How to negotiate your way up the Corporate ladder

“Sponsorship, mentoring and trust”.  These 3 words are the best career advice I ever received and I will pass on to anyone working for a large corporation.  For people already in the know and already doing it, it’s a no brainer. For people working extra hard and convinced that their work will speak for itself this is going to be a shock.

I have been in shock and denial for a while.  Working hard was how I was raised.  During college, people kept telling me to get good grades. at work, my bosses kept on telling me to work hard and in the office, people constantly tell you how busy they are.  On the other hand, there are people who focused on networking during college, found people who could help them perform tasks at work.

Robert Kiyosaki nailed the difference between these 2 personas in his book “the cash flow quadrant”. Here is a short video summary. He differentiates between people on the left side of the quadrant and people on the right side “Business owners” and “Investors”.  People on the left work hard. People on the right work smart, they employ the hardest working people from the left side.  And while working hard is very honorable, it has its limitations. There is so much one person can achieve.  Whereas there are no limits to people on the right side of the quadrant, to achieve more they just need to find more people or resources.  That same mentality is what help you to get ahead in a large corporation.  Let me explain the meaning behind these 3 words:

  • Sponsorship: Get a sponsor in your department.  It is most likely someone more senior. It could be 1 or more levels above you.  In some rare occasions, it could even be a peer or someone more junior.  It is all about clout.  The more clout your sponsor possesses, the more your ideas/projects will be amplified and your mistakes will be minimized.  In business, there isn’t a right or wrong idea. There are ideas that get supported and sold and others that get shut down.
  • Mentoring: Find a mentor, ideally outside of your department.  Why outside? because you need someone without skin in the game.  A person that will provide unbiased advice.  But still, an employee who understands the company culture and who could vouch for you from the sideline when the time is right.  You need to have some affinity with your mentor.  You also need to appreciate his/her achievements.  They need to inspire you.
  • Trust: Build trust with your teams.  Teams in the broader sense.  If you have people reporting to you they need to know they can count on you. Maybe you act as a sponsor for some of them.  If you have peers, they need to know that you are a trustworthy colleague. You will make them look good when the opportunity presents itself.

To climb the corporate ladder you need to be good with people. Have the ability to read and influence higher ups, peers, and direct reports.  You aren’t taught that in school. You are not even taught that your professional success relies on it. Just like Van Jones said, “it is not what they do to you, it is what they do not even tell you about