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Why hard work won’t get you to the C-suite

2014 Whitney Biennial Opening Night Party2014 Whitney Biennial Opening Night Party
Stephanie Ruhle, Editor-at-Large, Bloomberg News and Anchor/Managing Editor, BloombergTV.Photograph by Jemal Countess — Getty Images

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How can women rise to the C-suite? is written by Stephanie Ruhle, Editor-at-Large, Bloomberg News and Anchor/Managing Editor, BloombergTV.

I wish there was a road map to the C-suite, but clearly there isn’t. If there was, the numbers of women running Fortune 500 companies wouldn’t be so abysmal and we wouldn’t need all these diversity studies or initiatives to improve the statistics. There are no fairy godmothers in business and even if it seems like some people are handpicked from the ‘Executive Gods’ to rise to positions of power and influence, there’s no reason to dwell on anyone else’s story but your own.

The truth is, senior management isn’t for those who simply believe hard work and talent will prevail. Those who are excellent at their jobs may be compensated well and even rise to middle management. And it’s true; you cannot just be focused solely on the climb. People who spend their time scheming for their next gig instead of doing a great job in their current role may see short-term success, but eventually will be found out and fail.

The NOT so simple “formula” is to work hard, strategize and take risks. Figure out exactly what you want and create a plan to get there. Write down your plan. Write it again. Keep track of your steps. And don’t lose sight of your goals. From there, factor in every possible diversion or pitfall and minimize it. We can’t control the weather. We can’t stop time. However, we can chip away at reducing margin of error.

Enlist stakeholders in your career to help. Don’t forget that it is important to build relationships outside your core business. It will widen your reach and help you stay on top of your game as things shift. More importantly, make your aspirations known. Your superiors should know when you want more. It’s your job to articulate your goals with those who can send you up the ladder. You cannot weep in your office bathroom over a job you got passed over for if no one ever knew you wanted it. Your boss isn’t a mind reader. He/she cannot help you climb to the next level unless you express your ambitions.

Straight A’s might make you #1 in your class, but they won’t make you #1 in your company. You’ve got to be aggressive and strategic.

If it was easy to get there…if it was fair…if it wasn’t terrifying…it wouldn’t be such a coveted position.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How can women rise to the C-suite?

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