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Career advice from those who have climbed up the corporate ladder

The Best Career Advice, From Successful People Who Made It to the Top

Success is a journey that leaves its footsteps. Want to know how to climb right to the top? Start by taking a good look at yourself and understanding what you need for yourself.

There are certain disciplines that need to be followed by anyone who wants a successful career. These have been proven to be effective practices time and time again in terms of career development. The following four key disciplines will help you lay a foundation to your career growth, whether you want to start your own thing or you just want some inspiration to improve your performance.


1. Knowing yourself is key

Career advice from those who have climbed up the corporate ladder

Unless you know yourself, the journey towards success can be very tiring. Many ancient followers have preached the importance of looking inside yourself and the power of reflection. Many successful leaders today have used their knowledge about themselves to climb to the top.

  • At many points in my career, the people I looked up to as mentors have helped me understand myself better says  Kim Ulmer, regional president of Royal Bank of Canada. His job role includes managing over 3000 staffers and 170 branches.
  • Dave Kasabian, chief marketing officer at Tagetik, a management software company, follows a policy of looking at his internal self by asking the following questions. What do I enjoy? What are my skills and passions? The he uses this knowledge to decide on what and how to develop.
  • Assessment tools provide helpful insights in understanding strengths. Michael Hyatt, author and entrepreneur, referred to StrengthsFinder 2.0, a personal development favorite, as he exited a corporate career to start a new chapter as an entrepreneur. His strengths, according to the model, included a focus on achievement and the future.

A part of self knowledge is to look back and think about both your good and bad experiences. Look at your past few days and reflect on which part of work made you the happiest. Was it closing a sale or teaching the new intern about the company policy? Use these insights to understand how you should grow within the company.


2. Question everything

Career advice from those who have climbed up the corporate ladder

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” —Jim Rohn


Having an open mind will be your key to making the most of all the learning opportunities you have in your workplace. You need to be able to look for a chance to excel and apply what you have already learned. In a leadership role , you also need to be engaged and focused to inspire those around you.

  •  “I usually take one or two courses per year at a business school to keep my skills sharp,” says Rich Crawford, CEO of Global Integrated Services.
  • “I have a thirst for knowledge and regularly go out to meet with business owners to understand their situation,” Ulmer says. “Recently, I found David Zinger’s “10 Principles of Engagement” and have found that to be a helpful resource. It has encouraged [reflecting] on my work several times per day to see if I am truly engaged.”
  • “One of the most valuable books I’ve read in my career is Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, says Ben Sawa, director of marketing at GEI Consultants Inc., one of the largest engineering firms in the U.S.
  • Entertainment executive Brian Grazer—producer of Apollo 13The Da Vinci Code and J. Edgar—attributes much of his professional success to curiosity and learning from those around him as he describes in his book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.


3. Look at your mentors, people who can inspire you

Career advice from those who have climbed up the corporate ladder

Contrary to popular belief, many successful hotshots look up to their mentors as they progress through their careers. They might start talking business and money, but the amount of learning you get from such conversations go way beyond just one area.

  •  “I have had several mentors over my career including family mentors and those in the business community,” Ulmer says. “Mentors have helped me to adopt a broader perspective and ask questions such as, ‘Have you taken the time to understand the situation before acting?’”
  • “Every meaningful mistake I have ever made has involved poor communication. [That’s] a lesson I learned from a CFO who mentored me. That was an important insight,” Sawa says. “I also think it is valuable to seek mentors who are different from you because they can provide a fresh perspective.”
  • “My mentors have helped me to get outside of the day-to-day flow of work to ask bigger questions,” Kasabian says. “In 1994, I was given a powerful question from a mentor: ‘Draw where you want to be in five years.’ That exercise helped me to think about my career and the direction of my life much more deeply. I ended up making a move to another state, among other decisions as a result. It was a powerful experience.”
  • “I’m a huge believer in mentors,” Crawford says. “At present, I’m working with two mentors and I’m learning much from both of them. I learn about industry best practices from one and work life matters from another. YPO [Young Presidents’ Organization] had an excellent mentorship program that I found valuable.”


4. The people around will make you or break you

Career advice from those who have climbed up the corporate ladder

The people you surround yourself with can do a lot to how you feel about yourself and to your success or failure. The phrase “you are the average of the five people you spend most time with” is quite true, and we have seen the truth of this statement with many legendary characters.

  • “My participation in Young Presidents’ Organizationhas been tremendously valuable. It is rare to find so many other executives and CEOs who are facing similar challenges,” Crawford explains.
  • “It is important to choose thoughtfully when it comes to joining organizations,” Ulmer says. “I’m currently involved with Junior Achievement because they operate on a national level and work on major problems. I’m also involved with the Manitoba Business Council.”

Have you surrounded yourself with people who will help you reach the pinnacle of your career?




Career advice from those who have climbed up the corporate ladder

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