Networking your way to the top: How to climb the corporate ladder

Let’s face it, in this day in age, the trajectory of your career is often determined by who you know and who knows you: in other words, your network. While some excel at this skill naturally and sell themselves online and in-person 24/7, for most of us networking is the dreaded skillset we have yet to master. And the tough thing about networking is that we are never taught it at school or university, nor when we start our professional careers – we are just meant to know how to do it – somehow. The risk of failing to build a strong network is significant, especially as the workplace is increasingly diverse, international, and evolving.

Step one: connect. Step two, get ahead! But in reality, it’s really not that easy. In our latest episode, we podcast with networking expert, Kingsley Aikins, CEO of The Networking Institute, a company dedicated to helping you finally figure out this networking thing properly.

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What makes progressing in your career so hard is that it is not enough just to be good at your job. According to “Empowering Yourself, The Organizational Game Revealed”, a book by Harvey J. Coleman, our performance at work only accounts for 10% of what you will need to climb the corporate ladder. The rest of your chances at promotions are made up of two more pieces of the PIE pie, Image and Exposure. But even though performance only accounts for 10%, it is by no means a laughing matter because it is also the most straightforward thing you will be evaluated on. So excellent performance is a pre-condition, especially when you work in a high-powered environment, in which you can assume that everyone is performing at high levels. The next piece of the puzzle is Image which accounts for 30% of your pie. Image is all about the reputation you cultivate at your workplace. If you stopped co-workers in the hallway and asked them to describe you, what would they say? What does the way you hold yourself, dress yourself, conduct yourself say about you and your role at the company? The final and biggest piece of the pie, at 60%, is made up of Exposure. Why is Exposure so important? Even if you are outperforming everyone else at the company and have cultivated the ultimate hard-working and business-minded image, how is that going to help you if no-one knows about you? Visibility is therefore key because it can open doors that you do not even have access to yet. Making sure the right people know about your work means making sure the people who have the power to promote you know and appreciate what it is that you bring to the table.

Even though we should not take the PIE model as a rigid bible for how to climb the ladder of success, it is a useful guideline for how to network and manage your profile. It is also important to remember that the PIE proportions are not static but dynamic. When you start out at a job, for example, performance will be your main focus as there is nothing to build an image on yet. Having established yourself, it is then important to make career decisions that match your profile and image. Once you have that down, make sure the right people know about you! In a way, the PIE pie is not only a pie, but also a cycle. As you build your image and get more exposure, new performance opportunities will be offered to you which can enhance your image and lead to greater exposure.

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