10 Things Keeping You From Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Whether you know what it is yet or not, there’s a pinnacle to your professional career, an ultimate goal or position that you keep tucked in the back of your mind that someday you’d like to reach. Maybe you’re open about what that is, maybe you haven’t quite narrowed it down yet, or, maybe, you’re too scared to say it out loud and make it a reality.

Whatever your situation may be, to reach your goal you must climb ahead: the metaphorical climb up the corporate ladder. This climb involves multiple roles or positions – perhaps at multiple companies – designed to help you earn the experience you need to reach your peak.

Right now, however, you may feel stranded at base camp, or like you’ve reached another sort of plateau. Your career feels stagnant and you feel as though you’re on an indefinite pause.

Here are 10 things that could be keeping you from climbing the corporate ladder, along with tips for pressing onward.

  1. You’re in Your Own Comfort Zone

As a human, you’re designed to seek comfort – we all are. It’s why we form relationships with others, why we have daily habits and why certain activities and positions sound better to us than others. It may also be why you’re stuck in a rut at work. If you’re too comfortable where you are, it could translate into a fear of reaching for something new.

The new is unknown territory. New jobs and positions require new skills and require you to learn to do things differently. If you’re in this place, acknowledge it. Then, remind yourself of the benefits that will come with trying to move forward onto the next level. Don’t let comfort hold you back from the great things that could be ahead of you.

  1. You’re Confused

Maybe you’ve reached a point where you’re not sure if your original “ultimate career goal” is really for you anymore. You’re frustrated with the company you work for, or you’re looking to try something new. That’s okay. We’re not all designed to stick with one goal for our whole lives. Passions change, and so do professional dreams.

If you’re confused about what you really want out of your professional life, the time to step back and consider your options is now. Instead of staying stuck on your current rung on the corporate ladder, think about your true life goal.

If you’re on the wrong path, take whatever steps might be necessary to change it, even if it means going back to school or starting over. You won’t be alone; currently 33% of college undergrads in the U.S. are professionals over the age of 25.

Put an end to your confusion by defining and striving for a new goal.

  1. You’re Not Taking Credit

If you’re set on your current path but frustrated about your failure to move forward, you may be holding yourself back. One of the ways professionals stop their own progress is not taking credit for their accomplishments.

It makes sense: throughout childhood and college, through team sports, school and other endeavors, your accomplishments spoke for themselves. You took credit for your work without having to do anything extra: your school papers had your name, your sports records were your own and your parents were focused on what you were doing right.

The corporate world is different. On top of keeping your entire team in line, your boss is responsible for his or her own tasks. He or she doesn’t have time to monitor your work and to praise you for what you’ve done right.

Don’t forget that you’ve got to step forward once in a while. Without becoming a braggart, take the time to take credit for your big wins, send out a quick team email where you highlight individual successes – including your own – and don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself.

  1. You’re Juggling Too Much at Once

You want to stand out at work, and perhaps it’s your main focus and how you think you’ll make it to the next level. That’s great. Everyone loves a go-getter, but it could also be holding you back.

When you take on too much at once, your productivity and quality of work is bound to suffer. Instead of trying to do a mediocre job on every single task you can possibly pick up, work out a system. Prioritize each task that you’re responsible for, and look at ways to delegate tasks that aren’t necessarily your responsibility to other team members.

Make a list and try to stick to it, but understand that unexpected things will come up during the day that may need your attention. Focus on what’s really important and start there.

  1. You Aren’t Focusing on the Right Relationships

You might have excellent relationships with your co-workers, or, you might be more of a lone-wolf on the job, focused only on what you need to do to make it to the next level. Both ends of this spectrum can be dangerous.

Having great relationships with your co-workers is important because it will help you stay satisfied at work and give you something to look forward to each day. However, far too often, professionals neglect forming relationships with the right people – the people that will help them move from point A to point B.

To work on this, identify the key players in your office and get to know them. Copy them on emails that highlight your responsibilities, make an effort to drop by their offices and ask if there’s anything you can do. Part of the corporate climb is building strategic relationships, so don’t miss out.

