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

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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.

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            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

            More by this author

            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on November 25, 2021

            20 Essential Apps And Websites For Digital Nomads

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            20 Essential Apps And Websites For Digital Nomads

            Living a life of perpetual travel is pretty exciting – new destinations, new cultures and new incredible people to meet and hang out with! However, working on the road can get pretty hectic at times. As a digital nomad I have found myself in rather awkward situations a lot – from missed deadlines due to incorrect time zone conversion to a nearly missed plane when I forgot to print out my booking and confused the time (I did catch that plane though!).

            Being your own boss is equally awesome and hellish. Juggling numerous tasks at once and getting things done super-fast with a terrible wi-fi connection requirea killer organizational skills and zen-like concentration. Try using the next 20 websites and apps to make your life as a digital nomad easier, less stressful and even more exciting!

            1. Trello

            Trello is your go-to website to stay organized and work super-efficiently on the road. It’s a free service that allows you to create numerous boards for your ongoing projects and plans. Tired of having numerous notes scattered around different apps and lengthy email threads with your clients or team? Just drag and drop them all to Trello, where you can easily collaborate, quickly exchange ideas and notes in the form of cards, leave comments and track the overall progress of the project. You can create numerous boards and organize them the way you like, upload files to each, set deadlines and notifications, plus easily share everything with one click.

            My Trello contains two sets of boards – personal and business. I use the first to keep all my travel plans neat and make sure I won’t confuse the flight time or overstay my visa; the second to keep a visual account of my personal goals and various arrangements. The business board is where I have a list of ongoing projects composed into simple to-dos with their current statuses –  along with all the comments from my clients and a separate column for follow-ups.

            Trello is an incredible free alternative to similar project management softwares I used before and it can be used for tackling any job – from house renovation to multi-stage marketing campaign! Also available as an app for iOS and Android devices to get updates on the go.

            2. f.lux

            As a digital nomad you often find yourself working late at night or early morning to keep up with your clients’ time zones. Love checking your email or reading a few articles from your iPad before going to bed? (I do!). Even if you don’t feel it yet, your eyes are seriously suffering from those habits and you can end up having troubles with sleeping as the blue light from your devices negatively impacts your sleeping patterns. Use f.lux – a handy software that will automatically adjust the color of your computer’s display to the time of day – warm at night and like sunlight during the day. F.lux allowed me to be more productive in the mornings and made it easier to slow down my activity in the evenings. As a digital nomad it is essential to stay refreshed as your income depends solely on your productivity. Besides, haven’t we escaped the cubicle to have a better work/life balance and more rest in the first place?

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            3. Focus@Will

            As we often find ourselves working at various places around the globe – from a crowded bus station to a jam-packed bar (the only place that has decent wi-fi in the area) – concentrating on your work gets extremely difficult. That’s where Focus@Will comes to rescue. The service offers a wide selection of white noise and simple tunes selected according to a neuroscience-based approach. It seems to work pretty great as I stayed way more concentrated on my work compared to the times when I just blasted my favorite tunes and murmured along. A 30-day free trial has a limited selection of tracks and will stop playing them in an hour (although it could be restarted immediately). The paid service will cost you around $10 for three months. Also available as a free app for iOS and Android devices.

            4. Shopify

            Let’s admit it, being a digital nomad and working solo gets challenging at times. There are days when you feel like a Renaissance man trying to tackle all things at once and getting expertise in numerous areas. That’s especially true when you are just about to launch your business website, blog or an online store. If you are a creative, you have only basic knowledge (if any) in CSS, HTML or integrated payment systems, so you spend endless hours figuring out how things work instead of doing what you are really good at and earning money.

            Try Shopify – a service providing custom no-hassle ecommerce solutions. They offer everything from secure hosting and mobile-optimized websites to secure check-outs with some 70 payment getaways to choose from and assistance with running your online marketing campaign. The rates are incredibly affordable and start from just $29 per month for unlimited access to all their services and features or opt for a 14 day free trial to test them out first!

