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The CEO’s Secret To Moving Up the Corporate Career Ladder

The CEO’s Secret To Moving Up the Corporate Career Ladder

Let’s face it, many try to climb the career ladder, but few succeed.

    As the CEO of Lifehack, I’ve seen a lot of employees trying to rise higher in their career, but unfortunately, the majority of them fail.

      What causes people to fail? In my experience, many of the people failing acted too aggressively – putting the bulk of their emphasis only on opportunities where they believed they could get promoted. On the other hand, some failures were too passive. They just did their jobs, while secretly hoping that they would get promoted one day. It rarely works like this.

      After many years watching the winners and losers, it’s clear to me that putting exclusive focus on climbing up the career ladder leads to failure. When a person’s eyes are on the ultimate result only (to be at the ‘highest point’ in their career), they tend to neglect important things like: personal growth, skills development and cooperation with other people. Not only do they neglect these things, but they fail to realize that these things are actually essentials for rising high and attaining recognition.

        The Five Essentials for Climbing the Ladder

          I’ve spent considerable time thinking about the fundamentals of career success, and it’s my belief that you must practice the five steps below if you’re to make your way up the career ladder.

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          1. Start with a blueprint in your mind.

          Do you know what your goals are? If not, you must take some time to identify them. Only once you precisely know what your goals are will you be able to see what it takes to get there.

          Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of your goals, but instead, set milestones and deadlines to motivate you to get things done. If necessary, break down big goals into small components.

          By doing the above, you’ll have a blueprint in your mind that will allow you to stay focused and motivated.

          As an example, if your goal is to be a professional musician, then you should devise a plan to reach that goal. It could look something like this:

          • Enrol in a full-time, professional music course.
          • Learn everything you can about music and your chosen instrument.
          • Spent a large chunk of your spare time in practising your chosen instrument.
          • Collaborate with others to build your skills and confidence.
          • Seek ways to make your playing, appearance and personality stand out from the crowd.

          A blueprint is a vital component for success – helping you to plan ahead, and keep track of your achievements.

          2. Based on the blueprint, work hard and work smart.

          To achieve your goals, you’ll need to work hard. However, that doesn’t have to mean working long hours. You should seek to work hard – but work smart too. This means putting effort, determination and focus into your work.

          In other words, make every hour you work count. Everything you do should help the company and yourself grow.

          You should also seek to contribute more, because this opens you up to additional learning opportunities – which will help you to grow.

          How to work smarter? Take a look at the time most people waste going through their emails. It can be hours a day. You can work smarter in this area by utilizing folders, color-coding and auto-responses. By implementing these functions, you can cut down on the amount of emails you receive, easily prioritize your emails, and make searching for old emails much simpler. All of this saves you time to get on with your real work!

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          3. Initiate more, don’t just execute.

          Do you go beyond what’s expected from your role? If not, you definitely should.

          For starters, make sure that you think often about what you can do to improve your work. Don’t just act according to what’s assigned to you. You should also provide feedback, opinions and ideas that will stimulate others.

          Don’t overestimate your own abilities, but do ensure that you go beyond your duties when you can. However, by doing this, you must be prepared to open yourself up to more possibilities for failures and mistakes. To counterbalance this, you will also have more lessons to learn from.

          Think of it this way, if all you do is the work given to you – then you will fail to impress your management team. For senior roles, managers will want go-getters who know how to take calculated risks and use their initiative.

          4. Align your efforts with your company’s goals.

          Your company’s strategies and goals may change once in a while, so it’s important that you keep up-to-date with them. Try to align your effort with these goals, or ask your company about how you can align your work with the direction in which the company is traveling.

          At Lifehack, team members constantly review their tasks and priorities to ensure that they are aligned with the company’s current strategies and goals.

          When your goals are aligned with your company’s goals – your efforts will directly contribute to the company’s direction, and the results will be stronger and more effective.

