Climbing The Corporate Ladder
And why it's so important to be chosen by someone powerful
When you’re younger, climbing the corporate ladder seems smart. Large companies provide you a structured path to success. Biglaw is a great example of this. Every year you get an automatic promotion (first year, second year, etc.) with an associated pay bump. It feels like you’re Headed In The Right Direction.
Somewhere along the way, something changes though.
You start to realize that this game of climbing the corporate ladder isn’t what it seems. It’s a constant struggle to move up, and you have trouble understanding why. It’s just such a grind.
That’s because moving up at a corporate ladder job involves rules that no one ever explains to you directly. Basically, getting promoted to the next level, ie. making equity partner, is based on factors you didn’t expect.
Like bringing in clients. Or having expertise in a practice area that’s high in demand. You’ve done a good job at all the shitwork you were supposed to do, yet the rewards don’t come. Meanwhile, you see some of your peers get promoted. Quickly. As juniors, they were able to dodge shitwork and focus on developing skills and expertise that helps them move up.
That doesn’t mean that doing shitwork is completely irrelevant. It’s still valuable to the organization. My point is that being good at shitwork is merely table stakes and can never be a differentiator. You have to be good enough at it to get by. But it has nothing to do with who gets to move up.