Career Climbers: Don’t Expect an Escalator Ride to the Top

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The days of riding to the top with perfunctory performance and a little schmoozing are long gone. Today, the climb upward is a highly competitive step by careful step process. In this day of layoffs and corporate downsizing, your climb up the career ladder may involve a long pause or even a step down before you can resume your climb.

Work the Climb

Advancing in today’s workplace isn’t like moving up in the military. It takes more than time in grade to get to the next level. You’ve got to perform to earn every step up. Too many recent college graduates think that once they ‘ve landed a job, they just need to stick to the job description to keep moving up. Not so. Today, hiring a relatively inexperienced worker is a calculated risk, one that assumes the individual will not only work the job but bring in revenue and improve the cost efficiency of the organization. Basic skills to do the job and getting along with peers and bosses are a given. As many company brochures proudly proclaim, people are their most valuable resource. In the past this was merely a slogan. In today’s hyper competitive economy, it’s an undeniable truth. In Human Capital: What It Is and Why People Invest It, human resource consultant Thomas O. Davenport notes that for companies to succeed in today’s marketplace, they must create and deliver the best return on their human capital investment. Workers and employers must share a mutually beneficial bond. In this way performance and improving the employers’ profitability is the only job metric for job security and advancement.

Think a Step Ahead of Your Reach

International career coach, Roshni Kumar notes the importance of planning every step of your career. Yet most career minded individuals fail to do just that. She points out that most employees fear introspection when it comes to their careers because, to many, it can seem too intimidating. Don't panic or become blindsided by today’s unemployment stats and apply for just any job. Use some long-term vision and focus your efforts to make sure each step up is right for you.

Don’t Let Others’ Rapid Climb Intimidate You

Every company has its “golden haired boys.” They climb the ladder quickly, often skipping a rung. Be it favoritism, nepotism, drinking buddy or relative sponsor, they will rise faster than you. It happens.  A survey by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business revealed that 92% of senior business executives have witnessed favoritism in employee promotions. Don’t get discouraged or intimidated. Keep the pressure on and stay focused. Develop your unique brand by taking on projects and completing them in a way no one else does.

Brace Yourself for a Fall

If you’re a recent grad or have only a few years experience under your belt, you’re vulnerable to the LIFO (Last In, First Out) system of layoffs and retention. You need to keep reminding yourself that no matter how much of a bang up job you do, you can get laid off in this economy. And unless you’re a vested VP or CEO, you’ll be stuck with a departing parachute that consists of a cardboard packing box and a sayonara lunch at Denny’s. So pack your own parachute. Build and maintain a network of working peers at other companies. Keep them abreast of your progress, talents and goals. Check out J.T. O'Donnell’s 3 Steps to Prepare for a Layoff video for some additional advice on prepping for a layoff.

Eager to move up? Don’t expect an escalator ride to the top. Step up, one calculated step at a time and prepare for a fall.


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