21 Tips To Climb the Career Ladder

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It’s no secret that many people hope to score a promotion in the new year. The good news is this goal might not be out of reach, provided that you start putting in the effort now.

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We spoke to a number of career experts about tips on how to get a raise. Find out what steps you can take now to ensure you climb the career ladder.

Last updated: Oct. 13, 2021

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1. Take Charge in One-on-One Meetings

When you meet with the boss one on one, make sure you talk about what’s most important: you and your career, said Jeffrey Kelly, a career coach who provides corporate America with tips for management training.

“Most people go in without an agenda and end up talking about project deadlines,” he said. “Take control and start talking about your career, the kind of work you want, how you are performing, and get in sync with your boss.”

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2. Find a Good Mentor

A good mentor can save you a lot of time by offering savvy job tips and steering you away from mistakes that can only be seen from experience.

“Not only is this mentor an inspiration and a place to go for advice, but they help you navigate corporate politics and the corporate landscape in general,” said Russab Ali, founder of SMC Digital Marketing. “Moving up the career ladder, especially at the higher ends, is more about politics than it is about your actual work. Get a mentor who knows how to deal with these politics, and you’ll be set.”

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3. Be Coachable

No one likes a know-it-all. But most managers appreciate someone who is eager to learn, said Jessica Hernandez, president and CEO of Great Resumes Fast.

“If you have a teachable personality and are open to feedback from supervisors, they’ll be more apt to share their wisdom and expertise,” she said. “They’ll note your willingness to accept feedback and be more encouraged to approach you with new opportunities.”

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4. Be Proactive

Being proactive never gets old for managers, who are often looking for people to lead, said Hernandez.

“Managers love proactive employees who are always one step ahead and have a solution to a problem without being asked,” she said. “When a promotion opportunity arises, these are the people who are offered promotions first.”

Read: Smart Ways You Can Prepare For Job Loss While You’re Still Employed

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5. Do Some Not-So-Light Reading

Let’s face it: Reading the 39th installment of that detective series you love is probably not going to land you a promotion this year. Instead, take on a little less-than-light reading to get ahead, said Hernandez.

“Read what others have to say in your field and increase your knowledge of what you do,” she said. All that research could pay off in the form of a promotion.

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6. Be Dependable

Being fashionably late might be cute for a cocktail party but not at your job. Your mission at work is to build a reputation of dependability, said Timothy Wiedman, a retired associate professor of management and human resources at Doane University.

“Always be at work on time and get to meetings and appointments early,” he said, adding that employers will notice your punctuality — especially if you have a co-worker who is always not-so-fashionably late.

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7. Be Prepared

Being fully prepared for meetings is a great way to get your supervisor’s attention, said Wiedman. Not only will you be able to do your job more effectively, but you’ll also look more responsible compared to colleagues who haven’t done the homework.

“Browse agendas in advance and then study any files related to topics that will be discussed,” he said.

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8. Speak Up

Sitting in the corner quietly is not the way to get a promotion. Getting ahead means getting in the game, said Wiedman. “Participate constructively in discussions and ask relevant questions but respect others’ ‘air-time,’“ he said.

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9. Ask Questions

“If you do not know, or do not understand something, ask questions,” said Wiedman.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it’s an indication that you want to make sure things are done correctly. A question that should have been asked, but wasn’t, might have catastrophic consequences that will not soon be forgiven or forgotten,” he said.

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10. Don’t Be Afraid To Admit Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes on occasion. Instead of trying to hide your errors, admit to them to garner your boss’ respect.

“When you’re wrong, admit it. Immediately. Don’t hope that an error went unnoticed,” said Wiedman, adding that you should do whatever is necessary to make things right. “Your integrity will be remembered, valued and respected.”

Find Out: 24 Job Skills You’ll Need To Grow Your Career

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11. Be Open to Opportunities

Just because you enjoy your current position doesn’t mean you can’t try other jobs on for size. Emeline Roissetter, founder of MomentuM in Dubai, recommends going on job interviews when asked.

