work way up
work (one's) way up
To start at humble or modest beginnings, but rising in position, importance, or influence through hard work and determination. Just look at Johnson if you need proof: He started in the mail room, but worked his way up to one of the top lawyers at the firm. She worked her way up from a small one-woman online business to a media empire that employs thousands around the globe.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
work one's way up
(to something) Go to work oneself up (to something).
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.