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Advancing Your Career

September 12, 2016

No one wants to stay at their current job forever. Sure, you may be enjoying the honeymoon phase of a new position in the company, or your department is currently in a slow period and you’re enjoying the light workload. Eventually, you’re going to want to move up.

Maybe Joan, your boss, is a real piece of work. Perhaps you just want a new challenge, higher pay, or more control over your day to day schedule. Whatever the reason you can’t stay where you are forever, so how do you go about making the right moves to progress your career?

Identify what direction you’re going first.

Before you can make headway in your quest to progress your career you need to understand where you’re heading. Lori from Cigna suggests you ask relevant questions before moving forward, “It is great that you are thinking towards your future career goals. With that being said, it is probably a good time for some self-reflection.

Where do you see yourself 3-5 years down the road? How about 10 years? Are you in a role that you are enjoying, but you would like to move into a management level? Are you interested in going back to school for another degree or certification? Do you like the size of the company you are in, or would you like one that is bigger/smaller? Do you enjoy your industry or would you like to check out another one? By answering these types of questions, you can help determine your career path.” Full Quote

Additionally, it would be wise to consult a career mentor before you begin moving chess pieces around the board. Wisdom is the new currency of career success. Those who are ahead of you in experience will give you the wisdom you need to get where you want to go.

Realize the path isn’t necessarily a straight line—and that is to your benefit.

It’s well documented that in the United States about half of all college graduates don’t work jobs where their major is relevant. News Article 

The reality is that trend doesn’t stop once you’re in the work force. You may take a job or multiple jobs which appear unconnected, but in reality they weave a strong tapestry of experience.

A hiring expert from Cardinal Health, Ashley, offered this insight, “When thinking about advancing your career, I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that lateral moves are equally, if not more, beneficial than promotions. If you are early on in your career, lateral removes will be especially beneficial as it will help round out your overall experience and make you a more desirable candidate and employee in the long run.” Full Quote

A great question to ask when thinking about career moves is, what will make me more valuable to the workforce? Most people default to graduate school. While a graduate degree may help advance your career, most employers would rather you gain more experience than another degree.

The way you progress in your career is directly correlated to the industry you work in.

Stephanie from AT&T gives some tremendous wisdom about how your industry plays a large role in what it looks like to progress your career by saying, “...if you are an actuary, promotions are sometimes directly attached to passing industry specific leveling tests.  If you are an architect, you can expect to make more money as you progress through your licensing. In a position within an industry with a less specific structure, someone looking to move up would want to think about things like: am I meeting expectations, am I exceeding expectations, am I far exceeding expectations. You can only know the answer to these questions by having an open dialog with your leadership about your work and your goals.” Full Quote

Stephanie is right. Each industry does things a little different than others. How do you work your way up in sales? You sell—a lot more than anyone else. However, if you want to move into a management role you’ll want to demonstrate the ability to manage personal projects, and prove your emotional intelligence. Try to discern what is most important to your field and then pursue attaining what is most valued to your current or future employer.

Tangible ways to demonstrate your value to your supervisor/employer.

While the above points are all important to keep in mind while working your way up, how do you actually work your way up?

Kate, a hiring expert from ADP, describes some actionable steps to progress in any industry, “You want to ‘work your way up the corporate ladder’ the correct way, which takes time, hard work, networking, mentoring and patience. To stand out, you need to get your job done and perform well but also take on stretch assignments and do the job before you get the raise/promotion. You always want to network within your company and industry - share knowledge and ask lots of questions. Try to find a mentor, someone who will guide you by providing advice, positive and constructive criticism so you can grow.” Full Quote

If you want to move up you’ll need to go the extra mile—consistently. Think about it from your supervisor’s perspective, what would make you want to promote someone? More than likely it’s a combination of quality work, work ethic, consistency and soft skills.

Climbing the corporate ladder successfully requires you to show up day after day, hour after hour, and minute after minute. It will necessitate some smart planning on your side in order to get where you want to go. And moving up will mean understanding how your industry values employees. At the end of the day, however, moving up is going to require you to give more than your peers. The good news is, most of your coworkers are more than happy to settle for average. That means you’ve already got a head start.


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