In 2009 I stopped following the corporate ladder. After 7 years in the workforce, I realized following the “old rules” was actually holding me back, not moving me forward.
Waiting in line and letting your work speak for itself might have worked for our parents 50 years ago, but in the competitive corporate landscape we live in, you need every bit of leverage to stand out.
On average, only 9% of people get promoted, and even less make it to the executive suite.
If that is your goal, you can’t afford to follow the corporate ladder. You need to change how you play the game.
Your corporate job can be a playground for growth opportunities if you know how to use it to your advantage.
This is what you need to do to win the corporate game in 2024.
Avoid average, create leverage
There are a lot of aspiring leaders and not enough spots at the top.
That means breaking through to executive rules will require leverage. You’ll have to do things differently to stand out and rise above the noise.
The solution: Start thinking like an entrepreneur and manage your career like you are running a one-person business. That means you’ll have to invest in product development (your skills), marketing (your brand), and sales (advocating for yourself) to stand out. You’ll need to develop a unique value proposition that makes you irresistible and learn how to sell yourself.
You will need to let go of the belief that an employer is responsible for your career growth and take things into your own hands. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting in line with everyone else.
High achievers who can think this way will have more freedom and autonomy, better opportunities, and they will level up faster.
A personal brand = competitive advantage
There are two ways to attract opportunities in your career: push, and pull.
The push option is what everyone has at their disposal: send resumes, apply for a promotion, network, and proactively promote yourself, generally competing with everyone else for a sliver of attention.
The pull option, on the other hand, is all about creating a gravitational pull that draws stakeholders, opportunities, and collaborations toward you. How do you make that magic happen?
You build a personal brand.
By getting your name out there and positioning yourself in people’s heads as an ‘expert’ and a ‘thought leader’ you become top of mind. The preferred choice. Employers can’t help it, it’s human nature. We want things that are in high demand because everyone else wants them too.
Personal branding was once exclusively reserved for celebrities, politicians, and royalty.
But in this new world where the competition is fierce, a personal brand is a strategic necessity. Without one, it becomes almost impossible to stand out.
Executives who brand themselves will get more attention and attract more opportunities.
It’s the best insurance policy you can have for your career. A personal brand doesn’t depend on one employer, it stays with you over time, and it gives you the power of choice.
While the majority of corporate executives will continue to be anonymous, the few who build a personal brand in 2024 will become opportunity magnets.
Learn how to sell
Qualifications are table stakes. If you are eager to level up you’ll need to go beyond acquiring the right skill set and learn how to advocate for yourself. You won’t win the race by sitting on the sidelines waiting to be noticed. Not in this competitive market.
Let's be very clear though, selling yourself is not about having movie star charisma or shouting the loudest. Selling yourself is the strategic act of positioning yourself as the best solution to a problem. It’s about using human psychology, marketing tactics, and storytelling to become the obvious and desired choice for a promotion.
If you wait for your turn, let your work speak for itself, and avoid selling yourself because it feels uncomfortable, you’ll get lost in the crowd.
Simply put: if you won’t be selling, no one will be buying.
Build a portfolio career
The skills you gain while working in a corporate environment are extremely valuable. If you think about it, you are getting paid to gain experience, develop your skills, and build a reputation. All are assets you get to keep, even if you choose to change employers, pivot, or move out of the country.
No one talked about entrepreneurship, consulting, passive income, or side hustle when I started, but now these are all valid ways to maximize the potential of the skills you are developing. You don’t have to limit yourself to only serving your employer, you can have multiple streams of income.
And you don’t have to quit your corporate career or take massive risks, you can have the best of both worlds.
Get paid to gain skills and experience in your day job, and use those skills to develop a side hustle, brand, or additional income sources.
This is a new reality that didn’t exist in previous generations. You can do MORE with the assets (skills) you have, and future-proof your career.
The smartest executives will start building on the side, so they always have options.
Your next steps
The corporate game has changed. You can keep playing by the old rules and hope for the best… or think strategically and create leverage in your career.
Start thinking like an entrepreneur with a corporate job.
Build your personal brand and learn how to sell yourself the right way.
Leverage your corporate accomplishments to fuel additional streams of income.
That’s how you’ll win the corporate game in 2024 and beyond.
I believe in you and I’m rooting for you.