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What VP’s know about climbing the career ladder that you don’t.

Career Ladder

She knows that to climb the career ladder it takes more than just great work.

Career ladder, how to make friends, influence people and gain opportunity

Who are we kidding, everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder. You can do great work, but plenty of people do great work. We also need to be able to influence folks. We may not all want to be an exec, but we all want new opportunities and career growth. If you are not able to influence your co-workers or your manager, you will be destined to standard raises and no new opportunities. This weeks post, how to break the cycle of mediocrity and climb the career ladder.

Make quick friends with your manager

Let’s say your boss’s name is Manager Doo-Dah. Doo Dah also has a boss and her name is SuzyB, VP. Below is a quick and easy way to score points with your manager and your VP.

The way to gain friends with manager Doo-Dah is to send a note to SuzyQ, VP which shows your appreciation for Manager Doo-Doo work on a project, a good deed, or helping you grow your skill set.

The note will go something like this

SuzyQ VP,

I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate working with Manager Doo Dee. We are working on the budget project and he took a few extra minutes out of his schedule to explain to me how the budget process works and why it is so important. I know that this may sound pretty ordinary, but I do not know how the budget process works at Acme Publishing. I have been involved in the process with other companies, but every company is different. He didn’t assume anything, he made sure everyone was on the same page and set the ground rules. He didn’t have to do this and I don’t know any managers that have in the past. They all assumed we knew what was going on. I appreciated him taking the time and wanted someone to know I appreciated the gesture.

Entry Level Career Ladder Climber

Hopefully, you get the idea. Say something nice about your manager, don’t lay it on too thick, and be sincere. If you can’t find anything good to say about your manager, that is a different story, but let me say this.

If you cannot find anything to say about your manager, you are destined to a life of standard raises.

I will leave that hang there for a just a few minutes, but it is true. If you don’t have ANYTHING good to say about your manager than assume the same about yourself. Your manager probably isn’t going to be able to find anything good to say about you and that my friend means minimal raises and very little opportunity in your future. Someone has to break the ice and the last time I checked, we are the ones responsible for our careers and our salaries.

Back to the career ladder and influence topic

Trust me, very few of your co-workers are sending a note of ANY kind to your VP. Your peers are not working the influence people game because they are too timid to send a note. They think the VP is untouchable, and shouldn’t be bothered. Hence, they don’t bother her, ever. They will bother a director, an executive director, and others that report to her, but the VP title has certain “untouchableness”.

Of those very few co-workers that may have sent a note to Suzy VP, none of them are complimenting Manager Doo-Fuss.

By sending a note to SuzyQ VP, you get instant notoriety and cred. Your email WILL be answered, you WILL be noticed and next time you two pass each other in the hallway, she will know you exist and give you the imperceptible chin nod. If she doesn’t know you yet, she will now. You just popped up on her radar in a good way.

When SuzyQ VP has received a note in the past about with Manager Door Knob in the subject line, 9 times out of ten, it is a complaint, rant or bitch from her other managers, her peers, or worse, her superiors.

Your note to SuzyQ VP goes bold about you in a number of ways

  • You are a team player; you like to make sure credit is delivered where credit is due.
  • You have a great attitude. You are a cheerleader and every team would rather have a cheerleader than a Negative Nellie that thinks the project won’t work.
  • You have confidence and you are a veteran. Even as an entry-level, runny nose noob, you can still show confidence and seniority amongst your peers of other entry-level JAFO’s. (Just Another Frick’n Observer)

Here’s the thing. After working in HR for years, and being responsible for dropping notes both good and bad in the personnel file, I found a loophole you can exploit and I am going to share it with you young CLC (Career Ladder Climber) which is different from the CLM or Career Limiting Move. Yes, this is ‘influence people 101″ folks so pull up a chair. The higher you get in the corporate food chain, the fewer people there are to compliment your work. Which makes sense, there are fewer directors than there are managers. There are fewer VP’s than there are directors. And there is only one C level for each discipline in a business. Entry level folks haven’t figured it out yet and no one is going to tell you about the secret note society except lil’ o HRNasty.

Those that rise to the top are either good ass kissers, related to the CEO or actually do good work and get shit done. For the sake of this blog post, let’s assume the latter. SuzyQ VP was on her game early in her career. She did good work and then stumbled across a way to influence people.

SuzyQ has been working for the past 20 years and landed the coveted VP title

In her first 5 years as an entry-level career ladder climber, this future VP would have been on her game and was tearing it up at Acme Publishing. She didn’t have any direct reports, but her personnel file is filled with notes from co-workers, managers, and directors. They are waxing poetic on the quality of work, ability to meet deadlines in the face of adversity, and being a leader when she didn’t have a formal title. Her work was stellar enough to be noticed and garner some kudos dropped into her file. She soon becomes addicted to the action. It was a simple Pavlovian response. Do good work, get written kudos. I know because I keep getting the notes-o-grandeur to drop in the file. Some employees receive notes on a regular basis, others do not. Some are nominated for awards on a regular basis, others are not. Early in her career, SuzyQ’s MANAGER received a lot of notes on her work. The manager shared these notes with SuzyQ and so SuzyQ soon figured out that sending “Kudo’s” on other colleagues work was in vogue. (Are you seeing a trend here?)

Back to your note complimenting your manager. SuzyQ VP reads your note, asks HR to drop the note in Manager Doo Woppty’s file and then forwards YOUR email to your Manager, the one, the only Manager Doobie.


Just received the below note from Entry Level Ladder Climber and wanted to say great work. It isn’t often we receive accolades from direct reports and it is obvious your team has a lot of confidence in you. Keep up the good work.

While your manager DooKey is floating on cloud nine, you my friend just got noticed by the VP as a team player and scored points with your manager DooHickey. You play it cool now. You don’t go running into your manager’s office spewing “Did SuzyQ VP tell you about my note I sent?” Veterans of the game don’t play like this. They wait for the manager to come to them, sit quietly and blush.

This needs to be genuine and sincere. We are all part of a team and as far as your manager should be concerned, if you are not successful, they are not successful. If you are playing them, they will end up playing you. If you don’t trust them, they don’t have any reason to trust you. Yes, we should all find a way to get along and like our manager.

Next week, how to go Down Town and reverse this play if you are Manager Doo Zee and want to make a similar run on the Career Ladder Climber. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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