Climbing the Corporate Ladder

A few months ago I had the privilege of attending an informal women’s breakfast panel with the IWF (International Women’s Forum) in Waterloo. This was another inspiring experience where, once again, I had to pinch myself a couple times and wonder how I ever managed to roll with the likes of these awesome women! Pinching aside, this event was an incredible information-exchange in which panelists told personal stories and answered questions about their own unique career paths. I feel like I would have to write a novel to capture all the wisdom that dripped from that session but for now, I’ll settle for a brief blog post. So here you have it, curtesy of the amazing ladies of the Baby Boomer generation: the top five things millennial gals should know about succeeding in the corporate world:

1. The best career paths are winding, never straight.

We heard from a lawyer, marketing director, and HR VP. These same women had collectively quit a high paying job to take more education in Australia, obtained an advanced musical degree in voice and opera, worked in arts management, been a dancer, travelled the world for an international company, been involved in national companies, been part of local start-ups, taken mat leaves to raise children, worked in the financial sector, government sector, high-tech sector, and so much more. The resounding message from these women was that every single job, even the bad ones, provide you will tools and experiences that make you even more equipped for the next opportunity. The most valuable people in an organization are the ones who have vision. And the best visionaries understand the breadth and scope of different people, places and industries. Weigh the risks of taking on new experiences, but don’t be afraid to take them.

2. Language is power. 

What phrases are you guilty of using in the workplace?

  • I know you are really busy but I really need . . .
  • If it’s ok, I think we should …
  • I was thinking it might possibly be a good idea if we …
  • I really appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to do this with me …
  • Let me know if you have any concerns about this and I can change it!
If you answered yes to any of the above (and we all have); STOP DOING IT.

Unfortunately a young woman’s tendency to think of others and not step on toes has made many of us into unassuming, beat-around-the-bush, never-want-to-interject pacifists. It’s all in the language ladies! If you called a meeting, don’t act like your time is less valuable than your colleagues, don’t crowd your sentences with “maybes” “possiblys” or “perhaps-es.” When someone interrupts your sentences don’t be so quick to back down. Put a polite finger up or mention that you were not done speaking. Use plain, direct, confident language that sets you up for respect and attentive ears, even from the oldest and most male co-workers you deal with.

3. Set goals for roles, not titles.

This piece of advice is golden. So often we have set the bar high with certain titles and salaries we want to achieve by a certain time. VP of this, director of that, make $100K by 30 and the list goes on. Goals are important, but make sure you set the right kind of goals. Decide what kind of work you want to do, what kind of role you want to play. What makes you happiest? What makes you want to pull your hair out? What kind of life do you envision? What kind of work environment do you picture yourself in? The great thing about these kind of goals are that by moving more and more toward roles, responsibilities, and environments that you enjoy, the chances are you are going to be more passionate and effective at what you are doing. Even more important than the name of the company, the industry, or the job, is the role.

4. Be patient.

Sounds simple, but then why are so many of us killing ourselves trying to achieve what took our parents and mentors years and years of hard work? Patience my dears, patience. The very best things in life take time. No other substitutes accepted. I’m not saying sit back and expect your career to just happen, I’m saying you need to view your career as a cultivated journey, never a final destination. Relish each moment for where you are in that time and don’t waste your energy lamenting over the fact that you haven’t made partner or junior VP quite yet. Excel at where you are, right now.

5. Long hours ≠ effectiveness.

Come again? Long hours, do NOT equal effectiveness. Here’s the truth ladies, you can burn the midnight oil and send emails to your team late into the night but the truth is that kind of thing isn’t going to put you ahead. Can you really be 100% at 1am after a 16 hour day? You need to figure out what it is in life that recharges your batteries and then carve that activity into your agenda. Is it a good workout? Some reading time? Art? A good night’s sleep? Spending time with family? Whatever it is that you need to do to keep yourself at 100% and healthy make sure you make the time! You are not helping anyone by running yourself ragged.

What lessons have you learned about creating success in the workplace?


5 thoughts on “Climbing the Corporate Ladder

  1. First and foremost stop apologizing for every little thing – apologize when you really need to and with meaning. Toe the line at times between being professional and getting too personal. Show up, be present, do the best job. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This blog post could not come at a better time in my life. Thank you Guru Cheryl for your take on these very wise points!

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  4. Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification seemed to
    be on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of.
    I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people think about worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

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