he corporate world is often perceived as a ruthless jungle eliminating the weak and frail and promoting the bold and courageous. This is particularly true for new employees and even more so for new and relatively young employees who will still be grappling with making solid career decisions. This is primarily because when one is exposed to a new corporate environment there’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm that accompanies joining a new organization. However after a while as one goes through the rigours of work, the overtimes, the nose-poking boss, naturally the excitement begins to wane and pertinent questions such as room for personal and professional growth and what promotion prospects exist begin to emanate. In this article I will share with you some key nuggets which I believe if carefully and consistently applied can propel you up the corporate ladder faster than your colleagues and position you on a continued upward growth spiral.
First things first
Be the best at what you do
Increase your social capital
Maintain a positive attitude
1. First things First
The late Dr Covey in his book, The 7 habits of highly effective people described the concept of prioritizing your tasks and putting first things first as the most important habit of successful people. Successful people know how to prioritize their tasks and they are endowed with the wisdom to separate the important from the urgent. When you’re in a corporate environment and particularly at the lower echelons of the organization it is important that you master the art of putting first things first or simply doing the things which your immediate boss requires of you.
When you’re at work you will always have something to do, always have meetings, always have urgent things cropping up and unless you’re wise enough to distinguish the urgent from the important you’re setting up yourself for a disappointment. First things first implies that you direct your energies towards urgent and important tasks ahead of important but not urgent stuff. This is a critical skill which needs to be mastered because we are judged according to what we are paid to do, “what gets done gets measured simple”. To improve yourself in this area one needs to develop the ability to be ruthless and reject unnecessary calls, unnecessary meetings which are bent on stealing your time. If you learn to focus on what’s key you exponentially increase your chances of rising up faster.
If you’re going to succeed and position yourself for corporate ascension then you need to put first things first even it means disappointing others. This won’t be a stroll in the park but you need to be bold and not afraid to make difficult decisions.
2. Be the best at what you do
I strongly believe if you become the best at what you do, you naturally create job security for yourself by becoming indispensable. Becoming the best at what you do is not easy and they are no shortcuts to it, it requires hard work, diligence as you hone in your skills. In your quest to be the best, it might be necessary to invest in education to upskill yourself. Do a masters, a professional course and network with other professionals and you will be amazed at how that can help you become a better professional. It is amazing that one is an engineer yet they are not a member of the Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers, whatever profession you’ve register and become a member and create networks with likeminded professionals.
Another route you can embark on is to expose yourself to new information through continuous reading. Brian Tracy in his Excellent Manager series noted that if you can read a page a day on something that directly relates your career you can double your current income within 2 years. Leaders are readers it’s as simple as that and there’s no way you can increase your net worth without investing in education to add value to yourself. Education is not confined to attaining a professional certificate or degree but it’s a learning attitude, it can be as simple as reading articles online about your line of work or career.
In this information age, we are inundated with articles, white papers, presentations and numerous downloads available for you to assimilate and improve your professional net worth. This is an achievable feat because of websites like Google, YouTube, Slideshare where you can practically get anything you want on any subject matter. Someone once said we paid for what we know so what are you waiting for? Work Hard, Think Smart and Act Fast!
3. Increase your social capital
Social capital simply entails your ability to relate well with others. One of the most powerful tools one can ever use to propel yourself is to just be good with people, knowing what to say, how to say and when to say something adds that little extra bit. I have always believed that knowing when to say something is equally important as knowing what to say. Surprisingly most people are devoid of such an important skill, they are judgemental, critical and introverted. Andrew Carnegie in his book How to Win friends and Influence People notes that people want appreciation and everyone feeds of it.
Just a little good morning, an extra compliment and you would be surprised at how much social capital you can accumulate. Learn not to criticize or to attack others, and desist from being obsessed with winning an argument or conversation. Increase your social net worth by learning to communicate well, your Comm Skills 101. Communication is central to everything in the corporate environment, it depicts your leadership potential, it depicts your ability to get along with others and mastering this skill is of utmost importance.
If you know you’re challenged in this area I employ you to invest time in honing this important attribute of successful people, the way you communicate in emails, the way you present, how you sell yourself to prospective employers are all the basic tenets of communication and they determine how fast you rise up the corporate ladder.
To simplify this, people are emotional beings, they need their emotions to be fed, their egos to be nourished, if you attack they will fight back, they want to feel important and these are things you can apply that can instantly increase your chances of ascending faster. I’m not saying bribe your way into being promoted but if you master your social skills you stand a better chance.
4. Maintain positive attitude
People bring various skills and abilities to the workplace table, some are extremely talented in their area of specialization, some are naturally good and not all of us are endowed with these natural abilities. However one of the key discriminator you can carve for yourself is good attitude. Good attitude is simply the ability to maintain positivity and optimism even in the face of debilitating circumstances. It is the will to remain positive and hope for the best in every situation.
As the old adage goes “your attitude determines your altitude”, there seems to be a direct relationship between one’s attitude and corporate altitude. You might be the best at what you do, brilliant in executing tasks but if you carry a bad attitude no matter where your skills take you, your downfall is a matter of when and not if. Executives whilst they look for talented people, they are equally looking for employees with a great attitude for good leadership is synonymous with good attitude. Improve your attitude by learning to ask questions and to develop a culture of learning from others.
In a corporate environment it’s not every time you will get it right, sometimes you will miss deadlines and your boss will shout at you and candidly criticize you. These are realities you have to learn to live with and accept as normal part of corporate life, but it’s what you do and how you respond that determines how far you go.
If you’re reprimanded accept it politely and challenge yourself to do better. Winners don’t sulk, but they ruthlessly criticize themselves in an effort to become better and this should always be our attitude.