Does the topic of career advancement only apply to those people who are looking for new positions in new companies? No, it does not, as there are plenty of ways to advance your career without jumping ship. There is a lot of advice out there about how to take your career to the next level, but while much of it is common sense, the key is to put the theory into practice every day. Here are nine tips and ideas to help you to focus on the continued advancement of your career rather than getting distracted by the everyday stresses and obstacles.
Identify your career mission
Finding a career which suits your interests, values, and talents is a great way to ensure long-term success and job satisfaction. When you enjoy and are challenged by what you do, your path to success is fueled by the driving force of your ambition. Use this free career test to see which careers you’re best suited to.
When you understand your role and industry inside and out and have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, you are more likely to be satisfied with your career and to perform to the best of your ability. If you feel you lack the business skills you need to fulfill your role or would like to progress to a more senior position in the future, you should take proactive steps to make it happen. Many people find studying for an online MBA degree a useful investment of their time as it covers a wide range of business strategy and skills in great depth.
Don’t wait for recognition
Many people assume that when they put in extra work that their bosses will notice it, appreciate it and make a mental note of it for when a promotion is available in the future. Some may even presume that their manager is always considering the career paths of their employees. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. In the majority of workplaces, you will only be noticed when a problem occurs. This is not necessarily done with any negative intent – your boss is focused on their own performance and career progression. If you are going above and beyond for your company, make it clear that you are doing so and that you expect the effort to be acknowledged if not rewarded. If you want a promotion, make sure that your manager already knows so you can be considered.
Consider yourself a consultant, not an employee
There’s an alternative way to think about your career, which can give you a much more positive outlook. Organizations do not guarantee their employees a lifetime of employment, and someone rarely stays in the same company for their whole career. Why not consider yourself as a long-term consultant or contractor who is developing their skillset? This way, you can focus on performing to the best of your ability while you’re there, gain new skills, and treat your experiences as opportunities for growth. When you’re ready to move on, you can do so.
Trust your instincts
Sometimes our gut tells us more than our brain when it comes to our career. We instinctively know when a position or company is not the right fit for us, and while we can be proven wrong, in the majority of cases we know what is best for our values, personality, and skills. If all entrepreneurs relied on logic rather than intuition, the world would be missing innovation and creativity which challenges the status quo.
Never stop networking
Networking is not just for people on the hunt for new positions. Establishing a professional network can bring you not only professional mentors and referrals but also friendships. They act as a sounding board for ideas and as a source of industry news and trends which you need to keep on top of. You can network through industry events and conferences, or you may want to join a relevant professional organization. Your current position may not be a long-term one, but a strong network of contacts offers value regardless of which company you’re working for.
Learn to negotiate and compromise
When conflict or professional disagreements arise, it can be tempting to want to go on the offensive, especially if you work with someone you don’t like. However, it’s essential to remember that you are likely to have to continue working with them after the event. Being aggressive, demanding, rude, or generally unprofessional will leave a sour taste for both sides and over time will become a much bigger issue. Try to reach a solution which benefits both parties and to compromise where you can. It’s often better to cultivate a positive relationship which may benefit you in the future than to secure a short-term ‘victory.’
Be confident – even when you don’t feel it
There is some truth to the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it,” but it doesn’t mean you should pretend to be someone you’re not or misrepresent your skills or experience. It’s more relevant in those times (which come to us all) when you’re facing a challenge and lacking in self-confidence. If you allow negative thoughts and self-doubt to fester, it can spread like a disease. When you find yourself sinking into negative thinking, try to combat it with positive actions. Others don’t need to know how you’re feeling inside, and sometimes stress, or fear can motivate you and improve your performance.
Make sure your goals are really what you want
Be honest with yourself about your goals. Are you in this job or industry because it’s what you want or because you feel that you should? Often plans which begin with ‘I should’ will fail because you don’t have the necessary motivation to see them through to completion. Consider the RUMBA theory when setting your goals and ensure that they are “Reasonable, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral, and Agreed.” It’s crucial that they are “agreed,” i.e., that everyone involved in the project is in agreement that it is a good idea.
Remember to live your life
According to Richard Bolles’ book on “The Three Boxes of Life,” many people tend to divide their lives into three distinct stages. They believe that between our birth and the age of 21 that we are learning, from 21 until 65 we are producing and working, and only after that point are we able to enjoy our lives. It’s a very dull way to approach life and can even lead to mental and physical health issues if people define their worth by their career. Your life should be balanced and varied throughout, so remember to invest time in other interests and personal relationships.