Written by 11:49 am Women in Business • 48 Comments

How to Build Your Own Corporate Ladder

build your own corporate ladder

As you begin climbing the professional ladder in your career — regardless of your industry — people start to get more and more interested in you as an individual. The world’s natural curiosity spikes when they observe someone obtain a particular level of success and reach a certain tier of the “ladder. 

They want to figure out who you are, and how you got there.

Your Story Is Always Changing

Whenever I’m asked to share my story, I cringe — not because I don’t want to, but because I’ve learned over time that mine is a mixture of both perception and reality. Perception and reality are relative, and change as we grow, as we age, and as circumstances differ. It’s really difficult to accurately share because the story I tell today isn’t the same as it would have been ten years ago. 

Nevertheless, people ask, and I try to give them as much insight as possible. I like to start with facts.

Your First Step in a Beautiful Story

I’m currently the CEO of 1SEO Digital Agency. I took over for Lance Bachmann in September 2021 — but I’ve been in the operational role and training to become CEO for many years.

I didn’t graduate from college. As soon as I moved out of my childhood home, I had to begin thinking of my career and how I could support myself — and build a future. Unfortunately, during this phase of my life, financial circumstances didn’t allow me to work and go to school simultaneously. I tried, but inevitably chose to drop out of school and focus on that “ladder.”  

As you may already know from previous posts, I’m not a fan of working for or with family. Even in the beginning my first real work experience was helping my dad within his company. Mixing work and family can be extremely challenging and add additional stress.

Fast forward to my adult years, my brother-in-law and ex-wife founded 1SEO. Luckily, we have a wonderful working relationship and are the perfect trifecta for building and maintaining successful businesses. 

The Beginning of the Climb

In the beginning, I started in retail and became an assistant manager at Hibbett sports. I also did a short stint managing a Foot Action as it was going through its final closeout — remember those? 

I left retail to work in office administration for a pediatric dentist — the first position that got me thinking about operations and administration. From there, we can fast forward to when I began my marketing career, which oddly didn’t start in marketing but in fact, began in office administration. 

Small Town Frustration

The town I grew up in didn’t have a lot of options to build a big career — but I had big dreams. Most either worked in a family business, on a farm, or in retail. I didn’t want to do any of those. I wanted to work my way up a ‘corporate ladder’, so I took a job as a receptionist at a very large, growing construction company. 

I had a very different attitude than most new hires. I made it clear that although the only open position I qualified for at the time was receptionist — I knew I wouldn’t be in that position for very long. 

I ended up moving from position to position until I was sent to school for management classes and finally found myself in a sales and marketing role. 

It’s That Simple

I’m unsure if there’s much more background on how I ended up where I am. It really is that simple. Again, sticking to the facts only relevant right now, there weren’t many options regarding large companies with a real corporate ladder where I come from. 

I knew I wanted to work my way up and continued doing what it took to get from one position to the next — until that wasn’t enough. Throughout my time at that company, I had to learn things far outside my comfort zone to continue moving up. I learned how to measure and create “countertop drawings,” — the tape measure became my best friend for a while. I learned how to design kitchen layouts for new construction using platforms like Autocad. I learned how to manage a field crew and a group of employees.

All of these lessons helped me gain the experiences I needed to excel at the sales and marketing front. 

Changing to Perception

Now, this is where things get a little less factual and more about my change in perception. Over time, I learned that I was chasing something I thought I wanted, but in hindsight, I realized that my true desire wasn’t climbing the corporate ladder. 

It was to help an organization and its employees grow, improve and excel in their goals. 

With this realization came a new desire. I now planned to move away from the area, from the town that I felt was holding me back. This move and realization occurred when the housing market crashed, and I saw so many terrible things happening in the corporate world because of it. I relocated from Florida to Pennsylvania based on my new skill sets and experiences. 

I landed a Sales and Marketing job with an HVAC company.  

