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TheStreet Open House

4 Myths Getting In Your Way on the Corporate Ladder

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Moving up the corporate ladder has historically been more of a slow climb than a sprint, especially since top executives are loath to give up their profitable perches.

The tried and true ways to rise almost never change:

  • Improve your skills.
  • Broaden your experiences.
  • Connect to and build relationships with decision-makers and other professionals who can help you.
  • Stand out by working late, building a personal brand within a team culture and planning constantly for the next move.

But the rules of building a great career have actually changed, says Charles Wardell III, president and chief executive at Witt/Kieffer, an Oka Brook, Ill., executive search firm that helps professionals get to the top.

He says the secret is to know what traits really count in a climb and discount the ones that don't.

In Wardell's view, these are the "myths" that really can severely slow your career advancement campaign:

Myth 1: You can "get it all down by age 35." Not really, Wardell says. "Devote years up to age 35 not to furious job movement, but finding out what you are good at -- and how to make a career of it," he advises.

Myth 2: It's all about cash. Money shouldn't drive your career ambition -- and if it does, it won't get you very far. "Few of us will ever be able to make -- or spend -- enough money to compensate for a career or life fundamentally out of sync with our interests and motivations," he says. "Let those be drivers."

Myth 3: You'll be rewarded consistently for the excellence of your job performance. Again, that's wishful thinking for upward-mobility-minded executives. "Unfortunately, consistent excellence will not drive consistent reward," Wardell says. "Be aware of the need to also consistently market the value of your performance."

Myth 4: You are "special." Unfortunately, few workers are really special. What matters to the vast majority of career professionals is to know how to manage their careers, Wardell says.

The truths that should replace those myths are simple and effective, Wardell says. Focus on integrity, which drives respect from peers, and behavior, where respect for others in the workplace counts the most.

If you can manage to dispel the myths that don't count and forge attributes such as integrity and respect that really do count, that climb to the top of the ladder may go more smoothly than you thought -- even at one rung at a time.

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