Five Ways to Get to the Top When Starting at the Bottom

Get ahead

“You have to start somewhere,” is the positive spin you’ll hear when you’re beginning a job at the bottom of an organization. It’s supposed to make you feel better about doing what some would consider grunt work for a small salary. You’ll hear this phrase in your first job and when you switch careers later in life, and it can make you so anxious to get ahead that you won’t see all of the opportunities right in front of you.

The truth is, when you first start out, you still need to learn about how your business operates, how it reaches its goals, and, most importantly, your role in the process. There are ways you can enhance your knowledge and potential for advancement while remaining within the boundaries of your position, according to Dr. Karen Ivy, an assistant professor at Forbes School of Business® at Ashford University.

1) Read

“Read as much company information as you can to keep up-to-date on its direction, competition, perceptions by customers, and others in the industry,” she said.

2) Connect with a mentor

It’s important to have someone who can show you the ins and outs of your business, but you also shouldn’t hesitate to find a positive and trusting voice outside of your industry.

3) Develop your soft skills

Soft skills include time management, decision-making, and your communication habits. These intangible elements can make a huge difference when you’re tasked with leading a project or given a role on a team.

4) Join an organization and participate in company projects

Getting noticed can be difficult when you’re the lowest person on the totem pole. The more you’re involved in your company and industry, the more people will get to know what you have to offer.

5) Know who’s who

“Study your organizational chart – knowing who reports to whom and who holds which functional position is very important,” Dr. Ivy said. “I also have personally found that executive assistants and departmental administrative assistants have a vast knowledge of information flow in organizations. Get to know them, share, and see how your business acumen grows."

It’s important to remember that getting your next promotion is not just about working harder, it’s about working smarter and taking advantage of the resources and people around you.

“It has to do with when to make moves, how to make moves, when to talk, and when to be quiet and listen only,” Dr. Ivy said. “These ideas are very important for individuals focused on upper movement in an organization.”

Written by Jason R. Latham, Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education.

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