Lies You’ve Been Told About the Career Ladder That Just Aren’t True

After working at your job for a couple of years, you’ve mastered all the basics and then some. You’re well on your way to becoming a leader in your field. Now that you’ve sharpened your skills, you’re ready to move on to something bigger and better. This year, you have your eyes on that shiny, new promotion (and a pay raise, of course). You’ve been working hard, doing your best, and hoping it will happen soon.

If you’re at a stage where you’re ready for the next level in your career, you’re doing everything you can to move ahead. However, some actions could actually set you back further in your career if you’re not careful. There are myths out there that don’t prove to be time-tested methods for securing career advancement. Here are lies you’ve been told about the corporate ladder that just aren’t true.

Good workers get promoted

 businesswoman in expensive hotel

Being good at your job isn’t enough. | iStock.com/dima_sidelnikov

You’ve worked for your employer for several years, you come to work on time each day, and you hand in quality work. Performance reviews are coming up, and you just know in your gut you’re going to get that raise and promotion. As you sit in the meeting, you smile from ear to ear, waiting for your boss to tell you the good news. Much to your surprise, the meeting ends with “good job,” and you’re told to go back to your desk. What just happened? There’s a possibility you were too good and polite. Being nice can come back to bite you.

Next: This is who really gets promoted.

You have to be the squeaky wheel

man holding a tablet

Are you the squeaky wheel? | iStock.com

Visibility is key. It’s not enough to be a good worker. Many good workers go unnoticed for years. They keep their heads down, fly way below the radar, and stay at the same pay level for years. Eventually, these good workers get tired of being overlooked and head over to the next job, hoping someone will notice them. Guess what? No one is going to notice.

The employees who get promoted are the ones who toot their own horns every now and then. If you want to advance, you’ll have to let your supervisor know what you’ve been doing to contribute to the company and how you’ve been developing your skill set. A little self-promotion can go a long way.

Next: You know a lot of people — so what?

It’s who you know

 manager holding a smart phone

It’s not about who you know. | iStock.com/Halfpoint

You’ve probably met a lot of people during your career. You have a network of former bosses, co-workers, and professionals you’ve met during conferences or through other means. So that must mean when you need a job, you’re all set, right? Not exactly.

It’s great you know a whole bunch of professionals in your field, but at the end of the day, knowing people is just that — knowing people. That doesn’t exactly translate into jobs and promotions. When you really think about it, you just know of people. Unless you’ve spent quality time with them, you don’t really know them. And that’s a problem when you’re facing a tough job market.

Next: Who knows you?

The key is who knows you — not the other way around

Young woman using smart phone

Do enough people know you? | iStock.com/Poike

You probably know lots of people. But that doesn’t mean any of them want to help you advance your career. The key takeaway here is to make an effort to stay connected with your network. Don’t slip away and then come back around when you need something. Develop relationships with former colleagues, bosses, and professionals you meet during your career journey. When these people get to know you, and form an authentic relationship with you, they will be more willing to lend a hand when you need it most.

Next: Do you qualify?

The most qualified people get interviews and promotions

young student sitting at desk and doing her homework

The best qualifications don’t always matter. | iStock.com/demaerre

You have an advanced degree, several professional certificates, and a work history most job seekers would envy. However, you’ve sent more than 100 resumes, and you haven’t gotten any interviews. Or maybe you have more education and experience than your co-workers, yet you see those who are less qualified get rewards and the best promotions. What gives? When it comes to interviews and promotions, sometimes you need a little luck — or the right name and family connections.

Next: But it’s not fair.

 Work isn’t always fair

woman working with a laptop

Things won’t always go your way. | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

One important thing to know about the world of work is it isn’t always fair. Even if a co-worker produces average work, it’s likely they’ll get promoted over you if they’ve developed a good rapport with upper management. These average Joes might even be related to influential people at the company, or they might share an alma mater. You’ve probably heard it before, but managers hire and promote people they like and who they’re comfortable with. In addition to being the best you can be at your basic job requirements, also work on your soft skills and take time to network with those around you.

Next: You might not find what you’re looking for.

 The best jobs are out there if you look hard enough

Business lady texting and using laptop

It’s not just about looking hard enough. | iStock.com/DragonImages

As soon as you graduated from college, you were probably told if you kept at it and looked for a job every day, you’d find your dream job. It’s just a matter of staying dedicated to your search. So you diligently surfed the web every day. Then, after a few months, you grew frustrated. After all that time looking for a job on the internet, all you have to show for it is a carpal tunnel brace and dark eye circles.

The jobs you see either require more experience than you have, or they’re below your skill level and don’t pay much. It seems to be an endless search and several days with no reply from the jobs you are interested in. So much for staying committed to your job search.

Next: You have to know where to look.

 The hidden job market

social networking

The hidden job market isn’t online. | iStock.com/Prykhodov

It is a good idea to be persistent. However, you won’t find the best jobs just based on how hard you look. There is something out there called a “hidden” job market, and you won’t locate it by doing an aggressive online job search. These jobs are usually not posted on job boards. Instead, these positions are filled through word of mouth and internal promotions. Jeff Lipschultz, founding partner of recruiting and employment consulting company A-List Solutions, estimates at least half of all hiring is done through the hidden job market.

Next: Don’t hold your breath.

The only way to get promoted is to wait for an opening

 watch on the wrist

You might be waiting for a long time. | iStock.com/iprogressman

If you’re hoping to get promoted, you might think there’s only one way to get advancement. Some employees spend years waiting patiently for a manager to notice them and give them the push they need. However, there are several ways to move up the ladder. Waiting for a higher-level co-worker to leave or get promoted is not the best plan of action when it comes to moving forward in your career. The position you want might not open up any time soon, or it could be eliminated altogether. Don’t spend years simply waiting.

Next: Just ask.

Sometimes you have to ask for what you want

meeting at work

Ask for what you want. | iStock.com

Instead of waiting around for someone to realize how awesome you are, there is something you can do right now that will get quicker results. You might be surprised to know sometimes all you have to do is ask to be promoted. Some new positions are created because there is a need for additional help. Why not try to help your employer meet a critical need and then suggest a promotion, so you can dedicate your role to fulfilling that need full-time? Go ahead, and ask for what you want. Hearing a “no” isn’t the end of the world, so take a risk.

 Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.

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