Learning how to advance in your career is the most critical aspect of professional success. Whether your goal is to make more money, take on more leadership, or move laterally into a new job, this section will explore some of the most important ways to achieve your ambitions.
Define Success on Your Own Terms
It is critical to understand what success looks like for you, rather than letting other people define it for you.
As we mature into our career, we discover more about the kinds of work that give us the most satisfaction, make use of our special talents and skills, and allow us to achieve our own definition of success.
Create a Career Path and Set Goals
Once you have clearly defined what success looks like for you, spend some time creating a career path that takes you from where you are now to where you want to be. Critical to a well thought out career path is to set short, medium, and long term goals to help you navigate your professional journey.
Goals should be actionable, such as completing specific certifications or receiving a promotion to a job title on the path to your ultimate career success.
If you are unsure about how to develop a career plan to take you where you want to go professionally, consider reaching out to mentors in your field. Career mentors can provide helpful advice, make you aware of emerging opportunities, and connect you with other professionals in your field.
Make the Most of Performance Reviews
One of the most important ways to advance from within and climb the ladder with your current employer is to ace the annual performance review. Rather than approaching this meeting as something to dread, instead, prepare well for your performance review and use it as a place to demonstrate your commitment to your work, your dedication to developing new skills and your ambitions for advancement.
Preparing for your annual review should include:
- Making some notes about how you have responded to the feedback from your last review over the preceding period.
- Jotting down some of your accomplishments from the last year.
- Preparing some questions for your supervisor about what you need to do in order to advance to the next level.
- Anticipating areas where you may get some negative feedback and preparing a constructive answer on how you plan to improve in those areas.
Take Advantage of Opportunities to Lead or Gain New Skills
It is important to stand out and get noticed by your supervisors as someone who has the ambition and drive to advance in your career. One of the best ways to do this is to be on the lookout to take on additional responsibilities when they present themselves.
Key to making this tactic work is to be strategic about the kinds of opportunities you sign up for. Taking on more of the work you are already doing is rarely going to translate into advancement. Instead, look for a chance to build your leadership, learn new skills that are key to moving up the ranks, or work with new people to expand your professional network within the company.
Sharpen Your Skills with Continuing Education
Another way to make sure you are on the path to career advancement is to keep your skillset fresh through continuing education. Making the most of continuing education requires that you have a clear idea of your career path.
Depending on your field, continuing education may take the form of taking night classes, enrolling in online courses, getting a degree through a local college or university, or preparing for exams to gain special licenses or certifications. In other cases, your company may provide specialized training that you can apply for through your human resource department.
Maintaining a strong and active professional network is critical to career advancement, now more than ever. Examples of how a professional network can aid your career progress include:
- Learning about the trends in your industry so that you will know what skills will be most in demand.
- Finding out about emerging job opportunities that are in line with your career path.
- Meeting career mentors who can offer perspective on how you can grow professionally.
- Leveraging strong professional contacts for references or introductions to others in your field.
- Increasing your visibility to both your current employer as well as head hunters in your field.
- Building a client base that you can then leverage to achieve a promotion or a strategic lateral move.
Building a professional network is not just about adding people to your contact list. It includes attending events in your industry, staying active online by sharing content and leaving thoughtful comments, as well as reaching out with private messaging to keep contacts fresh and engaged.
Keep Your Resume Fresh
Finally, keeping your resume up to date is very important to career advancement. Consider keeping a master resume on file where you add each detail throughout your career in terms of education, accomplishments, job responsibilities, etc. Then, if you learn about a job opening that fits your career path, you can customize your resume to apply in a timely manner.
Keeping your resume fresh in terms of details about your work is important, but don’t forget to also think about resume formatting and design. Trends change and you want to be sure you are using a resume layout that will communicate that you are a professional who is aware of the current standards in your employment sector.