IN TODAY’S competitive corporate environment, you need to take your career in your own hands if you want to achieve success. You cannot delegate the responsibility of planning your career path to the human resource department.

Here are seven strategies to help you build a successful career in your company:

1. Schedule lunch

Make it a point to schedule lunch at least once a week with people who can help you in your company.

Build an ally within the company each month. Diversify your network. This allows you to tap into opportunities available within the company and build up resources to get things done more effectively.

I place lunch on the top of the list because it is one of the most valuable ways to build relationships in the company.

Everyone needs to have lunch, and most people — including senior executives — are grateful for lunch companions and will usually accept your invitation.

2. Take the initiative

Volunteer in committees and projects that allow you to showcase your skills and interest.

Most companies have recreational clubs, charity and other project committees that are a great platform for you to connect with colleagues from various departments.

Take one step farther and organise a “meet the people” session with the highest-ranking person you can get to tour your department.

Furnish him with some personal achievement or contribution each person in your team has made so that he can specifically thank them.

This helps him to connect with each person positively.

Your level of influence in the company is proportional to the number of connections, and hence goodwill, that you help to create.

3. Know your boss and his boss well

Learn about your boss’s priorities, strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. In this way, you can be an effective ally to him in helping him look good and achieving results.

Don’t stop there. Take the effort to know your boss’s boss as well. This is key to your promotability.

4. Align yourself with the “inner circle”

Understand the dynamics of your company’s “inner circle”, which is made up of people who hold the reigns of true power in the company. Typically, this means the chief executive officer (CEO) and his key executives.

What are the profiles of the members of the “inner circle”?

For example, in some companies, the CEO traditionally has an engineering or finance background, whereas in other companies, it is the people in sales and marketing who call the shots.

This will give you an idea of the various corporate roles that are best for you to take on to ascend to the upper levels of power in your company.

Don’t merely work on being “seen” with people of power. Focus on building real connections. Identify a key member of the “inner circle” whom you have most access to or whom you best want to model your career after.

5. Seek positions in profit centres

To ascend the corporate ladder, you should be working in a profit centre, as opposed to a cost centre.

Profit centres bring in the money or have a direct relationship with the profit and loss of your company. These positions include the sales executive, marketing director, general manager and product manager.

Cost centres are support departments that keep the operations of the company going. Typical cost centre departments are administration, human resource, marketing communication and finance.

If you are currently in a cost centre, seek out opportunities to move to a profit centre. Your experience as a financial analyst can lend a valuable perspective to a product manager position.

Engineer your move for a transfer by building relationships with key people in profit centres.

6. Attract a mentor

Is there someone in the organisation whom you respect and look up to?

Successful mentoring relationships are two-way relationships whereby both mentor and mentee gain value and satisfaction.

Understand that mentors gain satisfaction from the appreciation and acknowledgement from a motivated mentee.

They can also benefit from the exchange of ideas and intellectual stimulation you provide from your perspective.

Don’t ask someone to be your mentor immediately.

Develop some personal chemistry with him first. Invite your mentor-to-be for lunch, approach him for a chat at a company function or volunteer to work on one of his company-wide projects.

7. Share your expertise

If there is an opportunity to share your expertise, make full use of it.

There are many conferences that offer great platforms for you to represent your company as a speaker.

Internally, you can also conduct in-company training or contribute to management conferences or orientation training programmes.

When you speak, train or present well, you are establishing your reputation as a company-wide expert for your job function.

You will be seen as playing an integral role in your company, not only by your colleagues but also by others in your industry.

Start by putting any one of the seven winning strategies in motion today. You will be on your way to fast-tracking your career.

See you at the top.