A How-To Guide for Climbing the Corporate Ladder [BOOK REVIEW]

Jul 08, 2011 -

We know hindsight is 20/20 and that we all would have appreciated having sage advice about how to avoid obstacles as we made the transition from school into work. But would we have really listened? Or being the hotshots we are, figured, “Hey, that’s not going to happen to me.”

You never think it’s going to happen to you, and yet it does.

I get the feeling that author and lecturer Andy Teach felt the same way when he went from being an anti-corporate student to being a prominent leader and corporate businessman. Suddenly you embrace the person you never thought you'd become.

Teach's book, the recently released second edition of "From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time," will help you get inside the minds of your older coworkers and provides a glimpse of how bosses view the Millennial generation. He breaks the book down into quick-reference sections like, “Why a Career is So Important,” “At the End of the Day, Don’t Just Get Up and Leave,” “Dating a Co-Worker,” and “Life Isn’t Fair, So Don’t Expect Work to be Either.” Through his advice and examples, he’s using this book not only as a tool to help younger workers overcome generational divisions, but as a working guide you’ll continue to check when you need advice about the next corporate rung.

If this book is targeted specifically for the Millennial generation, I had to ask: What are some of the strengths Millennials add to the corporate world? “Your generation is well-educated, goal-oriented, and optimistic,” Teach said in our interview. “These are attributes important for success, not just in the corporate world. You are known for being team players, and supervisors really look for that. If Millennials can request working on a team to demonstrate these skills, they can use that to their advantage.”

Alright, what about the blind spots? “Young employees are not sure how to act when they get constructive criticism. When they do get criticized, they take it personally because they’re not used to it. Since you’re known as the ‘Trophy Generation’ (for getting constant praise and all those participation trophies), you’re overly personal with the feedback, and that’s not the reaction you want to have.” Essentially, while we all claim to want feedback, we need the bad even when we really only want the good. We need to react professionally because the criticism isn’t personal.

Some of the other blind spots shouldn’t be there, but it’s almost as if we’re ignoring them: spending too much time on the cell or Internet at work for personal reasons. “You need to know your Internet usage is being tracked, and that the company knows exactly what you’re doing. Just because they haven’t said anything to you about it, doesn’t mean people above you aren’t using that information to make decisions.”

“With privacy settings always changing, assume your boss can see your profiles. If you have Facebook ‘friends’ posting pictures and expletives on your Wall, you might want to consider asking them to stop or unfriending them. Those funny moments hurt your career, not theirs," Teach advises.

As someone who has explored being pro-corporate and understanding sometimes you just want structure, I can identify with Teach wanting to share ways we can make the most out of our careers. Remember, Google may have been a start-up, but it’s a pretty huge corporation now. We could find ourselves making the same transition. “I think the word ‘corporate’ is considered scary for Millennials. It’s as if the word is telling you that your career will be out of your hands. However, if you do take control and enjoy what you do, it isn’t work. That can happen in a variety of settings, even a corporate one.”

In the spirit of helping you start your own transition, Teach provides four steps a young employee can actively take to get over the first-job hurdles:

  1. Go with the flow, at least at the beginning of your career. “If you get in a job, and right away start complaining, you’re alienating yourself from your team and supervisors,” he said. “Get to know people first, then understand some of the politics. If you spend time developing a strong work reputation, then later, people will listen to your feedback.”
  2. Ask questions, listen to the answers. “If you think about it, the person in power is the one asking the questions. However, you can’t learn anything if you aren’t actually listening to the answers.”
  3. Initiate. “In the working world, 90% of people execute, but only 10% initiate. Is is this 10% who move up the ladder fastest. Those initiating are the people doing things above and beyond, anticipating needs and changes. For example, Millennials are the go-to people for technology. Embrace those teaching moments with your peers and supervisors because you are trusted in that ‘go-to’ role. It could be what makes you stand out and a keeper if your organization has to make changes or layoffs.”
  4. Patience. “I have had interns commit to a six-month position, only to quit two months later with two days’ notice for a ‘dream’ job. They get fired from that, and the result is no dream job and no recommendation from me. If you move up too quickly, you go from being a qualified promotion candidate to under-qualified, and it’s difficult to start from behind. Be patient, you’re not going to fall into your dream job right away, but do your research, and maybe you’ll find a company where you’ll want to stay a while.”

A notable component of the book is that Teach shares a lot of his own personal mishaps and bad moments. “I really think my own personal stories drive home the main points and learnings to be taken away from the book,” he said. “These, ‘I wish I knew then’ moments provide validation for me when I get up in front of audiences and speak. I’ve been in their shoes, and I can admit that."

Emily Jasper is a member of the Brazen Contributor Network.