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How to hack the corporate ladder: a 6-step guide

Written by
Rose Smith
Published on
February 23, 2023

To many, corporations offer an exciting career experiences and benefits such as access to formal training for career development and growth, opportunities to take part in large-scale projects, and better job security. Femme Palette recently organized a mentor-style webinar on how to be successful in a corporate career run by Radka Lang. During the webinar, many insightful tips were shared on the topics of the corporation structure, shared ways of working, and networking and PR, so we put together a 6-step guide to achieve success in the corporate world.

1. Be open-minded

Today, growth does not only have to be linear. Radka began her webinar by debunking the notion of a career as a ladder with a quote from Sheryl Sandberg: “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” Reflect on how you can use the skills you already have or acquire the skillset you need to achieve your professional goal. Have meaningful conversations with your manager about the best development plan for you. 

2. Understand the Corporation

Take your time to understand your corporation and its operating environment properly. Working in a corporation means being part of a large ecosystem with a complex organisational structure. A corporation has multiple stakeholders, shareholders, divisions, and markets with complex processes. To be successful, it is crucial to not only master your area but also understand the entire ecosystem (both the formal and informal organisational chart) and how you can play an integral role in the organisation. Navigating through the structure is essential to career success because it allows you to identify the decision-makers, how the different stakeholders interact, and how you can add value to the system and get recognised. 

Moreover, understanding the corporate structure also helps you understand your industry. When you choose a company, you are also choosing the system of the industry it belongs to because regardless of which corporation you work for, if they are in the same industry, you will most likely repeat the same patterns and systems. Ultimately, it is all about finding your passion and the right sector for you, which will give you the long-term motivation to succeed in your career.

3. Know the “spirit” of the organisation

Companies operate on a philosophy reflected in their “shared ways of working.” Having shared ways of working ensures that all the employees are on the same page without the need to micromanage the employees. People can deliver more autonomously and work in teams without creating unnecessary function-related barriers. 

It is essential to ask yourself: Is the company’s philosophy in line with my personal values? If the company operates on a philosophy that contradicts your values, you will be working in an environment that will eventually be detrimental to your personal and professional development. If the company shares the same values as you, you will have a better chance to be a role model, which is essential for your future.

4. Invest time in PR and networking

The corporation, as a complex structure, creates various functions and networks. Networking creates value for employees and companies by increasing cross-functional collaboration. It is essential to share your work, projects, and successes and know what others are working on. By having these networks, you become a better advocate for your projects because you may meet someone from a different team or region who can provide particular guidance or resources you may need. 

It is also important to network not only within your company but also within your industry, and beyond. While interacting with competitors, it is always essential to remain diplomatic and maintain good relations with them because being fiercely competitive may become a liability in the future. Working on your reputation on professional platforms such as LinkedIn and exploring speaking and engagement options are also essential in boosting your corporate career. In line with these tips, Radka quotes Mrs Moneypenny’s career advice: “Every woman should spend 5% of her time doing her own PR.”

5. Have a development plan

Having a development plan is important to get a promotion and a raise. If you don’t have a development plan, approach your line manager. This will allow you to track your progress towards your career goal, such as your yearly KPIs, and prove your achievements and eligibility for a role you want to have in your company. It will also help you sell the skills you already have or identify the skills you need to acquire to get a promotion or raise.

6. Proactively Ask for Feedback

This is not something many people do. It is very valuable to ask for feedback from your manager and your team members. The more uncomfortable you feel, the more you have to do it. While this may not always be pleasant, catching your mistakes early on is better than making the same mistakes over and over again.

You can watch the event recording if you’d like to see the whole webinar with Radka! Would you like to receive invitations to events like this one? Join the Femme Palette community, and we’ll keep you posted on what’s happening!

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