Professional Development

Properly navigating the corporate ladder

Written by Guest Contributor

When people settle into a career that they love, most do so with goals in mind. They hope they will get promotions, raises, recognition, more responsibilities, etc. The problem? Every single person in your office wants those same things, and only some of you can have them.

Mastering the art of career mobility takes hard work, wisdom, and planning. In this article, we take a look at what you need to do to properly navigate the corporate ladder.

Start with a plan

Career mobility without a real plan is really just a series of happy accidents. You may still get promotions, but they may not align with your ultimate career goals. Now that you’ve decided you want to scale the corporate ladder, it’s time to start thinking about what that means.

Consider outlining how you want your career to go. Make a list of promotions you hope to get and explore what you think you need to accomplish to make those promotions happen.

Why is this important? It provides you with a list of goals that you can work towards regularly. Instead of simply working hard and hoping for the best, you can work smart, in a way that emphasizes qualities that are well suited for the future responsibilities that you hope to get.

Note the company’s goals

As you list out your own goals, it is also wise to take a comprehensive view of what the company is trying to accomplish. This might in part be financial. However, you should also consider their culture and brand identity.

Companies that are trying to establish a specific image for themselves generally favor employees that fit within that image. This is where personal branding can come in handy. While it’s not wise or ethical to create a contrived personal brand, you may find corporate mobility easier if you can highlight aspects of yourself that naturally align with the image your employer is trying to create.

Take initiative

To be considered for senior positions, you will need to demonstrate leadership qualities. To do this, you can’t sit around waiting for juicy projects and opportunities to shine. Instead, take initiative. Suggest courses of action that will be beneficial to the business. Volunteer for responsibilities.

Have an opinion and know how to express it in a way that is at once respectful and confident. Executing other people’s ideas will earn you respect and appreciation. Learning how to create and nurture your own will land you promotions.

Be a team player

Vying for promotions isn’t about hogging all the glory. Your work should stand out, but because you do it well, not because you steamroll your coworkers. Remember that collaboration is a key element of management and executive-level business.

If you want to be seen as someone who will be playing a vital role at the higher rungs of the corporate ladder, make sure you play well with others. Work hard, but also make sure you highlight other people’s efforts and give them a chance to shine for their accomplishments.


Networking is tricky because it is both abstract and uncertain. There are ways to do it that might work in your favor, and ways that probably won’t. Social clubs, MBA programs, and conferences are great places to meet and befriend people who could potentially connect you with new opportunities.

For networking to be successful, it should be at least partially organic. Don’t try to befriend every executive you meet. Chances are, they’ve seen this behavior before, and they don’t care for it. Instead, be a friendly, confident presence in every professional situation that you enter.

About the Author:
Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups and Fortune 500 companies in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and is currently writing a book about scaling up businesses.

About the author

Guest Contributor