Advice From an Insider: How to Move Up the Corporate Ladder

Advice From an Insider: How to Move Up the Corporate Ladder

When Tony Wong’s daughter graduated from college, he did what any good father would—he gave her advice about job hunting.

Then his nephew and niece graduated, and he gave them the same advice. “I noticed that I kept repeating myself over the course of the summer,” he says.

So he started writing his little nuggets of wisdom down, and before he knew it, the former director of such Fortune 150 companies as Black & Decker and 3M had an outline for a book—one that he thought other people would also find useful.

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“It became apparent to me that most young people are unprepared for the real world,” he says. “And I didn’t find anything else out there that provided real advice from successful CEOs on how to move up the corporate ladder.”

Wong’s book, Mooove Ahead! of the Corporate Herd, does just that—and it provides sage advice for people who are at various points in their careers.

Mooove AheadLearnVest: OK, first things first—why the cow metaphor?

Tony Wong: All great marketers need a catch, right? But, seriously, when I thought of the corporate world, I kept seeing this herd of people: They look the same and wear the same clothes. So why is it that one person becomes a leader? What makes them different? What gives them an edge? Certainly there are people who are born leaders—they just have that spark. But then there are also people with loads of potential who've never been given the right tools or guidance to help them get where they need to go.

You talk a lot about confidence in the book, but there’s a fine line between that and arrogance. How do you avoid crossing it?

You can’t ... unfortunately, you’re going to cross that line once in a while. The reality is that confident people take stands on positions, they take risks, they put themselves out there—and sometimes that can rub people the wrong way. The idea is to minimize the damage. You can be confident but still respectful of others by listening, taking notes and acknowledging other people's perspectives.

Let’s talk about social networking. How can people use it to their advantage?

This is a great question. Everyone is on some kind of social network, right? But not everyone really understands how to make it work for them. The biggest mistake that I see is people having 500 Facebook friends or 1,000 connections on LinkedIn—and they think that they’re great at networking. But how many of those people are you actually in touch with?

Networking is about the quality of those relationships. You have to keep in touch with people, and exchange meaningful communication—but not just when you need something. You should also make sure that you have a very diverse set of people around you. If you’re an engineer and your network is only other engineers, then you’ve defeated the entire point of networking.

A mistake that women make is that they chase down other female mentors. You need to have a wider network.

Much of the corporate world is still male-dominated. Do you have any advice specifically for women trying to move up?

I see women as a minority in the corporate world, just like my being Asian makes me a minority. How do you overcome that? You need to understand your stereotype and use its positive traits to your advantage—for instance, women are stereotypically organized, intuitive and good with details. These are good things!

Another mistake that women make is that they chase down other female mentors. If all you see are white guys at the head of your company, wouldn’t it make more sense to get one of them to mentor you? You need to have a wider network.

Your book is mostly for people who are looking for that next big step. But what about people who have their dream job—what’s next for them?

The retirement pasture. Maybe my next book will be about where it is, and how can I comfortably graze there.

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