            5. Rescue Time

            Proper time management is another great struggle all digital workers face. How many times you have found yourself spending over 12 hours a day in front of your screen and not having all things done? Yeah, it happens to me quite in a while, so I’ve started using Rescue Time – to stay on top of my productivity while still having a normal work/life balance. Install it on your computer and all devices to have an accurate picture of how much time you spend doing certain activities or browsing certain sites (khm..cat videos on YouTube). At the end of each week you’ll receive an email with a fair statement on your (un)productivity.

            Rescue Time enables you to give more accurate deadlines to your clients; create accurate hourly invoices as you know exactly how much time you’ve spent doing a certain task and adjusting your rates accordingly and eliminate random activity during your working hours. You can use Light Rescue Time version for free or opt for the premium plan at $6 per month.

            6. Every Time Zone

            As you probably work with people based anywhere from New Zealand to the West Coast keeping an eye on the deadline or updating them on your progress at 9 am each day may get tricky. Just as sending follow-ups, project proposals and invoices at the right time of the day. Every Time Zone is another great solution for keeping proper track of the time – your client’s time. Add all time zones you need, add your time in the marker at the top and see where this lands in everyone else’s day. No more crazy maths with figuring out when do you need to ring up Joe on Skype if he asked to do that at 11 am EST.

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            7. XE Currency

            How many currencies do you have in your wallet? My guess is more than two. As a digital nomad and perpetual traveler you have to keep track on the conversion rates and different currencies all the time. To make sure you are charging an equally fair price in USD/EU/GBP or any other currency out there use XE Currency. Get live conversion rates instantly or add up a list of your preferred and sync ahead of time to have instant offline access from any device. XE Currency is available as a web service, iOS, Android, Windows Phone apps and more.

            8. Trail Wallet

            My second essential money app for digital nomads is Trail Wallet (currently iOS only). It’s a beautifully crafted and easy-to-use app for tracking your expenses across multiple countries and currencies. You can organize your spendings by country or my month, set max daily budgets and add each dollar you’ve spent on the go. At the end of the month the app will tell you if you gone over your budget or where exactly did the cash flow. It’s perfect for analyzing the cost of living and working at different cities and countries, thus finding the optimal home-base for you when you get tired of being on the road and need to settle down for a while.

            9. Xero

            And to keep better track of your business-related expenses try Xero. Arguably, the best online bookkeeping and accounting service out there for all the non-accountants. It’s perfect for sending invoices, keeping track of the cash-flow and setting payment notifications on credit cards and recruiting payments. It neatly categorizes all your bank transactions and reconciles them with the transactions you have made in Xero to keep things even more simple. Available for numerous iOS and Android devices, so you can always have access to your data at no time.

            10. Tripit

            Tripit is one of the best travel planners out there! It’s free, fast and most importantly – works off-line. Just say no more to papers and lost emails. Forward all your booking confirmations – hotels, flights, car rental etc and let the app do all the magic for you by turning it into an easy-to-follow itinerary. You can set up notifications and get access to your data from any device without internet connection. Tripit reduced my frustration of arriving to the wrong terminal or roaming around the new city with my baggage as I haven’t written down the hotel address correctly. It’s a great app I seriously recommend using it to basically anyone who travels.

            11. 1Password

            Sharing sensitive data, especially passwords with your clients or team and keeping track of them can get challenging. That’s why I’ve started using 1Password – a super secure password-sharing service that allows you to create special vaults with a set of passwords to tools and services only accessible to the people you’ve shared it with. Available for numerous devices, the service gives you peace of mind when sharing anything sensitive via unprotected networks. Speaking of which…

            12. Private Internet Access

            Keep all your data and computer protected by opting for Private Internet Access. Often we need to make those last minute payments or credit card purchases and the only internet available is a suspicious unprotected network your device somehow found. By using an anonymous encrypted VPN and a private IP you can be 100% sure none of your payment data will be fished or passwords stolen.

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            13. Workfrom

            Find the best coffee shops and cafes in your area with this service. Workfrom has a great pool of venues in major US cities – New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle – and more destinations worldwide to be added soon! The service is free to join and you’ll get access to numerous cool spots with unbiased opinions of wi-fi connection and cappuccino quality from digital nomads just like you. Reviews also include price range, meals available, general atmosphere and noise range, along with some pro-tips on where to find sockets and which table is the most secluded. I have discovered some of my all time favorites this way like Mr Bean in Amsterdam.

