11 Ways To Advance Your Career - Professional Development Tip #2

October 22, 2021

11 Ways To Advance Your Career

In today’s rapidly changing world, there is a growing need for professionals with the knowledge and skills to contribute to key discussions and drive strategic decision-making and change. If you’re aiming to take your career to the next level, learning new key concepts can equip you with the tools needed to get there. Discover how you can build your career portfolio in these 10 +1 steps below.

1. Define what success looks like for you

Find your own personal definition of success. For some it might be reaching a coveted executive role, and for others it could be finding a career that allows them to spend more time with their family. There is no right or wrong way to define success - what matters is that you're able to define it for yourself. 

Think about what is most important to you in your career now, and what you want your career to look like in the future. What you’re striving for now may look different than what you want in five or ten years. Thinking long term will help you define your version of success. 

2. Establish goals and a timeline

Once you've defined success, it's time to turn it into an action. Take the time to map out your career ambitions and determine your “from/to.” As described in the Harvard Business Review, your “from/to” is defined in two statements: One describes where you are today and the other focuses on your next big—but not ultimate—destination. 

Goals and a timeline go hand in handUsing them together is how you achieve success. The goals you set give you something to strive for, and the timeline keeps you accountable and on track to achieve them. 

To accomplish these bigger goals, you’ll need to break them down into smaller, more manageable short-term goals. Consider the steps you need to take to reach the next level in your career. What skills will you need to learn? Who in your network can help you develop? Will you be able to reach your goal at your current company? With your desired career trajectory in mind, you can identify the skills you need to cultivate and leverage now to reach the next phase of your professional journey. 

Really take the time to analyze and think critically about this. There's no limit to how many short-term goals you can create, but the more the better. And then make sure you build them into your timeline.

3. Seek out feedback

Feedback is a way to measure your progress and make sure you’re on the right path to achieving your goals. Do you have any formal reviews with your supervisor? If so, how many per year? If you only have formal reviews twice per year, schedule a check-in meeting with your manager in between reviews. Don't limit feedback to just coming from your superiors. It should also come from your peers, as they offer a different perspective and point of view. 

Ask your peers to assess your strengths and weaknesses or provide specific feedback from a time you worked together. If you’re in a management role, ask your employees for critiques as well. The more diverse your sources of feedback are, the more you’ll learn from them. 

There are usually many more opportunities for advancement than you realize. Talk to your manager and see what career possibilities exist within the company. Share your goals with them and see how they can help you achieve them. By talking to your manager and letting them know your aspirations, you’re putting yourself on their radar. If they’re supportive, they’ll offer you help and advice to help you reach your goals. 

And if there are no opportunities for advancement at your company, the sooner you know the better. 

4. Use your network

The only way to advance your career, no matter what your goal is, is to have help and support from others. Networking is an indispensable skill for all professionals, regardless of industry. A 2016 survey conducted by LinkedIn found that 85 percent of jobs are filled via networking. 

Tap into your network for every stage of the process. When you’re thinking about your definition of success, talk to your mentor or a trusted advisor. When you’re creating your long-term goals, talk to your manager to see what the possibilities for advancement are. Once you’ve identified what you want to do next, seek out people that are currently in that role and ask them about it. The more information you can get, the clearer your action plan becomes. 

All together, these actions help you create your action plan and guide to career advancement. Remember that it’s not set in stone, and you can update it with new goals at any time. A career path is not a straight line from point A to point B, so don’t feel that you have to follow a rigid set path to get there. 

5. Develop Emotional Intelligence 

When it comes to promotions, of course your work output counts. Buultimately, decisions about advancement are made by people, for people. This is why developing emotional intelligence is critical to propelling your career. Research shows that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of workplace success, and is a skill found among 90 percent of top performers. Being able to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as influence others’, can lay a stable foundation for honing other skills. 

Increasing your self-awareness is a key part of cultivating this important professional skill. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, and then seek out colleagues and managers who can provide feedback on your effectiveness as a team player and comment on how you’re perceived within the company. 

