In years past, an employee could start off on the bottom rung of a company, and through hard work and persistence, move up the ladder and eventually retire with a pension and a gold watch. Those sorts of jobs are now few and far between.
Companies employ head hunters to find great employees outside the company, and promotions are rarely based solely on seniority. To advance your career, you’re going to need to do more than just hang around with one company. Use these five tips to start taking action now to advance your career.
Set Career Goals
Deciding you want to advance your career is a start, but unless you move beyond vague ideas, it’s unlikely you will make much progress. Start off by setting concrete goals for what you want to accomplish in your career. Lay out a timeline that details not only the responsibilities you hope to take on, but also your salary expectations at that level. Be as specific as possible, but keep in mind the pace of change in today’s office. Try to spot where the best opportunities will be in the future.
Assess Strengths and Weaknesses
Once you know the path you need to take to advance your career, you need to take an objective look at what it will take to get you there. Friends can be a great source of encouragement, but you will need people who can give you unbiased feedback. Managers and supervisors can often help you assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as provide valuable information on what it takes to move to the next level.
Don’t Neglect Soft Skills
Obviously to advance your career, you will need the technical expertise to perform in the position. However, it pays to focus just as much on developing the soft skills needed in the profession. Soft skills include things like leadership skills, training in effective communication, time management skills, and team-working. Often it is not the most technically skilled that advances in a career, but the one who is best able to work with the team around them. Soft skills give you that advantage and will prove invaluable as you move to greater positions of responsibility.
Major in Networking
You’ve heard the cliché that it’s not what you know but who you know. As with most clichés, this is built on some truth. For most people, advancement will require moving from one company to another over time. The key to finding those opportunities is to have a solid network of people you stay in touch with regularly. Many people make the mistake of only developing their networks when they’re looking for new employment. Make networking a priority at all times so when it comes time to find new employment, you’ll already know where to look.
Find the Right Balance
Obsessively focusing on your career leads to tunnel vision and missed opportunities. Many of the most successful people are in very different positions today from their first, second, or even third career. Balancing work and life keeps you open to possibilities you might otherwise miss. Don’t be afraid to take a calculated risk to move in a different direction than what you envisioned when you created your goals.
Always remember that advancing in your career is not a matter of slavishly devoting yourself to a course set in stone, but a constant re-evaluation of where you are and where you want to be.