Advancing Your Career at a Startup: Wise Ways to Climb the Corporate Ladder Even If You Can’t See It

Working at a startup can be incredibly exciting. Who knows, it could turn out to be the next Facebook or Google, and you could be part of something that changes the world, especially if you work in the tech sector. And despite the risks, it could be one of the best ways of advancing your career.

However, it also has its downsides.

For example, how can you plan to climb the corporate ladder if there isn’t a ladder in place yet? Advancing your career at a startup may not seem as clear to you as at another more established company. But that’s not to say it can’t be done.

You just have to go about it differently.

Look for Startups that Are Growing

Advancing Your Career at a Startup: Wise Ways to Climb the Corporate Ladder Even If You Can't See It
Advancing Your Career at a Startup: Wise Ways to Climb the Corporate Ladder Even If You Can’t See It
The first thing to do is to choose your startup with care. You ideally want to look for a place that is growing fast, where you can see a future for yourself. If you get in early and it grows rapidly, this could lead to many more opportunities with new roles and new responsibilities.

Try to find out more about the company and the direction it is taking before you get a job there. Find out more about its plans for growth and its sales targets. Ask as many questions as you can, and base your decision on the answers you get.

Learn New Skills Continuously

Startups provide you with the perfect setting to learn new skills. You may have to take on new responsibilities, in which case training may be provided, or you could arrange your own training to gain new skills, which could provide you with more opportunities to develop your career.

For example, with something like Digital Marketing Certified Associate Training you could make yourself a valuable asset for the marketing team and demonstrate how serious you are about your career, which could lead to new opportunities for you.

With continuous training, whatever happens next, you will leave your role with more skills, which will help you find something even better.

Take On More Roles

Startups provide you with a good opportunity to take on additional roles and develop your skills. Money may be tight, and the company may not have the funds to hire a specialist, so put yourself forward and take on more responsibilities.

This could lead to an increase in your pay, but it could also help you to develop new skills that you can take somewhere else when the time is right, or it could help you to progress in the company.


Networking is important in any job. You never know when you may want to ask someone for a favor later on in your career, so invest time in building relationships.

Who knows, your boss could become the next Mark Zuckerberg.

Even if you move on somewhere else, you want to leave with good connections, so spend time getting to know people throughout the startup. Networking can make a huge difference in the success of your career, helping to open up opportunities that might not otherwise come your way. So make the most of it in your current position.

Clarify Exactly What You Want

Don’t be shy about your goals, and make them clear from the start. No one else is going to work them out unless you are clear about them, and there is nothing wrong with being ambitious.

Make sure your boss knows what you want, otherwise they may pass you over when an opportunity arises. If they know that you want to move in a particular area or progress in a certain part of the company, they may look to you first.

Ask your boss what you can do to help your case in order to get where you want to be, and make it clear that you are serious about getting there.

Prove Yourself

Every day is an opportunity to prove yourself when you work at a startup, to show what you are made of. Demonstrate your leadership credentials whenever you can by taking the initiative. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you.

Then when the management looks for someone who they can trust to take on a new role, your name will come up.

The Perfect Career Opportunity

Working for a startup can actually be the ideal career opportunity. The corporate ladder may not be so clear, but there are many opportunities if you are keen to take them.

So use your time at a startup to constantly learn new skills, to network with other people, and to develop your leadership skills. That way, when it is time to move on, you will put yourself in the best position to move onto bigger and better things.

Alicia Atkins has been working as a careers consultant for many years. Her useful articles can be read online at a variety of career blogs.

( Photo by Luckas Hauser )

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