Whether you’re a recent graduate, a millennial in a middle management post or a seasoned campaigner in the latter stages of your working life, it’s likely that two things will be at the heart of your professional motivation: money and career progression. For those approaching retirement, the desire to climb the corporate ladder will probably have receded to some degree, but for younger colleagues, achieving a promotion – and therefore commanding a higher salary – will be uppermost in their minds. It might be a promotion within the same firm, of course, but it might also equally be a move to a new company, a concept that doesn’t faze millennials and young professionals. In fact, long gone are the days of staying with one employer for years, and even decades, as today’s professionals are much more open to the idea of switching companies to progress their career.

The corporate ladder is an interesting phenomenon, as most larger companies operate with a pyramid structure, whereby there are several entry-level positions, but fewer mid-level and even fewer senior level positions available. This structure makes it more likely that a rising star may need to look elsewhere to achieve the promotion they crave. But whichever route you take there are some golden rules to climbing the corporate ladder with success that are worthy of consideration.

Identify and set your goals
One essential aspect of career progression is to have a clear idea of where you’d like to get to, as only then will you be able to plot a path to achieving it. In fact, setting goals applies across the board, whether it’s owning your own property or breaking a certain time in your half marathon. And it’s no different in the work arena. Spend some time thinking about where your aspirations lie – would you be happy with middle management or do you feel you can aim higher? Very rarely is anything achieved overnight, so map out the steps that will take you where you want to go and make a point of celebrating each time you complete one of the milestones.

Setting your short- and long-term goals can be easier if you ask yourself some simple questions, such as:

• Where am I now?
• What have I achieved in the last 12 months?
• Where do my strengths lie?
• What are my weaknesses?
• How can I address them?
• Where do I want to be this time next year?
• Does my boss agree with that assessment?

If you’re not too confident about the goals you should be setting, talk to your family, your friends, your colleagues and even your boss to gain some insight. Moreover, by talking to your manager about your goal setting, you’re also letting them know that you’re keen to progress your career.

Create a plan
As with most things in life, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, so make sure that you put together a clear plan of how you think you can achieve your goals.

If your career goals are ambitious you’ll need to get your name out there and build your network of contacts. Developing a strong in-person and online network can be invaluable when it comes to seeking out opportunities for progression, so don’t be afraid to talk to people.

Work harder and smarter
Demonstrating that you’re prepared to go the extra mile will potentially help you develop your career where you are and will also set you up should you decide to move on. Going above and beyond, volunteering for high-profile projects and making yourself the go-to person won’t only catch the eye but should also guarantee that you receive a glowing reference when you leave.

Make yourself an asset
A key aspect of climbing the corporate ladder is to become so much more than the person behind the desk. Focus on expanding your knowledge and skills by signing up for any training that’s available, whether that’s at work or outside. Investing in yourself will generate rewards in the future. It can also be beneficial to observe the behaviour of those colleagues who are at the next level and to start thinking like a senior manager. How do they behave? How do they operate? What language do they use? And finally, you’re more likely to succeed in climbing the corporate ladder if you’re a team player, so concentrate on building relationships and contributing wherever you can, even if it’s outside your formal job role.

Owner of Exact Sourcing, Rosa dos Santos, has seen lots of candidates strive to develop their careers and she believes that the fundamentals apply as much today as they ever have done. ‘Young professionals tend to be very ambitious in terms of career progression, but it’s important both to be realistic as to what’s possible and to focus on some key areas in order to be successful,’ comments Rosa. ‘For example, a strategic approach can be helpful. Take time to set your goals and develop a plan for achieving them. Look for opportunities to contribute and to think and act like a colleague who’s more senior than you. Visibility is a big factor, so always strive to be top of mind with the management team and that will stand you in good stead for your next promotion, whether that’s with your current employer or elsewhere.’

Exact Sourcing is a recruitment agency in Cambridge and Newmarket, and we also serve Ely, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Royston and Sawston. If you’re keen to climb the corporate ladder and would like some assistance, please contact us for an initial chat.