Guest post by Stephanie Lynch, the co-founder of How Much Is It?

After leaving college, I slowly entered the corporate workforce, eager to work my way up to a cushy position that could provide for myself and my family in the future.  As a young 20-something, I had no idea how the system worked in order to advance up the ladder and the same could be said for some of my fellow classmates who entered similar situations.

As I grew older, I personally found the corporate culture to be quite demanding, and in my opinion, very unfair to some.  However, this isn’t the case for everyone; again, this is just my point of view.

Whether you’re thinking about entering the corporate world or joining a smaller to mid-level company, here are seven things you might find helpful that I wish I knew before joining the company I worked for:

#1 Working Hard Didn’t Matter without Self Advocacy

Communicating to Employees
Promoting yourself and communication skills are important in the corporate world.

In my profession at the time, my company employed tens of thousands of employees with multiple levels of management.  I thought you could just come in, work hard and this would be enough to get you to the top.  Boy,  was I wrong!  I discovered that once you get hired in,  you become a product/number and what mattered as much as productivity was promoting yourself and gaining visibility.  Self advocacy is key!

#2 Execute

One strategy which worked out best for me was going to my boss with creative ideas.  If these ideas were to help the company save money or help with a project, this was a way to get major brownie points.  Touching on point one, if you advertise/promote yourself and show your leaders you’re committed and motivated, this may lead to great things.

#3 Know Your Passion

You have to ask yourself why you’re working for this company.  Do you just want the paycheck, or are you serious about the work?  If you want the money and that’s it, you’re going to burn out fast, trust me.  You need to be passionate about the job you’re applying for, and if you’re not, you’re just not going to enjoy your work.  Remember, you’ll never work a day in your life if you enjoy what you do.

#4 Develop Crucial Skills

Learn how to handle conflicts, work with teams and meet deadlines.

Communication skills, especially negotiation skills, are huge in the corporate workplace.  If you can’t put your ideas into words, it can be hard to communicate with your team.  Also, if you want to eventually move up to a management position, you will want to learn how to handle conflicts, learn how to work with teams and meet deadlines.  If you don’t feel like you have these skills today, that’s fine because you can always gain them by training for the future.  Companies want to hire people who are committed to lifelong learning and this will benefit both you and your company.

#5 Support Your Boss

Supporting your boss shows you care and can put a name to your face.  In my corporate world, my boss was responsible for a lot of people.  Those who would hide in the corner and didn’t say a word would stay working that way for a long time.  However, if you took the initiative to genuinely help your boss, this could potentially lead to promotional opportunities.

#6 Be the Expert

Again, this touches upon tip three.  If you’re passionate about your work, take it one step further than your co-workers and be the expert in your field.  In your free time, attend conferences and read lots of books.  The goal here is to be the smartest person in the room.  If you can reach this point, you will be the go-to person who may eventually move into a managerial role.

#7 Be Likable

Lastly, many of us love to complain about work, but if you come into your job each day moaning and groaning, no one will want to be around you. Having good interpersonal skills is important in the workplace.  As much as work can be trying at times, try to come in with a  happy face and treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.  Likable people can brighten up a room and put a smile on the boss’s face, which of course, is a good thing.

Working your way up the ladder can be done if you’re proactive, and if you really want to, there’s no reason why you can’t reach the top.

Stephanie Lynch is the co-founder of How Much Is It?