  1. You’re Living by Your Job Description

You’ve taken the time to memorize your job description. You know exactly what’s expected of you, and you complete each bullet point on deadline and with pride. That’s great, and that’s what makes you an excellent employee. But if that’s where your efforts stop, you may be living in that job description for the rest of your professional career.

Employers want to promote go-getters, those who have proven that they’re willing to go above and beyond. If you only do what’s expected of you, you could be falling short in this area.

To remedy this situation, look at the projects going on around you and find ways to get involved. If you’re unsure of where to start, ask a team leader or manager for ways to do more around the office. This small step could be the difference between a big promotion and staying exactly where you are.

  1. You’re Failing to Take Feedback

Feedback is a part of life, especially your professional life. Most professionals have regular evaluations where they’re given the opportunity to learn how they’re doing in the eyes of those above them and given ideas to improve.

Whether these evaluations are scheduled, or happen spontaneously, they’re important. Your managers could be judging your capabilities as a professional based on how you respond to the feedback you’re given.

Receiving feedback can be a challenge. No one wants to hear about weaknesses or areas where they’ve fallen short. Look at feedback as an opportunity to grow.

When you’re given positive feedback, thank the individual giving it to you. When a struggle is demonstrated, acknowledge it and make steps to improve. One of the worst possible reactions is to become defensive because it makes you look difficult to work with and like you believe you’re above reproach.

Think about how you’ve responded to feedback in the past and look for ways to improve next time.

  1. You Listen Too Much to the Opinions Surrounding You

When you have strong work relationships, you’re bound to be part of discussions – inside and outside of the office – about how things are going. For many people, these discussions can turn negative quickly.

One way that people relate to one another – especially co-workers – is to discuss the job. Finding a common area of complaint is, unfortunately, sometimes the easiest way to make this happen.

It can help co-workers connect, but, over time, it can also be a drag. Instead of becoming involved in negative conversations or boged down by those who complain about their jobs, think about the positives surrounding you.

Whether you voice them or not is your choice, but keep a list of what you love about your job on hand so that when you’re tempted to become swayed by the opinions of others, you can stay strong. Moving up the corporate ladder could depend upon it.

  1. You’re Not Striving for New Skills

Sometimes your degree or certification can only take you so far. Sometimes to move forward means you need to go above and beyond. Your current skill set might be perfect for your current role, but it might be preventing you from moving ahead.

Look at where you’d like to end up, and look at the job requirements it’ll take to get there. Whatever you’re lacking, reach for it. It might mean joining a professional organization and sitting on the board, it could mean going back to school for a higher degree, taking continuing education credits or earning a few extra certifications.

Requirements vary from one career path to another, but if your current skills are keeping you stagnant, the time to reach a little higher is now.

  1. You Can’t Quantify Your Results

There’s no denying it: the corporate world is driven by results. Your boss doesn’t want to know that you did well on a project, or that it’s complete; he or she wants quantifiable results to accompany it.

Quantifiable results are measurable, they’re indisputable, and they can make or break a team, project or individual looking to get ahead. When you apply for your next promotion, your manager will know what your responsibilities were and how you performed on a daily basis.

What he or she won’t know are the numbers that set you apart from the competition. Keep track of your projects and the results that they yield. If the company saw a 10% cost reduction or 25% increase in business because of something you did, be prepared to share those numbers. When you have numbers to prove your accomplishments, you’ll be a better candidate for promotion.

The setbacks listed above aren’t deal breakers, and you can start working on them right away. Take an honest look at where you are today, then consider where you might be falling short. Make an action plan to improve on your weaknesses – and then watch your climb up the corporate ladder begin again, or start if it has yet to do so.

Are you climbing the corporate ladder? Let us know how in the comments!

Illustration by Sheridan Martin of Dog Dish Studios.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and blogger sharing advice on career development, leadership, and finding happiness and success at work and in life. Catch Sarah on Twitter @SarahLandrum and be sure to subscribe to the Punched Clocks newsletter for more great tips.

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