“It is possible to climb the corporate ladder, but it takes time, years. New entrants to the labour market often have unrealistic expectations. They expect to be appointed into senior management positions within a period of three years, and into Board positions within five. These expectations are not realistic,” says Head of ACCA SA, Nadine Kater.
Kater says there are, however, a number of strategies, which will assist women to climb the corporate ladder a little more quickly. “If implemented, these strategies should assist young women to build solid and sustainable foundations for a long and successful career,” Kater explains.
Exceeding expectations is a good starting point: “You need to be visible and you need to build a good name and a good reputation for yourself. If you have something constructive to add, speak up in meetings. Show initiative. Make recommendations. Do your homework beforehand. Embrace the Boy Scout motto, ‘Be prepared.’ This will stand you in very good stead. Become an expert in a specific area. Be seen as a problem-solver, and someone, who always delivers quality work.”
Kater cautions that there is a very fine line between being perceived as a value-adding contributor, and an opinionated, know-it-all. The latter, can be very career limiting.
She says it is also imperative to cultivate good networking skills: “Associate with people in prominent positions. Be strategic: network with key individuals, including industry professionals. More than one manager may be involved in the decision to promote you, so abide by the dictum that the more people, who are aware of your skills, the better.”
Looking and acting the part is very important: “Dressing professionally shows that you are serious about your work. Working hard, arriving for work early, and leaving late, reinforces the fact that you take your work very seriously, and are also, willing to go the extra mile.”
While it is important to focus on one’s own work and one’s own career, it is equally important to be supportive of others, especially one’s manager. It is also important to be seen as a good team player. One should cultivate the habit of assisting, and even mentoring others within the organisation.”
Rather than asking for promotion, Kater says one should ask for more responsibility as this increases the depth and breadth of one’s skills: “There is a real danger of being promoted too quickly, particularly if one has not acquired the requisite skills or experience. The Peter Principle is well-known. Individuals, promoted into positions, for which they do not have the necessary competencies, do not perform and are therefore, not considered for further promotion. For this reason, one should not be afraid of horizontal moves. These moves can help to build and consolidate one’s skills.”
Kater cautions that climbing the corporate ladder is not for everyone: “It is possible to climb the corporate ladder in stilettos. Doing so, requires an ability to work with people, a willingness to learn, passion, a good work ethic, leadership, good work experience and a strong skills set.”