The Secret to Hitting the Next Rung on the Corporate Ladder: Learning

Moving your way up the corporate ladder requires an all-encompassing approach. It involves dressing sharply, being punctual and learning how to be a networking pro, among other things. However, there’s one aspect that people often overlook: learning.

In some cases, learning can generate higher earnings. According to 2013 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, young adults with bachelor’s degrees earned $17,000 per year more than people who just had high school diplomas.

However, learning also allows you to gain new skills that could give you a competitive edge over people who aren’t as interested in educational growth. Let’s take a look at some specific actionable strategies you can try to grow your knowledge while getting ahead at work.

Subscribe to an Industry-Relevant Podcast

Getting access to the latest news about what’s happening in your field is essential. Podcasts offer an easy way of doing that. They’re free, and are often broadcast by thought leaders and other respected persons. Also, many of them are very easy to digest, because they’re usually not longer than an hour. You can listen to them on the way to work, while making dinner or just before you go to bed at night.

Find a Mentor

Although it’s important for workplaces to have resources available that make it possible for workers to advance, those employees should also take personal responsibility. One way to do that is to get a mentor.

Your mentor can be a person you know in real life, but it could also be someone you only have a relationship with online. Also, you’ll often find mentors come into your life when you make a point of being a mentor to others. Keep in mind it’s not necessary to find someone who is much older than you are. Almost everyone has things of benefit to share, and showing willingness to learn them is the first step to personal growth.

Sign up for a Relevant Course or Program

You might lead a very busy schedule between juggling your workplace obligations and the other necessities of life, but it’s a good idea to try and make some strategic shifts in your schedule to keep it more open. Doing that could allow you time to take a night course that gives you job-specific skills. It might even be possible to take a course that gives you accreditation and do all your learning online at home.

If paying for the education is a concern, see if your workplace offers assistance. Many corporate leaders know if their employees are well educated in their fields, they are stronger assets to the company. With that mindset, they often provide funding to help their employees keep learning.

Be Observant About Company Norms

The people who are most often able to move up the corporate ladder with the least amount of struggle are often the ones that have a keen eye for details and are always carefully watching to see what people in positions of power are doing. As explained above, having a mentor is great. However, you can also get some valuable tidbits just by making a point of modeling things you see admirable people doing at work.

No matter the size of your company, try to gauge which people are most often responsible for making good things happen, meeting deadlines and encouraging others. Behavioral patterns can play big roles in who advances at work, too. Maybe your boss hates it when nearly everyone comes in to the meeting room precisely as a gathering is about to start. When that happens, it almost inevitably means things will kick off a little late, because people will probably have to find seats, set up their laptops and so on.

Try to steer clear of the company norms that tend to frustrate superiors. Instead, embrace the ones that might not be as widely followed, but definitely set you out from the crowd in good ways. You’ll set a worthy example by taking that approach, and may put yourself in a position for an upcoming promotion, too.

Working your way up the corporate ladder is a steady process, not a race. Learning is a key element for thriving in life, not just at work. However, the tips you’ve just learned should reinforce the idea that when you want to get ahead in your career, learning should be a lifelong love.

This guest post was written by Sarah Landrum. Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and blogger who loves sharing advice on everything from career and education to health and lifestyle topics. Her blog, Punched Clocks, is all about helping professionals navigate the work-world and find happiness and success in their careers. Be sure to subscribe to her blog newsletter and follow her on Twitter @SarahLandrum for more great advice.


  1. “Many corporate leaders know if their employees are well educated in their fields, they are stronger assets to the company.” It is quite unfortunate that some employers still treat employees who start taking courses as a threat. They imagine the employee will demand much more with an extra certificate.

  2. “No matter the size of your company, try to gauge which people are most often responsible for making good things happen, meeting deadlines and encouraging others” This to me summarized it all.

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