Life at the Top – is the view worth the effort?


By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

Climbing the proverbial career ladder is not something in which everyone is interested. Although if you have even a one competitive bone in your body, the thought has certainly crossed your mind.

Plotting and planning how to escalate the ladder is not always a straight-forward process. Arguably, it is one of the most difficult paths to navigate. In many business disciplines or certain industries, there are not any particular methods that guarantee how to get there.

I am not a fan of politics, but realize there is a fair amount of politics with which one has to contend in order to scale the rungs. Essentially, politics is a popularity contest. You need to figure out how to either become acquainted with, or deal with the people who are in influential roles.  It’s likely they will have a say in whether you will be able to ascend.

Having political ‘supporters’ is critical to successfully navigate in a corporation heavily laden with politics. Unfortunately, a company does not need to be large to have politics influence its culture, and how its employees rise or become stagnant.

When I ask CEOs and other top-level executives if their journey was worth it, a large percentage tell me the sacrifices they made personally were not. Not all executives had to sacrifice so much personally to get to where they are, but the percentage is over half.

However, there are certainly advantages at the top, but as we all know, money cannot buy happiness. Some executives told me they would trade their position or do things differently if they could get back to a simpler life and be, or feel, happy again.

And while we are on the subject . . . happiness is not something you can simply just want to have. You have to work at being happy. The first step is to determine what makes you happy. Prepare a mental list, and you just might realize that you already have everything you need to be happy. In fact, when I talk to CEOs what makes them happy, they often realize there are a few things they could alter to get back to feeling happy again.

Climbing the professional ladder can take years. Most people will need new skills. Many will likely switch departments or employers’ two or more times.  Why?  Because typically, when someone moves into a different role, they will acquire new skills and valuable experiences not always available when they remain at a specific position for more than a few years.

People will automatically see things differently in a new environment, be exposed to new people and new approaches to how to do any number of different things.

Change is not something with which everyone feels comfortable, but those who embrace and become comfortable with change are typically the ones who climb the career ladder over their peers who do not.

Slow and steady is a great concept for the majority of people in an organization, and thankfully, many people are satisfied with this style of how to operate. If everyone wanted to rise to the top there would be serious management issues to address.

Luckily, this typically is not the case. There are layers of management built into the organization at larger companies, in part to control or even prevent this from happening.

The next time you think about whether you are ready to climb the corporate ladder, decide how high you’d like to go. Then plot out how you will get there. You can do this by talking to others who are in roles above you, especially at your own company, but also at other firms, as there are generally more ways than one to get to where you want to be.

Talking to people can mean actually having a conversation with them in person, via an email or Skype, if distance is a challenge. Ask if they had help planning how they got to where they are, or if the process happened in an organic way.  That is often the case if a company routinely promotes employees based on having a well-defined process.

Unfortunately, most companies do not have a systematic, fair, and non-political promotion plan. If your company does not, take comfort knowing that you are in the majority of people who have to figure out how to climb to the top, if this is really what you want to do, and if the top, or even the next rung, is worth the effort.

Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at



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