Climbing The Ladder

ladderChristmas in the workplace is typically the time of decorating your workspace, wearing silly hats and tinsel and the dreaded office party. But for some it is also the time when they choose to leave the company and move onto other things.

The reality is that no matter how fantastic companies tell you their working environment is and the opportunities for career progression. People will always find something to complain about, whether it is being passed over for a promotion, small pay rises or lack of available opportunities.

Recently a number of people have left my employer to join another company and this seems to have triggered some discussion among my colleagues. Some feel that there just aren’t enough openings within the company in order to progress, management not taking sufficient interest in their staff’s development, while others feel that they are being “held back” as a result of internal politics. I can understand where they are coming from, I’ve experienced situations like this in the past. They are all eager to progress and advance into other positions but still appear to be “stuck” where they are unable to move into other roles.

The function of a business is to make money

In the course of my own career the one important fact I realised was that businesses exist to make money for their owners/shareholders and not just to advance its employees for the sake of it. Whilst most businesses understand the importance of staff development, they are under no obligation to assist you in achieving your goals if it not in their best interests. If it’s advancement and progression that you are looking for, it’s up to you to take advantage of potential opportunities as they arise both inside and outside the company.

Sometimes the only way to get onto the next step of the ladder is to leave for another employer. This is especially the case for high turnaround environments where there is a regular influx of new starters at lower level positions e.g. call centre staff.

A Blueprint for Progression

If you’re looking to progress in your career you need to have a plan. Firstly look at which areas you want to develop your skills in and then go about learning all that you can. Once you have exhausted all the possibilities then it’s time to look for potential opportunities and make your move. Temporary/Contract staff can take advantage of their assignments to gain new skills and broaden their experience making them more attractive proposition to their next client.

How long this takes is up to you. It goes without saying that if you have a string of jobs lasting 1 month for a whole year you may start to look like a serial job-hopper unless you are just moving from one contract to another.

If you are interested in moving into another role within the same company, there’s much that can be gained from making contacts in other areas of the business. For one it gets you noticed by other managers and offers you the opportunity to deliver your “elevator pitch” to your potential new boss. Another method of getting exposure to other departments/job roles is by having a “day in the life” of a particular department, in which you get to spend a day with another member of staff and see what their role is.

By observing what they do and by asking questions you can learn what the role entails and what skills you will need to develop in order to succeed. This is a valuable exercise and can really help you to focus on what it is you want to do and what you need to know to get there.

Learning new skills doesn’t have to be just while you’re at work. Try to fit some study into your spare time as well. Even if it is just 1 hour a day it all adds up in the long term! It may seem like you get home from work/get up to go “back to school” but it’s an investment in your own human capital that will give you the competitive edge you need to succeed.