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Last Updated on November 3, 2017

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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            The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

            The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

            It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

            Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

            “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

            In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

            New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

            There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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            So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

            What is the productivity paradox?

            There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

            In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

            He wrote in his conclusion:

            “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

            Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

            How do we measure productivity anyway?

            And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

            In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

            But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

            In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

            But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

            Possible causes of the productivity paradox

            Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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            • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
            • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
            • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
            • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

            There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

            According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

            Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

            The paradox and the recession

            The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

            “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

            This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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            According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

            Looking forward

            A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

            “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

            Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

            “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

            On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

            Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

            Reference

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