Are you rising up the value chain?

If you want to climb the career ladder, you need to add more value.

Published: Dec 12, 2023

Callie is ambitious in her career, driven to climb the ladder at her company. But she knows that to be the obvious pick for the next promotion, she needs to add major value.

Many top performers have been in positions where they’ve put in the work and the time and still not gotten promoted. It’s tough out there. SHRM estimates that the average promotion rate for organizations is only 6%. And now with the spike in AI tools, many people worry about both short- and long-term job security. 

The best way to earn that next promotion, become irreplaceable in your job, or land a new dream job is to constantly move up the value chain. “Moving up the value chain is similar for both individual contributors and leaders,” says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. “Being an active contributor, gaining visibility and caring about others are key to rising up the value chain in any organization.” 

Here are our best tips.  

The best way to earn that next promotion, become irreplaceable in your job, or land a new dream job is to constantly move up the value chain.

Get clear about your goals. 

Your personal and professional goals will be the basis of your advancement plan. When outlining your goals, ask for input from your manager and mentors. Get constructive feedback from multiple people, especially those in a role you would like to have someday. “Most of us have blind spots. 360 assessments, and asking specific questions about others’ perceptions of you and your performance are useful in this regard,” Olson says.  

Always deliver a quality product. 

Advancing within an organization is competitive, so you and your work should be excellent, not average. You need to stand out to get noticed, so aim to exceed expectations and standards. Think about personal branding and your unique value proposition, or choose a special topic to become a subject matter expert in. Then, take on challenging projects that will give you greater visibility and look for opportunities to raise your profile beyond your company (e.g., at industry events) if possible.  

"We don’t live in a world where influential people will just notice you based on the merits of your work,” Olson says. “Be sure to express your interest in advancement and promote yourself with tact.” Keep track of your accomplishments quantitatively and qualitatively, then take advantage of the many ways to share your accomplishments within your organization. 

Be a continuous learner.  

To be considered an expert in your field, you need to constantly develop your knowledge and skills. Learn the in-demand skills at your place of work and in your industry and gain access to materials, courses, certifications, or programs that will provide you with knowledge, skills, and credentials. Many organizations offer online learning or offer funding for continuing education. Choose courses and certifications based on your central goal, as well as what is practical for you at this time in your career. 

Build relationships. 

Career experts caution not to save networking for when you need a job. Relationships are critical to advancing in your field, company, and industry. Build strong, strategic relationships with your manager and other leaders, peers, and select others in your company and industry. 

And you never know which person from your past can be the key to advancement in your future. Staying in touch is a skill you can build, as it doesn’t come naturally to more introverted people. Build career colleagues for life by setting up casual, collegial lunches and meetings, messaging people just to say hello, and reaching out when you don’t need anything from them.  

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