Heart and Focus

I put my whole heart and focus into helping the company I worked for grow their service contracts, sell new business and build processes to improve their productivity. This job kept me busy. I liked my coworkers, but it was a very small shop, and I inevitably got the itchy feeling about not being able to climb that particular ladder. 

1SEO was founded in 2009, but I didn’t join until 2011 — only because I didn’t want to work with my family. 

I was constantly interjecting in Lance and Jolin’s conversations regarding their start-up. I volunteered and/or was pulled into small projects or discussions. My marketing background was mostly traditional at this time and minimal compared to what they were building. Still, my interest in digital marketing was continuously peaked, and I found myself researching and learning in my free time.

Time to Make the Leap

I eventually caved and joined the company. I was raised in the south, on a farm, in the woods, on the water, and taught from birth that I could do anything. I don’t mean the stereotypical “you can be anything you want to be”.  It was more about being taught that I had no limitations and I was expected to do and perform just like anyone else regardless of age or gender.

I was the oldest child and a girl, but I still was taught how to build a fence, change a tire, mow, and ‘weed eat’. Once, I even had to weld a trailer to be able to go to the movies with friends. I wasn’t treated like a girl or like a boy. At least I didn’t feel treated like one or the other. I had chores to do, or there were things my family participated in, and I was expected to be a part of them. 

Perception Changes

As a young child growing up, I felt as though I was expected to be tough, rough, and competitive. Fifteen years ago, I would have told the story of my childhood very differently. Looking back, I can see what I was taught was that my limitations are only in my mind, and the world’s perception of me doesn’t have to reflect on how I perceive myself or how I behave.  

This is the part of the story that I love to tell. It’s the part of my life I feel has the most value and lessons to learn from. Joining 1SEO was difficult for many reasons. Working with family has its obstacles, but the greatest difficulty I faced was people believing that I didn’t earn my position or my promotions. 

I suffered from a bit of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and was terrified that my colleagues would think my job was handed to me because I was the sister-in-law of the founder, and the wife of the CFO. 

Reality Stays the Same

The reality of the situation is, I started as a project manager handling over 100 accounts and making less than $30,000 a year. My success was based on my ability to retain clients and to stay on top of all of the deliverables we were required to provide them — all with an increase in marketing performance. I knew I was earning my place, but that didn’t keep the imposter syndrome from invading my internal dialogue. 

Each season of life brings about new and fresh understandings. Things you experience as a child start making more and more sense as you become an adult. Issues you have faced in previous roles have prepared you better for today.

We must let the past be the past and focus on the “right now” if we want more for our future. 

My Secret in Life

My only secret in life is my MindSet. There are many ways that people describe their Mindset, inner dialogue, and self-worth, but when it comes to finding success, the trick is to feel you deserve it and that you’ve earned it. That means you can’t worry about perception, and part of your goals should be altering reality until it matches your desired outcome. 

What are you doing today to improve your skill set and properly communicate your desire? 

For example, if you want to become the CFO in your organization, you can’t focus on who else may be offered the position — focus on what you do daily and show you’re the only answer

Many people in my life, including my father and Lance, have confirmed what I learned in adolescence — if you want something, you have to work for it. Looking at the past, the delivery may not have always been in a preferred or desired method, but in hindsight, the message was fully received.  

It’s All About Effort

It’s easy to proclaim you want something, but to achieve it, you must be willing to endure the struggle. I’m lucky to work in an extremely diverse and inclusive organization. I get the opportunity to work with individuals from all backgrounds and all walks of life. I am proud to say that each person in my company has a chance to shine, develop, grow, and fly. 

I want them to see limitless possibilities, but most importantly, I want them to understand that they must work for what they want.  

Maybe I’m old school, but my Mindset has and always will be one of personal empowerment, and the willingness to pull the educational moments out of every second life gives us. 

Go after your dreams — but make sure you’re willing to use a little elbow grease. I think you can handle it.

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Last modified: July 21, 2022