          5. Become an expert at something.

          Your skills and knowledge should be valuable resources to others. To help increase this, besides job-related skills, build skills that are outside the remit of your job. By doing this, you’ll open yourself up to more opportunities, including, mentoring possibilities and advancement.

          For instance, imagine that you work as an office administrator. The job mostly involves paperwork such as spreadsheets and letter writing. As you are determined to climb the career ladder, you choose to enroll in your own time in a course in office management. Here you learn vital skills such as health and safety rules, supplier coordination and people management. With the extra skills, you find yourself ideally-placed to snap up any office management vacancies that come your way – either within your company, or within a different company.

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          The Four Pillars of Success

            I’ve covered the five essentials for climbing the career ladder, but now I want to add some more tips to help you succeed.

            1. Be a good team player.

            Besides working on tasks, work on your relationships. This means supporting your co-workers, and mentoring them if necessary.

            If you can learn to work well with others, then you’ll quickly find that your work relationships become stronger and more positive. An unexpected benefit of this, is that with better relationships, you’ll find it easier to influence others. (This is a required trait if you’re to be successful in your chosen career.)

            A further benefit of harmonious relationships and teamwork, is that more work will get done – and it will be of a higher standard. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “Two heads are better than one.” In most cases this is absolutely true. For example, if you need to come up with ideas for your company’s annual staff conference, don’t try to do it all by yourself. Instead, ask a colleague or two for their input. You’ll most likely be amazed at what they come up with!

            2. Be generous.

            To be the best employee you can be, stay honest and communicate openly. You should also face challenges with others together – and celebrate good results with others too.

            Share tough works, and share credits. This is how you build good relationships with people you have to work with every day.

            I remember watching a colleague of mine (some years ago) being extremely generous with his time and knowledge when we had several apprentices in the office. He was super-passionate about wanting the apprentices to learn as much as possible, and to help them prepare for their working life. He must have done something right, as one of the apprentices ended up working for us!

            3. Network wisely.

            There is a basic truth in the world of business. The more people you know, and who know you (and like you) – the more opportunities you will encounter.

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            So, to help you succeed in your career, get out and about and meet people. Of course, make sure that you’re meeting the right ones – people who inspire you to grow, and people who you can exchange ideas with.

            Let’s say you work as a freelance graphic designer. Your workload is okay – but could be better. One way to potentially increase the amount of work offers you receive, is to join a local business networking club. Often these are an informal breakfast gathering of local business owners. As you chat over your coffee and croissant, you’ll be putting yourself and your services directly in front of people who may want to hire you. Try it and see!

            4. Keep a record of your own achievements.

            When you don’t keep your accomplishments in a paper or digital file, you may forget them.

            Your achievements should be measurable and quantifiable results that help to keep you focused and on track towards your major goals.

            Another benefit of keeping a record of your achievements, is that you can present this to your current (or future) boss, enabling them to easily and clearly see what you have accomplished.

            While pen and paper may be all you need, I personally recommend you take a look at some of the dedicated goal tracking apps, such as: GoalsOnTrack and Lifetick.

            Put the Principles into Practice

            If anyone tells you that there is a super-fast way to get to the top of the career ladder – it’s a lie.

            Growth is the foundation for climbing higher; and growth takes time. That “super-fast way” doesn’t allow for growth in a person. However, while it takes time to grow, there are ways to accelerate growth. How? By practicing the principles I’ve discussed above.

            Whatever your chosen career, keep learning and putting in effort to everything that aligns with your goals. In time, you’ll reap the rewards.

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on July 17, 2019

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            What happens in our heads when we set goals?

            Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

            Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

            According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

            Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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            Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

            Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

            The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

            Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

            So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

            Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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            One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

            Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

            Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

            The Neurology of Ownership

            Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

            In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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            But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

            This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

            Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

            The Upshot for Goal-Setters

            So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

            On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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            It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

            On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

            But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

            More About Goals Setting

            Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

            Reference

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