Ten Ways to Move Up the Ladder by Helping Others

Cartoon image of business people climbing ladders.

The working world can often appear like a ruthlessly competitive place. Every good thing that happens to one person seems like a missed opportunity or a loss for someone else. And a quick glance around many workplaces can suggest that there isn’t much room at the top — for every promotion that gets handed out, there are several contenders who have to be passed over until the next round.

But this is usually an illusion. The real world is a bit more complicated than this, and the career ladder isn’t actually a straight path into the stratosphere with only enough width for one person. We live in a complex society, and as it happens, most of us work in a complex environment too. The same social rules that apply in the home, the street and the larger world also apply in the office. To survive, we need to work together. And helping each other isn’t optional — it’s a necessary part of business in a healthy and functional organization.

Try these ten time tested moves and get ahead by helping the people around you.

  1. Give credit away. Don’t be a credit miser. Have enough confidence to know that whatever you got right this time, you’ll get right again in the future. And have faith that those who distribute praise and reward will recognize this act of grace and class for what it is. 
  2. Yell up. Never yell down. If you need to get angry or become emotional in a negative way, make sure your feelings are directed at those above you. Never yell at your underlings, assistants or direct reports. It may seem counterintuitive, but protecting those without power puts you on the fast track to gaining power of your own. 
  3. Loop others in. Recognize when someone in your circle wants or needs to be included in an event, project or conversation, and include them. This simple move costs little and can pay off big later on.
  4. Lose small battles. In contract negotiation, this is known as a “giveaway.” If you know the other side wants something badly, and the exchange costs nothing to your side except a minor bruise to your ego, then put your ego aside, turn the item into a bargaining chip, and hand it over. 
  5. Whenever possible, demonstrate disdain for competition. Don’t be drawn into mindless competitive drama with your own team, your own company or anyone on your own side. If you accept a challenge in good fun, make it clear that you don’t take the outcome of the competition too seriously. 
  6. Don’t dodge big tasks. When you can, stay late to help coworkers solve serious problems. 
  7. Don’t be afraid. Fear of anything — losing face, losing money, losing credit or losing positive attention from our superiors — makes us small. Think like a lion. Breathe deeply, relax and have the courage to be generous. 
  8. Be aware. Keep your eyes open and recognize when the people around you need help. Offer the help before you’re asked. 
  9. Be a matchmaker. Pair the right people with the right opportunities, even if this isn’t your job. If you recognize an area of strength in a coworker and later see a place where that strength might be applied, suggest the pairing. 

Help Yourself by Supporting Others

The tips above apply not just to the workplace, but also to the job search. If you can help other job seekers find the positions they need, don’t hesitate. The small effort it takes to push someone else up the ladder will have a cascading effect that can support your own career and job search goals later on. Visit the LiveCareer website and find out how our resume building tips, practice interviews and job search guidance can help you move forward…and can also help those around you.

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