your knowledge while exercising. Find a book on tape or podcast. Learn as you get in shape.

You don’t have to go crazy. Take small steps. Stop drinking sugar filled crap, eat a little healthier / smaller portions, and take daily walks for 30 minutes. It's a journey, not a sprint. Please consult with a physician first though.

Lead teams outside of work

I'm sure you already know this one, but it’s worth a short mention. Leading teams outside of work will help to develop management/leadership skills. Find a local charity, non-profit, or professional organization. Volunteer to lead teams, projects, or be on the board. Discuss what you are learning, where you are failing, and where succeeding with your network. Let everyone know you are taking on extra responsibilities to develop as a leader.

Become an expert at something everyone hates, find a better way to do it, and then teach others

We all have processes, tasks, or other things that suck but have get done. Nobody wants to do it because it’s broken, archaic, or complex. This is your opportunity.

First, become the expert. Learn everything you can about the current process. Then, find a better, faster, or simplified way to do the same process. You become the expert and solution to the problem. Last, teach others to do it.

Network like hell

You’re only as good as your network. As you move up an organization, your network becomes your most important asset. It's the age old saying ... "it's often not what you know but who you know." It's not just someone giving you a chance because they know you.

Did you know that people also get promoted because of the value of their total network? Think about the term "value." Your network has a perceived value to others.

A long time ago I knew someone that wasn't the best executing or planning anything. I’m being nice saying that. Yet, this person moved into a high-level role within a company. If you needed anything and I mean anything, this person could find ten people to get it done. Or, someone that has the information, data, and resources you need. In this case, network value outweighed personal performance. Your goal should be to exceed at both performance and networking.

Understand corporate politics including credits and debits

As much as we hate it, corporate politics is a living and breathing beast. I'm not talking about brown-nosing. You might find it shocking, but there's a form of corporate politics that's a system of credits and debits. These credits and debits are political currency. It’s a simple concept to understand, but executing is a different story. When you go out of your way to do something for someone … you receive a credit. When you need something from that person, it's a debit.

Skilled corporate politicians build a lot of credits from high-level or strategic contacts. The higher up the corporate ladder or, the more strategic a person is … the more value a credit carries. I’ve seen this in action. It's incredible how well it works.

Be cautious though. This type of corporate politics can be dangerous. Execution is key. At first, you have to figure out how to do this without the other person knowing.

Learn to communicate

You’ve heard this one as well. But, I can't emphasize it enough. I’ve worked with 100s of executives and mid-level managers all over the world. All were good are their job. The single skill that separated good from great … communication.

Can they present a clear and concise message? Can they think on their feet? Do they answer the question first, and then provide background? Do they pause and allow for comment versus puking the presentation?

Learn to understand the audience. Provide the information they need, not the information you want them to hear. Communication is an asset and requires an investment of time, money, and/or resources. Practice your communication skills. Work with a colleague or join Toastmasters.

Solve problems and remove roadblocks on your own

So you have a problem, challenge, or roadblock. Don’t go to your boss with every possible reason or excuse why you can’t get something done. Solve it yourself. Learn to diagnose the root cause and attempt to fix it. If you fail the first time, learn, and try an alternative solution.

If for some reason you cannot solve it on your own, then at the least propose several solutions to your boss. Don't worry if the solutions are wrong. Don't bother if he/she doesn’t agree with them. Your boss will appreciate the fact that you proposed solutions and not just excuses.

This scenario would go something like this: Boss, we have a problem. The problem is 1, 2, and 3. I’ve tried X, Y, and Z. All have failed. This is what I’ve learned. My next thought would be to try A, B, or C. What are your thoughts?

I hope this helps. If you’d like to discuss more, feel free to reach out.


Stewart Swayze


Hi. I’m Stewart Swayze, I’m a Career Transition and Marketing Coach for Entrepreneurs. I release new videos every week on those topics. If your interested in developing your career or marketing your business, view my YouTube Channel below.