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Change Jobs to Climb the Career Ladder

Gone are the days of joining a company after college and staying with it for a promotion-filled 40-year career. Today, more and more companies are seeking talent from outside their own pools, and tenure at one organization is rare. If you want to make it to the top of the corporate ladder, job-hopping may actually be the only way to get there, according to Curtis J. Crawford, author of the new book "Corporate Rise: The X Principles of Extreme Personal Leadership."

"Companies are looking for people who have broad experiences and people who can capture knowledge, absorb it quickly and advance into other positions," says Crawford, who has held leadership positions at many companies including IBM (IBM), AT&T (T) and DuPont.

As a result, today's employees striving for top roles can actually benefit from strategically moving from company to company. But don't just switch jobs for the sake of change, advises Curtis. He suggests crafting a strategy for your career advancement:

Identify what you want to do. Develop a comprehensive personal career plan and review it with your supervisor. Articulate what you want to accomplish and where you want to be. Develop a relationship with your supervisor and his or her boss. "You're living in the dark if you believe you can advance without your boss," says Crawford. "People who have high aspirations should not be ashamed to let it be known. Talk to your boss about taking on broader responsibilities, ask how she got where she is and discuss how you can earn the right to move ahead."

Find a mentor who can guide you through your career transitions. Consider hiring a professional mentor or career coach, or just identify a mentor within your company or your field. Strive for excellence. No matter where you are, the quality of your work matters. "People who want to be in leadership positions cannot be satisfied with mediocre levels of accomplishment," says Crawford.

Don't overlook lateral moves. "Move into strategic positions to gain knowledge that competitors in your field won't have — the result of lateral moves is faster acceleration to the top." You'll also experience less friction from your peers when you change jobs laterally within the same company, and you'll be able to see your work from a different perspective.