Most of us have an idea about where we want to be in five or ten years. We set goals for ourselves that help us grow professionally, and we’re constantly on the lookout for new ways to advance our careers.
Whether the incentive is to land that coveted corner office with a view or simply make more money, we work hard in order to move up—not down—the corporate ladder.
Here are six ways you can start advancing your career today.
1. Go the extra mile at work
Former chairman and CEO of General Electric, John Welch, Jr, was recently interviewed and asked about his secret to success. As a man with an estimated net worth of $720 million, people are naturally curious as to how he achieved such success.
His simple, to-the-point answer was: “Find out what your boss wants and then over-deliver.”
In today’s competitive environment, doing only the bare minimum is a sure way to get overlooked for that raise or promotion. Sure, it might be enough to keep you on the payroll (for a while, anyway), but it won’t go far in helping you stand out among your competition.
On the other hand, when you consistently show your boss that you can do more than is required, you’re developing a reputation for exceeding expectations as well as establishing your value to the company. Very few people make a habit out of over-delivering, which is precisely why this kind of work ethic will give you an edge over everyone else.
2. Become an active participant
Next time you’re in a business meeting, show your interest in the company by actively participating in the discussion and speaking up when you have something valuable to add. Show your commitment to the company and its processes by offering better ways of doing things and then following up on those ideas.
This kind of participation will help demonstrate your enthusiasm for your job, making you a more likely candidate for raises and promotions.
Active participation does not always have to be business-related. According to a poll by Robert Half International, forty percent of workers said water cooler conversations increased work productivity because they provided opportunities for employee bonding.
This means that you should make an effort to attend company gatherings such as annual picnics, holiday parties and team-building activities. Informal events like these are a great way to network with other employees and create valuable connections, leading to higher visibility within the organization.
3. Network, network, and network some more
The phrase: “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is as true today as it has ever been. Start thinking of the people you know as part of your professional network, and look to these relationships for ways to advance your career.
One of the best ways you can organize and grow your network is by creating an account on professional social media websites such as LinkedIn.
Here are a few great tips for networking, according to CIO.com:
1. Start small – If the idea of approaching people you don’t know intimidates you, begin your networking efforts by seeking out familiar faces, such as relatives and friends.
2. Stop apologizing – Introverts and inexperienced networkers often apologize when asking for an individual’s help because they see networking as an imposition, not as an exercise in relationship building. It shows a lack of professional confidence.
3. Be yourself – Many people think they have to do a lot of schmoozing in networking situations and pretend to be someone they’re not. The problem with this approach is that it’s completely self-interested and artificial. Make an effort to be authentic and engaged in other people—no one likes a schmoozer.
4. Tap into your passions – Join clubs and attend events that relate to an interest or activity you enjoy. The advantage of engaging in activities you enjoy with other people is that it makes conversation so much easier.
5. Ask for introductions – Although settling in with one person may be more comfortable at a networking event, it defeats the purpose of networking. Get someone you know to introduce you to lots of new people.
6. Be generous – Be authentic, share your passions and help other people feel good about themselves.
7. Be prepared – Think of ice-breaker questions you can ask people you meet. If you’re attending an event specifically to network your way to a new job, have your personal pitch ready.
8. Follow up – If you promised to email a report to someone you met on the plane, make sure you do that. Build a reputation for keeping your word.
4. Learn new skills
In order to advance professionally, you may need to have more skills. Take an honest look at the skills you currently have and then write down a list of skills you need to have in order to move up in your career. Do you need additional training? Set some time aside every day to work on acquiring those skills.
Unless you need extensive training that requires taking a class or earning a degree, there are a plethora of online resources at your fingertips that offer free training and comprehensive how-to tutorials. Take advantage of these informative websites, such as:
Volunteering, whether for a nonprofit or an interest-based organization, is one of the best things you can do for your career. Not only will you connect with like-minded people, but you will also be in a better position to come across valuable business opportunities.
Large, well-recognized nonprofits almost always offer a wealth of opportunities to learn new things, and smaller organizations may also have suitable projects you could work on.
Successful nonprofits typically look to fill volunteer positions with people who are qualified to do the job, but with a little persistence, you should be able to find an opportunity that uses your existing skills and helps you build new skills.
Involvement in the community does great things for advancing your career, because it shows employers that you’re self-motivated and willing to work for a good cause.
6. Go back to school
For those who want more doors to open to them in the job market, consider going back to school. Many employers want to see that you have a college-level education before even asking for an interview, since separating the educated applicants from the non-educated applicants is a quick way to narrow down a stack of resumes.
Education is important to employers because it shows that you’ve been able to do all that is required from an educational institution in order to reach your goal. A few other benefits of earning a degree, according to About.com:
• Learn how to learn. Going to school teaches you how to gather, learn and apply knowledge. No matter what career you choose, you will need to learn procedures, information and skills related to your job, and execute tasks based on that information and training.
• Develop interpersonal skills. School allows you to interact with other people and refine your communication skills, including those of persuasion, conflict resolution and teamwork.
• Learn time and task management. Learn how to manage projects, deadlines and complete assignments efficiently and effectively.
• Learn from experience of others. By attending school, you are able to learn from the experience and intellect of thousands of people who have gone before you. In just a few years, through your textbooks, research and class lessons, school gives you a consolidated overview of theories, formulas, ideologies and experiments conducted by generations of scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, historians, and other experts.
By doing a few simple things—exceeding expectations, actively participating in your company, networking, learning new skills, volunteering and going back to school—you will be well on your way to advancing your career!
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