5 secrets to climbing the ladder faster
CEOs and other top execs share tips for getting where you want to be
By Beth Braccio Hering, Special to CareerBuilder
Sometimes getting from where you are to where you'd like to be careerwise can seem like a daunting task. While time and experience help, other actions can speed the process along. Here, executives in a variety of fields share their tips on how to move up the ladder a bit faster.
"Knowledge is power," says Linda Matzigkeit, senior vice president of strategic planning and human resources for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "You need to read about your industry, know what people are doing and keep your edge on innovation."
Anthony Leone, founder of Energy Kitchen, a restaurantfranchise based in New York City, agrees. "Learn as much as you possibly can in your chosen field. Become such an asset to your company that the owners tell themselves, 'We cannot live without this person.'" He further suggests asking your boss what skills would most benefit the company, then going out and learning them "to the point that they just roll off your tongue, like your phone number."
Know how to ask questions
Armed with a solid understanding of their field, workers who gain attention are ones who know how to ask appropriate questions.
"Asking good questions is an art," says Elizabeth Sobol,managing director of IMG Artists, North America, which offers management services to performing artists. "I will be much more impressed if you ask me good ones than if you talk over me, trying to show me how much you know."
Employees should not worry that asking questions is a sign of ineptitude. "Do not be afraid to admit that you do not understand something," says Robert Stack, president and CEO of Community Options Inc., a national nonprofit organization that develops homes and employment for people with disabilities. "There is nothing wrong with not knowing; it is not asking or pretending to understand that always seems to have negative ramifications."
Think outside yourself
People who move up quickly are often ones who are good at examining the needs and goals of the company as a whole, not just in their own particular niche. Matzigkeit says that because her field (health care) is very specialized, it is easy to get deep in your own area. "In order to advance and truly identify ways you can have continued impact in an organization, you need to get connected to the big picture. Only then can you develop your skills, broaden your exposure and find ways to apply your transferable skills."
For managers looking to advance, Randy Murphy, president and CEO of the restaurant franchiseMama Fu's Asian House, suggests wandering around. "Have a presence in your store, and always know what is going on with your guests, employees and overall operations." He also notes that ambitious employees should always be looking for their own replacement. "Develop and train those under you so the team overall does better and so that you have a quality replacement to free you up for promotion to the next level."
Give it your all
Of course, one of the best ways to gain notice is to be a solid performer. "If you execute flawlessly, you will have a solid reputation, which will allow you to network into the right circles," says Brian Curin, president of the footwear chain Flip Flop Shops.
"Go beyond the job description," Stack adds. If you feel you are a person who is supposed to help people with disabilities find jobs, Stark suggests you work extra hours and get creative. "If you are supposed to help with fundraising, go out of your way to ask someone you do not know for support. Always be a little early, and always ask you manager what you can do that means a little extra."
Let your passion shine through
Doing all of these things, from learning as much as possible about a field to regularly giving 100 percent, can involve a great deal of time and effort. Some employees will look at these challenges as obstacles to overcome in order to get ahead. Others will view them with enthusiasm because they truly have a passion for their field. Guess who usually moves up faster?
Sobol says that she is impressed by people "who are fascinated by our business and are clearly always trying to learn and understand more about it. It is not hard to glean who is doing it out of genuine interest and who is not, so don't try to fake it."
For those who lack that passion, maybe it's time to consider looking for a new ladder to climb. The rungs might not seem so hard to navigate when the journey upward is enjoyable.