Merge Gupta-Sunderji Opinion Career Advice

Looking to rise in the ranks? Here are 7 things you need to do now

Want to climb the corporate ladder? Then get recognized as a high-potential employee, says Merge Gupta-Sunderji

Author: Merge Gupta-Sunderji

CALGARY – There are two ways to get ahead in the world of work. One, strike out on your own as an entrepreneur and create your own million dollar company. Or two, successively rise through the ranks in an established organization. Both are viable options; this article focuses on the latter.  

If your career objective is to climb the corporate ladder, then you need to get recognized as a high-potential employee, or HiPo. HiPos are that illustrious group of individuals who have been tagged as the rising stars in an organization. These are the people who are invited to attend key meetings or join a task force, offered advanced learning opportunities, asked for input on a variety of decisions, and often given enhanced compensation. Behind all these seeming perks – the overriding intention is that these individuals will one day take on senior roles in the organization. 

If rising to the top at your place of employment is something you aspire to, then here are seven actions to you need to take right now in order to become worthy of HiPo status. 

1.  Do exceptional work.
Do your current job well. Extremely well. This is a base-line expectation. If you can’t show the powers that be that you’re tremendously capable of producing great work consistently, then none of the remaining six actions will matter.  

2.  Show initiative.
Don’t wait around for someone to tell you what to do. If there is an issue, real or potential, proactively brainstorm solutions. Volunteer to take care of an unexpected problem. If a new project comes up, jump on the opportunity to add value, perhaps even by taking on a leadership role. Routinely tackle tasks that are outside your direct responsibility. Ask for more challenging duties or to be assigned to special task force teams. Show others that you work well independently, and that you can be trusted to get the job done without someone else checking in. Take the initiative to step up and stand out. 

3.  Build relationships.
If want to be a HiPo, then grasp this fundamental reality — solid relationships are just as important as your track record in creating results. You will need supporters — up, across and down the organization. Your success lies not just in getting work done, but also in getting to know others. Make it a point to leave your desk. Eat lunch with your co-workers, so that you understand their points of view. Set up frequent meetings with key stakeholders, so that you understand their priorities . Engage in regular one-on-one discussions with your manager, so that you can keep the lines of communication open and flowing. Make commitments and keep them. Offer to help your peers when you are able.  Acknowledge your colleagues for their efforts when they do great work. Listen and be empathetic. Build your emotional intelligence. 

4.  Learn more.
HiPos never stop learning, so find ways to continually educate yourself. Ask questions — about processes, about people, about your company’s objectives and future plans. Continually sharpen old skills and develop new ones. Strive to improve on a daily basis. Read up on news in your industry, and demonstrate that you’re looking to further your career. Speaking of which, vocalize your career goals to your direct manager and others. Let those who have the power to help you know what it is you’d like to accomplish and achieve in the future. If they don’t know where you want to go, then they won’t be able to help you get there.

5.   Focus on your organization’s needs.
In all your actions and interactions, show that you have your company’s best interests at heart. Demonstrate that you are invested in the success of your organization by placing the company’s good over your own individual interests. Keep your finger on the pulse of your organization’s atmosphere and adjust your behaviour to fit the workplace culture. As a future leader, you have to be a role model for the company’s culture, and everything you say or do has to reinforce it. If the workplace culture doesn’t fit you, then go elsewhere, because you cannot be a HiPo if you don’t fit in. 

6.  Stay positive.
There is very little place for negativity in a HiPo’s world.  Realism and level-headedness, sure, but negativity, no. Focus on learning to maintain your composure, even during high-stress situations. You’ll get noticed (in a good way) for staying calm, cool and collected, even when things get heated at work. Because you’re a HiPo, you’ll be cut some slack for the occasional bad day, but keep them few and far between. 

7.  Keep an open mind.
HiPos are not always right, and they know it. It takes great maturity and presence of mind to accept that one can be wrong from time to time. So be open to others’ ideas, they may in fact be better than yours. Seek out feedback, positive is nice, but negative is even better. If the boss says that you can improve something, don’t get defensive. Instead, listen and consciously think about what you can change. 

Merge Gupta-Sunderji CPA, CGA (@mergespeaks) is a leadership and workplace communication expert who turns managers into leaders, drawing upon her over 17 years of first-hand experience as a leader in corporate Canada. Reach her or join the conversations on her blog at

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