7 Secrets to Climb the Career Ladder Faster

Last Updated Sep 14, 2010 9:19 AM EDT

Among the many stereotypes about Gen Y is the belief that they're not willing to pay their dues and put in years of grunt work to inch themselves up the career ladder. And for once maybe a generalization is correct. But it doesn't just apply to Gen Y. Who wants to grind away at a job making slow, incremental progress to advance their career? Is it possible to manage your work life to better the odds of a quick ascent?

Yes, says career coach Andy Robinson. By being canny (but not ruthless or soulless), Robinson argues that the young and ambitious can climb the career ladder in double time. He offers seven suggestions:

  • Differentiate yourself. To get noticed, you need to stand out of the crowd. One easy way of doing it is to acquire context. Start networking as soon as possible, especially outside of your company. One sure way to stand out from the competition in your current job is to have context awareness. If you know what's going on in the industry you'll have an edge: extra information.
  • Be a firefighter. When someone needs a hand in a different unit or department, be the first one to volunteer. Helping others will not only bring recognition as a team player but you'll also get to know how business is done in the other areas, the people who work there and it will turn you into a familiar face wherever you go. The day you get to the interview for that promotion you applied for, the hiring managers will most likely know who you are, because you've helped them before.
  • Bump others before you bump yourself up. Some people go to work with a chainsaw in their briefcases. Their goal is to saw the floor away from whoever is above or next to them in order to get their jobs or prevent them from getting that management position they've been craving for. It may work but it's a very short sighted strategy. You'll make quite a few enemies and trust me, people will find out how you got there. Instead, try the opposite. Make every possible effort to make your boss or the guy in the cubicle next to you successful in his or her job.
  • Don't neglect good timing. The reason I got my first (double) promotion after ten months at my current company wasn't only because I did my job (and a bit more) but because I got there nine months before the supervisor of the unit left. That gave me enough time to learn my job and make myself known as a valuable asset to the team. When the guy quit, I was already lining up for an interview. Assess your environment and pinpoint possible growth opportunities as soon as you land on your new job and plan ahead. As soon as you know where you'll be aiming, try to learn as much from that position as possible.
  • Speaking about the 9th ninth month... The perfect time to start looking for growth opportunities is during the ninth month, since you'll be at your productivity peak in your current position and you won't be burned out from it (unless you love what you are already doing)
  • Avoid dead ends. Be smart. A sidestep is not a bad move if there's no movement above you in your current job. Even though you won't be moving up, you'll have the opportunity to widen your skill set, get to know more people (connections) and get some fresh air in a new working environment. If you hit a dead en in your company, start looking outside. But don't stagnate.
  • Play chess. This may sound Machiavellian, but sailing through the corporate world is all about strategy. Turn your job into a chess board. Every move you make has too be well thought, considering the pros and cons of your actions, since they will resonate across the company.
Do you agree with the strategy of looking for a new opportunity after just nine months at a job, or is this a recipe for job hopping and shallow knowledge?

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user radiant guy, CC 2.0)

  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.