“Not being desperate for a job gives you the freedom to walk into an interview full of confidence. It also gives you a chance to practice your skills and have some fun,” she said, adding that interviews are a great opportunity to expand your network. “And who knows? You might just find an opportunity you cannot refuse.”


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12. Volunteer

Most people spend a lot of time trying to avoid extra work. But being the one to step up when something needs doing, even when it’s not your responsibility, can pay off in the form of a promotion, said Stan Kimer, president of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer.

Employees who see a gap that needs to be filled and volunteer to assist, even when it’s outside their job scopes, show strong teamwork and initiative. That gets rewarded, he said.

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13. Take Risks

The expression, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” applies to climbing the career ladder as well as other ventures, said Kimer.

“Employees who are not afraid to take risks and take on a new area or very difficult project are often promoted to key areas when a company is looking for an innovative person who embraces challenge,” he said. So, make the leap this year — you might just land higher than you started.

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14. Don’t Leave Your Team Behind

Being ambitious doesn’t mean being selfish.

“While it is very important to focus on our personal missions and career goals, the world of work is becoming more and more team oriented,” said Valerie Streif, senior advisor at The Mentat, which hires, interviews and mentors job candidates. “Don’t leave your team behind when trying to get ahead.”

She went on to suggest that pulling others up with you allows you to shine as a leader at the head of a successful team.

“You will be quickly marked for a promotion,” she said.

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15. Know How To Tell Your Story

Does your supervisor know you and what you want? The way you tell your story can affect your career success and increase your odds of scoring a promotion.

“It is vital to spend time thinking about how to tell your personal story,” said Nancy Mellard, national leader of CBIZ Women’s Advantage, which focuses on developing female professionals. “Who are you? What do you do? Where do you want to go? Answering these questions will help you create a personal career development strategy.”

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16. Own Your Career

Mellard says that you are the person in charge of your career. As a result, you’re responsible for its ups and downs.

“If you do not receive a promotion or are not assigned to a project that you wanted to work on, you cannot blame your boss. Avoid playing the role of a victim,” she said. Instead, consider what you can do differently next time and be proactive in asking for feedback and constructive criticism. “How you react to situations will not go unnoticed.”

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17. Get a Certification

For many fields, such as IT and healthcare, a bachelor’s degree is no longer enough to get ahead, said Cheryl Palmer, owner of Call to Career and a career coach with 20 years experience.

“It is becoming increasingly common that certifications above and beyond a college degree are required for many fields. Obtaining a certification that is hot can qualify you for a promotion,” she said.

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18. Get an Advanced Degree

Earning a master’s degree — or getting started on one — shows your boss that you want to grow and invest in yourself.

“For many fields, an advanced degree is becoming a necessity. Getting that degree can be a good reason for an employer to give you a raise and maybe even a promotion,” said Palmer.

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19. Leverage Leadership Outside of Work

If you have taken on leadership roles outside of work, in your community or at your children’s school, let management know. Doing so could encourage your company to offer you a more important position, said Palmer.

“I had a client who was in finance, and he headed the finance committee of his homeowners association. This is relevant experience and can help an employee build a case for a promotion,” she said.

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20. Fill In for the Boss

If your boss is planning a vacation, ask if you can take over any duties for him or her — then make sure things get done smoothly.

“This is very relevant experience for a person looking to move up,” said Palmer. “You can position yourself to be on the short list when a supervisory position opens up if you have acted in the boss’ stead in the past.”

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21. Have an Associate Go To Bat for You

If you know that another associate thinks highly of you, don’t hesitate to hit him or her up for a promotion, said Palmer.

“Having someone else who is influential make the case for your promotion can be far more effective than you tooting your own horn,” she said. “A mentor who will speak to your merits when promotion time comes around can make the difference between you being chosen for the promotion versus someone else.”