Make it a habit to regularly deliver honest feedbacktoo, so you can forge closer working relationships with peers and maintain an open dialogue about individual and organizational performance. 

6. Take Initiative 

There’s this thing called impostor syndrome, and it doesn’t just inflict academics working on their doctorates. It creeps into our psyche and tells us we’re not good enough, that we really don’t know what we’re doing and soon we will be exposed as the imposters that we are. That voice in your head is wrong, and it’s holding you back. 

So say yes to opportunities that arise, become more visible, get recognized for your enthusiasm and applauded for your skill and expertiseNo one expects you to be perfect (except perhaps you yourself). If you’re in a certain position or role at work, more likely than not, you’ve genuinely earned it.  

According to research by Indeed, initiative is one of the top attributes of high performers. 

If you want to get ahead at work, opt to lead a critical project or help your company improve its operations by creating more efficient work processes.  

Taking on new responsibilities shows your hard work and your ability to manage the new challenge and the workload. Proving your dedication and work ethic to your direct manager might inspire them to become a champion for you on your journey.  

Seek out respectful engagement with your manager to communicate your desire for new challenges—and use these opportunities to grow your leadership skills. Of course, be sure to stay on top of your regular duties if you take on extra projects. 

7. Invest in Yourself - develop many possible selves 

When you don’t know what the future will bring, or when the path you thought you were on takes an unexpected turn, it makes sense to pursue a diverse portfolio of options rather than just sticking to one. Career change is never a perfectly linear process, even though it might seem so to you for othersIt’s a messy journey of exploration — and to do it right, you have to experiment with, test, and learn about a range of possible selves. 

Possible selves are the ideas we all have about who we might want to become. Some are concrete and well-informed by experience; others are vague and fuzzy, and untested. Some are realistic; others are pure fantasy. And, naturally, some are more appealing to us than others. 

Let yourself imagine various possible selves and futuresand then explore as many of them as you can. Developing a career potfolio (as opposed to a linear career path) allows you to discover your vast and diverse professional journey, including the twists and turns, whether they were made by choice or by circumstances. 

8. Embrace the “liminal” period 

The career-change process is also defined as being in a liminal state — that is, of existing between a past that is clearly gone and a future that is still uncertain. Liminality can be an unpleasant state to be in emotionally. People going through it can feel unsettled, lose their bearings, and oscillate between “holding on” and “letting go.” But this distressing stage is a necessary part of the journey, because it allows you to process a lot of complex emotions and conflicting desiresUltimately, it can prevent you from shutting down and missing better options that still lie ahead. 

Neurological studies suggest that taking advantage of this liminal time to do that “inner business” may be more beneficial than busying yourself with a number of aimless self-improvement efforts. Downtime is crucial to replenishing our brain’s attention and motivation and cognitive processes. It allows us to integrate what we have learned, plan for the future, and construct our sense of ourselves. 

9. Level up your learning

Improving your educational foundation can really boost your career. Show your employer that you’re willing to invest the effort to gain new knowledge and skills to benefit your career and the company. 

Committing the time and energy to professional development opportunities can have a direct impact on salary expectations. Exploring on-the-job training, online certifications, and continuing education classes can also benefit your journey. 

Some companies may cover the cost of new training, and some may assist with tuition fees. Speak with your HR representative to learn more about the policies at your workplace.  

10. Explore mentorships

Statistical research shows that employees with a mentor receive higher compensation and more promotions than those without a mentor.  

Build a mentoring relationship with an individual who has achieved the level of results you are seeking. Their success and experiences can inform your actions and decisions along the way, with the goal of minimizing workplace mistakes and helping to move your career along. Be selective when determining a mentor. Just because they hold (or held) the position you seek does not mean they did it well. Seek out someone you both respect and can connect with to make such a relationship work. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance from one or more professionals you trust. Stay open to the idea of working with two or more mentors, representing different aspects of your field and area of expertise.  

 11. Workforce Training and Career Advancement for Refugees

Any discussion on career advancement would not be complete or inclusive if it did not address the issue from the perspective of refugees trying to access the workforce. For more tips on how to address workforce training and access for refugees, please read on here.

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