Get a Firm Footing on the Corporate Ladder-Inside Business: Hampton Roads Business Journal

Posted: January 28, 2011

Dan Ryan, principal of Ryan Search & Consulting in Tennessee.

by lakeshia artis

Employees looking to climb the corporate ladder and stay ahead of the game should behave in a way that sets them apart from the pack.

“There are many types of work behaviors that employers look for,” said Dan Ryan, principal of Ryan Search & Consulting in Tennessee. “Some of the most important include the ability to work effectively with others, the ability to communicate clearly, both verbally and in written form, and the ability to do what is needed to get the job done.

“Employees who follow only the letter of the job description end up being stuck in neutral in most cases,” Ryan said.

One way to stand out from the crowd is to show a genuine interest in the company’s initiatives.

“It’s about showing commitment,” said Ruby L. Beale, professor and chair of the Department of Business Administration at Hampton University School of Business. “If you don’t look like you’re interested and want to be bothered, they don’t think you’re committed to the organization and its objectives.”

Demonstrating an interest in the company’s mission and objectives is one of the key qualities that Bon Secours Hampton Roads looks for when promoting an individual to a new position.

“What we look for is a person who demonstrates our organizational values,” said Vickie Humphries, vice president of human resources. “Our values are respect, compassion, integrity and innovation. Is this someone who creates new ideas and acts on them and also has a track record of accomplishment?”

At Hampton University School of Business, an internship evaluation form was developed for employers to provide feedback to the school on what qualities and job skills they’re looking for in an employee.

“The companies are looking for written and oral communication skills, leadership skills, critical analysis and effective problem-solving,” Beale said. “One important thing is teamwork. Every employer wants people to function effectively on teams at various levels. They are looking for people with creative ability and how they apply technical skills in unique ways.”

Being a team player, a leader and a motivator is sometimes hard to manage along with other job duties.

“Folks who can successfully manage projects and people are important,” said Francina R. Harrison, MSW, a career and business coach whose business is called The Career Engineer.

“Some folks can do either but the person who can do both is golden. Projects are easier to handle than people. Dealing with pure data is easy. If an employee can do those things, the company can be profitable and it helps the internal structures move smoothly.”

Staying fresh and persistent is necessary for growth.

“Employees not only should be able to handle their present job duties but be able to grow with the company,” said Tom Wunderlich, assistant dean of career management at Old Dominion University Career Management Center. “One of the biggest challenges of remaining within the same corporate organization structure is staying fresh.

“Some people stay stale instead of proving they can add more value to the company,” he said. “This is why employers tend to look outside the company for fresh talent.”

In addition, Humphries said, “People who are looking to move into higher-level positions must have the ability to communicate with and to different kinds of audiences and be able to get their message across. We look for people who are change agents, meaning they embrace change themselves and aren’t afraid to lead people through changes.”

Employees need to remember that creative ideas, executed properly, can result in big profits for a company.

“In the 21st century economy, we have to be able to create profit,” Harrison said. “From an economic standpoint, performance is the main agenda but there is also political engineering when playing the office game. You have to know how to do that as well as produce profit and perform well.”

Ryan said, “Fresh ideas are very important, especially if they are more efficient and effective. On the other hand, newer employees need to learn the best ways to get their message to those who can get the changes implemented.

“There is a big difference between fighting a battle and a war. Knowing when to give in is just as effective as fighting to the bitter end,” he said.

When moving up the corporate ladder, avoid moving into positions that are not a good fit for your talent.

“People need to know what their strengths are and move into positions that will allow them to utilize their strengths,” Humphries said. “Don’t just look for opportunities for promotions of any kind. When you’re not in a position where you’re able to do what you do best, its hard to be successful and engaged in that role.”

Continued growth within a company generallly requires additional training.

“All employees should adopt a mindset of lifelong learning in this economy,” Ryan said. “The skill-set that made one effective 10 years ago will not be as effective now and in the future.

“In baseball there is a term called the ‘utility infielder,’ a player who can play many positions,” he said. “Employees who can adopt a utility infielder mentality are valuable because they can fill so many gaps.

We all need depth in our knowledge, but breadth can be just as important.”

Hampton Roads Business Journal