For my very first job, I worked at a movie theater in the concession stand making minimum wage and serving overpriced popcorn and candy to bitter customers. It was my first taste of the working world but as a 16-year-old girl, it was also my first taste of freedom.
Whenever payday rolled around, I got excited thinking of how I would be able to spend my money. I quickly realized minimum wage didn’t take you very far, and I found myself calculating trips to McDonald’s by how many hours it would require me to work to pay for meals.
Learning my budgeting ways at 16, I established a firm work ethic and ambition that allowed me to triple my salary in less than five years—from the time I graduated college to the time I landed the job I have today.
These are my tips for progressing up the corporate ladder.
Take a chance on internships
I think the choice that set my whole career in motion can be traced back to the summer before my junior year in college. I had been studying abroad in Italy earlier that year and hadn’t had much time to look for summer internships. By the time I returned in the spring, a lot of deadlines had passed and internships were filled.
I found myself sitting in my parents’ kitchen, going crazy wondering what I was going to do that summer if I couldn’t acquire any internship experience. Finally, I took a chance and emailed a local reporter from a large metro newspaper. It was completely out of the blue, but I offered to work for free, wash his car and babysit his kids if he would allow me to shadow him for the summer so that I could gain some experience in journalism—my focus.
He not only offered to let me shadow, I got paid too. After I graduated college, I ended up going back to work for him for six months until a full-time job opened up.
Pay your dues at every job
At every job I held, I was content with starting at the bottom. I knew I didn’t have any real work experience, but that my strong work ethic would prove that I was an indispensable asset.
I see a lot of graduates today who think they’ll just automatically start at the top because they have a college degree. It just doesn’t work that way in most cases. I was never above making coffee (not that I ever did), but I was determined to perform any task that was given to me so when opportunities did arise, I would be ready for them.
Be prepared for job opportunities
Moving up the corporate ladder is part luck and part preparation. An opportunity for a better paying job or a promotion may present itself and you will need to be prepared. It’s important that you build strong relationships with your former employers so that they will give you solid recommendations. It’s also important to take advantage of training and network opportunities where available.
Remember that the key to progressing up the corporate ladder is a bit of luck and a lot of hard work.