            14. Spotted by Locals

            Another awesome service to discover good meals and thrilling events at your current base. Spotted by Locals is not that typical city guide with boring touristy routes, but an amazing resources with awesome recommendations from the locals on things to do and places to check out. After all, you’ve chosen a location independent lifestyle to explore the world more, not just spend hours tapping on the keywords in a different environment.

            Currently, the website has numerous recommendations for all major European cities – Paris, Madrid, Vienna, Warsaw and many more, plus it gradually expands into North America with Boston, LA, Toronto and Montreal guides recently added. You can browse around the free categorized selection of activities at the website or pay$ 2.99 for a PDF guide with all tips and places neatly listed on the map. Or opt for iOS or Android app ($3.99 each) to gain offline access to one of the city guides along with a detailed map.

            15. Jawbone UP

            Now when you know where to go and what to see, here’s a handy app that will help you get unstuck from your laptop. Jawbone UP will gently nag you when it’s time to get up and unwind a bit. Install the app and connect it to all your hardware, than let the Up Activity Tracker (a lovely bracelet) analyze your sleeping and activity patterns to help you creating a better lifestyle. The app will monitor and analyze all your actions and suggest you a healthier schedule, help you sleep better and keep up with the exercise routine (which gets erratic when you are on the move). Why do we need more time if we don’t spend it wise, right? The app is free for iOS and Android, however you’ll have to pay 129$ for the bracelet tracker or 49.99$ for the clip.

            16. SugarSync

            Some like DropBox, others opt for Google Drive, yet my go-to cloud storage service is SugarSync. It’s simpler, more powerful and has a really slick design. After you install it, you just need to right-click the file/folder to instantly back them up at the cloud. Besides, any further change you make to that data will be automatically synchronized. Large files get uploaded extra fast and you can get 250 GB storage space for just $99.99 per year. Also you can access, share and edit all your files via free iOS or Android app supported on numerous devices. Now, I’ve finally stopped worrying what should I do if my laptop gets broken/stolen.

            17. Contactually

            If you don’t like to get broke and return home, you have to invest a fair share of your time in building ongoing relationships with your clients, vendors or customers depending on what do you do for a living. To avoid this whole thing becoming a huge pain try using Contactually – a simple, yet powerful service that will tell you when and whom you should keep in touch with and how you could maximize your ROI by connecting with the right people at the right time. It will send you notifications when you’ve fallen out of touch with certain contacts (which can mean missed opportunities in the perspective) and prompt when you should reconnect with the most important contacts from your network by providing helpful context clues like social updates and recent conversations to make the whole thing look more genuine. The service boasts that their users get up to 40% more referrals after using their service (backed by case studies) which is kind of essential for you if you’d like to live the nomadic life and work for yourself!

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            18. Schedule Once

            If you are working on multiple projects with multiple clients at a time – Schedule Once is your kick-ass service to schedule online meetings and conferences. Create a sleek pre-set calendar when you are available and send people a unique link that allows them to select a suitable time for both of you to connect. The service is fantastic for anyone offering consulting services or coaching sessions and costs just 5$ per month!

            19. Spaxtel

            Sometimes the internet gets so crappy that calling by Skype is impossible. Or you have a very-very important conversation scheduled and you don’t want any possible glitches to interrupt you. That’s when it’s worth using Spaxtel – a cool service that enables you to make land-line quality phone calls via callback. You don’t need to install any software or have internet access. The rates depends on the quality of call you choose (the lowest discount is pretty great) and the countries from/to you are calling. So far, the price proved to be nearly Skype-affordable for a better overall quality of connection.

            20. Earth Class Mail

            Snail mail isn’t that popular these days, but you still get some important stuff via it. Say bills and some paychecks. If you don’t want to bug your parents or friends’ to deal with your mail while you are out, try using Earth Mail Class – an affordable mail forwarding service that scans and forwards your mail to the e-mail address of your choice, deposits your checks (for a fee), saves PDFs of your postal mail online and offers in-person pickup and package signing.

            Featured photo credit: Avi Richards via unsplash.com

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