10 Tips to Climb to the Top of Your Career

The corporate ladder can be very unstable, so we rounded up some of the best on-the-job advice to help you keep moving up.

1. Act Like a Boss

Consistently step up whenever you have the opportunity to take charge. An unstable economy offers sporadic chances for upward mobility - if your manager is fired, you should make a move immediately. Bob Calandra, coauthor of How to Keep Your Job in a Tough Competitive Market, provides this script: "I'm not looking to be promoted, but I also recognize no one wants chaos. I know the ins and outs of my boss's job, so feel free to tap me for any of her work while we're in this transitional phase." Don't appear as though you expect something in return, and you might just get it.

2. Find Out if You're Underpaid

You can't get what you deserve unless you know what you're worth. Do your research online (payscale.com and salary.com have salary range information for most careers), ask around the office (verydiscreetly!), and check job boards to get an accurate picture of how your job is valued right now.

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3. Find an Advocate Inside the Company

Who's going to fight for you when that office opens up? Building a close relationship with someone within your company who can fight for you is crucial for your professional growth. "A mentor's great, but a mentor can't get you a raise," says Lauren Zalaznick, president of NBC Universal Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks. "You need an advocate inside your company, putting a halo over you that equates to promotions, raises, and responsibility."

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4. Request a Transfer to an Emerging Market

If you're willing to go the extra (few thousand) miles, volunteering to tackle an emerging market abroad is a one-of-a-kind chance to prove your leadership and business development abilities - plus, the opportunity to travel and learn a new culture isn't just a professional perk. And in tough economic climates, unless you're a proven superstar, this is the time to go where you're needed.

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5. Don't Undersell Yourself at the Negotiating Table

You'll only block your own advancement if you sell yourself short. "My salary situation at Morning Joe wasn't right," says MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski. "I made five attempts to fix it, then realized I'd made the same mistake every time: I apologized for asking. Also, I didn't really know my value, so I didn't know what to ask for." Prove yourself, then confidently ask for what you want and deserve.

6. Switch to an Industry That's Growing

If your industry is floundering and there's little room for growth, make a career switch to an industry that's booming. A few rare sectors that are doing more hiring than firing include engineering - techie grads are hot now that renewable energy is what everyone's talking about - as well as healthcare, information technology, education, and government.

7. Don't Waste Energy Combating Haters

"I can't expect everyone to love everything that I do," Beyonce Knowles, one of the top-earning women in the world, has said. Don't worry about people hating on you for your decisions - spend that energy becoming even more successful, instead. You'll get the last laugh.

8. There's No Such Word as "Can't"

When you're asked to do a task, your automatic response should be "yes" - even if you have no idea how you're going to accomplish it. You can figure out how to get it done afterwards. Only after all else fails do you tell your boss that it might not happen, but that you have several great back-up plans to try.

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9. Be Honest with Yourself About Your Goals

Is your boss's position really your dream job? Or do you actually want to be your own boss? If you've been moving up the corporate ladder but you're not loving what you do, entrepreneurship could be the next best step for you. Be honest with yourself and take the time to assess what you want out of your career.

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10. Dress for the Job You Want

You have to look the part to get the job. Always dressing professionally (to the standards of your industry, that is) shows your superiors that you can be counted on to look appropriate. No matter what your colleagues wear, follow the boss's lead. If she never wears jeans, don't.


Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.