Speaking Your Way Up the Corporate Ladder

By Keeva Stratton

Often we are our own worst professional enemies. We get frustrated when those we feel are less qualified seem to move ahead, we stay in positions long after they maintain our interest, and we choose to silently grumble until we finally give up. Apart from always maintaining office appropriate behavior, the key to a successful career is knowing how and when to contribute, as well as how to demonstrate your value as an employee. With these situation specific tips, you’ll soon find yourself gaining the positive attention of management.

Contribute Constructively

Be confident, but not overbearing. The key is to pick your moment to contribute; that is, when you are best positioned to have something interesting and useful to put forward. If the staff meeting seems too overwhelming, take smaller steps. Try bringing in news articles or research that may be relevant, read industry magazines so you can contribute to topical discussions, brainstorm with a colleague to build your skills, or organise a meeting with your boss to discuss some new ideas. Positive engagement with your career demonstrates focus and commitment – two qualities employers look favourably upon.

Ask for an Appraisal

If you feel that you’re going unnoticed, ask for a formal appraisal. Not only will this give you the opportunity to express any areas you feel are of concern, but you can also discuss what you feel that you have been contributing and how you see your role progressing; and, most importantly, you will gain valuable feedback on areas where you’d be best served to improve. Just be prepared to learn that you may not feel the same about your efforts, or skills, as others do about you.

Keep the Lines of Communications Open

It is important to maintain an open dialogue with your superiors. Don’t tell them the minute or personal details of your life, but from time to time, be sure to have conversations that raise any issues you may be experiencing as well as your expectations, the areas of your job that you are enjoying, and where you’d like to progress professionally. Your boss is not likely to be able to read your mind. If there is an area you’d like to be more involved with then let them know, ask for an opportunity and be ready to commit to it. Use these discussions to build your relationship with management. Avoiding complaining about others is also highly advisable.

Acknowledge the work of others

Never commit the workplace sin of claiming the credit of others. It may be tempting, especially when you’re feeling overlooked, but by acknowledging what others have done in a group situation you will demonstrate your maturity and ability to lead.

Learn How to Say No

If you are quick to agree and even quicker to resent feeling overworked and under appreciated, you need to reassess your use of ‘No’. Often people feel that to get promoted they need to be a yes person, but a yes person, if overworked and underperforming as a result, is more likely to become mediocre than a manager.

Remember, it’s OK to let others know when you have a full schedule, or when you need a deadline moved. The key is to be polite and to offer an alternative. Can you do it at a later date? Is there a task that is occupying your time that can be moved to another employee or demoted on the list of priorities? By saying no, you are giving your boss some indication of your workload, you’re better able to perform when you’re not feeling as stretched, and by finding alternative solutions, you’re displaying important organisational skills.

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