If you’ve been at your job for a while, or even if you’ve just started, you almost certainly didn’t accept it with the thought of staying in the same role indefinitely. You likely have your sights set on career advancement, whether it’s a job with more responsibility or a move into management. At the very least, you will be looking for a significant raise at some point in the future, which usually means a promotion of some type.
So how do you get from here to there? What methods for advancing your career are most effective? Let’s start with the obvious, then move on to others that you may not have considered.
Get the Education Required
Maybe you are in an entry level position and the job you want requires a degree. Or maybe you have a degree, but it isn’t specialized for the career advancement you’re seeking. The first step, then, is to research the degrees that meet the requirements for the job. If you are working full time, then you will want to explore the benefits of earning an online degree. Next, research universities that offer online degree programs and choose the one that’s right for you. You will be able to continue working while getting the knowledge, skills, and practical application needed to prepare you for a new role.
There are other benefits of earning an online degree, as well. For one, enrolling in a bachelor’s or master’s program as a working adult tells your employer that you are hard-working, ambitious, and committed to learning – all qualities they will be looking for in higher level roles. Another benefit of earning an online degree is that your professors are working professionals in their field, so they know what is needed to succeed in your industry. You’ll be getting relevant, real-world knowledge and skills that will translate immediately to the workplace. You can also bring work-related scenarios to the classroom to gain insight for how to handle them. All the while, you’ll be learning how to learn, which is highly valued in today’s ever-changing corporate environment.
Pay Attention and Step Up
True story. An employee was hired as a temporary worker at a major medical software company to fill in for a woman on maternity leave. The role was clerical, but the temp noticed the software bulletins being sent to clients had numerous spelling and grammatical errors, which reflected poorly on the company. The temp pitched a part-time job to the president and was hired to review and edit all bulletins before they went out. Because he admired the temp’s initiative and work ethic, the temp was given more responsible roles over the course of his employment. You probably get the story’s moral.
Sometimes you need to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to demonstrate your abilities and worth. Is there an unmet need in the department or organization? Could you volunteer to serve on a committee or coordinate an event? Stepping up to lead in smaller areas can open doors when there is a bigger job. It can even be appropriate to ask for more responsibilities if your skills and talents are relevant to a specific project or task.
These same principles apply when volunteering within your community. Stepping up to serve on a local board of directors, volunteer weekly, coordinate a fundraiser, or organize a day of service all demonstrate initiative, allow you to ask for more responsibilities, and provide ample opportunities for honing leadership skills.
Being observant and asking questions is also a great way to learn. For example, you can gain valuable workplace knowledge by watching leaders. Pay attention to the qualities they exhibit when handling conflict, giving direction, dealing with deadlines, and overseeing projects. Emulate those that work and use the ones that don’t to identify what should be done differently. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of a leader you respect and with whom you’ve established rapport. They will likely be flattered and happy to share information about their leadership style. They may even provide feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, if sought. This relationship could potentially lead to the third method for advancing your career.
Engage a Mentor
When you have the education and skills needed for career advancement, the old adage proves true: “It’s who you know.” In fact, one survey found that up to 85% of all jobs are filled through networking. So, building professional connections is imperative to being considered for a promotion or new position. One way to make those connections is to engage a mentor who can serve as a guide, give advice, and provide inroads on your professional journey. Preferably, your mentor will be someone within your company, but it’s not required. It is required, however, that you respect and admire their leadership and that he or she has successfully traveled the road ahead of you. Your mentor should be knowledgeable about your field, open to your questions, and invested in your growth. If your mentor is within your organization or industry, then he or she should be able to help you formulate a specific career path.
Join Professional Organizations
Another effective method for advancing your career is to join professional organizations or associations, whether they are industry specific or more community oriented. These types of organizations will expose you to like-minded professionals. They often put you in contact with those who share your specific profession and provide training on industry-related topics. Don’t discount the leads these organizations can generate for career advancement. And the more involved you get, the more benefit you will garner as you build professional connections.
Look the Part
This final method may seem like a no-brainer but learning how to dress for success is still a major component of being considered for advancement. As much as we may hate to admit it, some of us have more fashion sense than others, but if you want to get the part, it’s important to look the part. That means you may need to invest in some smart wardrobe updates that have “professional” written all over them. If fashion isn’t your thing, most department stores have personnel who are trained to help you make flattering choices. There are also online clothing subscriptions that deliver customized outfits to help you slowly build your unique style for the workplace.
Of all the methods for advancing your career that we’ve outlined, the most important is to keep learning by furthering your education. By continually adding to your knowledge and skill set, you will have a significant advantage when it comes to landing a better job or earning a promotion. After you have the right education in your arsenal, the other strategies will almost certainly propel you to where you’re hoping to be in your career sooner rather than later.
Reach out to an enrollment advisor to find an accelerated, online degree program that is right for you!