8 Keys to Successfully Move Your Way Up the Work Totem Pole

How do you work your way from a basic employee up to a member of the management in a big company?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.


Answer by Ambra Benjamin, Engineering Recruiter at Facebook

Contrary to popular belief, working the hardest and the longest hours is not the path to management. Sure, in some companies maybe, but if that's the way to get to management in a company, I'd swiftly exit said company. In that type of environment, the "higher up" you get, the more doggish hours you're working.

Based on my observations, there are a few key areas to focus on during you career if management is something you want in your career:

  1. Be a problem solver. Management is less about telling people what to do and more about solving problems. As a manager, I feel like I spend most of my days simply solving problems for eight hours a day. Being a person who isn't a complainer goes a long way. Simply identifying problems isn't enough. In fact, if you consistently identify problems but don't bring or execute tangible solutions to those problems, you are actually a burden on those in leadership. So always be looking to improve something, make it better, and take initiative to do it. And if you are raising an issue in a group forum or meeting, always raise it with a possible solution attached.

  • Be someone who serves others. True leadership isn't about being served by other people, but more about serving others around you and making them better. A good leader should always be asking others around them, "How can I help you?" or "What can I do to empower you to do your job better?" You don't need to have the title of a "manager" to serve others. You can start doing it right now by showing yourself as someone who's not afraid to get your hands dirty and take on responsibilities both glamorous and non glamorous. I feel like the best leaders earn the respect among those around them by proving they have humility.
  • Mentor others without being asked. Leadership is about growing people. There's a reason why some people shouldn't ever be managers. All over the world great employees quit every day because they have a terrible people manager. One way to prove that you have management potential is to spend your excess time at work identifying people who need help or people who are more junior than you, and mentoring them to success. I'd also recommend raising your hand when there are opportunities to help be a part of training new employees in your department. Training new people is good practice for management. Also, proving to be a successful mentor of others who reciprocate respect for you shows leadership potential.
  • Be bold. Take risks. Innovate. Playing it safe is overrated. Unless you work for a bank, I guess. Leadership involves a lot of creativity and the ability to think about or view things in a new way that moves people from one point to the next. Don't always accept everything around you for what it is. It can always be improved or made better. Be inquisitive. Ask tough question. Challenge the status quo.
  • Master strong communication. Written, verbal, all of it. Public speaking, drafting procedures, PowerPoint, Excel docs, correspondence -- these are all things people associate with leaders even if it's in error. Great leaders don't have to be great public speakers. But I do believe people tend to associate strong public speakers with leadership potential. However false this premise may be, if you're someone who wants to be promoted to management, you'd do well to strengthen yourself in these areas because it definitely sets you apart from the crowd.
  • Dress a step up. Whatever the environment you're in, step it up half a notch. Nothing crazy. If you work at Google and you waltz in wearing a Brooks Brothers suit, no one is going to take you seriously. They might even make fun of you to your face. But I definitely recommend trying to tighten it up a bit in the wardrobe and grooming department.
  • Appear less interested in leadership than you actually are. There's this weird law that exists in life that the more you appear to want something, sometimes the more you repel the very thing that you want. Anyone who's ever dated can attest to this. Many will disagree with me on this, but I truly think the people who are most often tapped for management are those who never really seemed like they were going after a management role in the first place. People who mentor and help others because it's innate in them to do it, not because of what they think they can get out of it -- these are the people who often rise to the top. Nothing worse than a power hungry employee, willing to step all over everyone to get to the "top." One of the phrases I've lived by in my life is "your gift will make room for you." You don't have to claw your way to every opportunity. There is reward for being faithful in the little things.
  • Be allergic to average. Deliver results on the tasks that are given to you. Average should be your nemesis if you want to be in leadership. Build a brand of excellence in all you do. It will always put you on someone else's radar for when the next opportunity arises. Be faithful over little. You'll be made ruler over much.
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