Whether you’re working for a large company, a small company, or your own company, your career is a living project that deserves your focused attention and best energies. Here are some suggestions to help you advance your career to the maximum:
1. Investigate and Understand Your Career Motivations, Strengths, and Goals
Your motivation to succeed is the engine that drives your career onward and upward. If you understand your motivation(s), you put yourself in the driver’s seat. If you don’t, you’re little more than a passenger within your own career.
Your strengths are perhaps even more important than your motivation(s), because it is your current strengths – and the ones you can develop in the future – that equip you to handle the responsibilities and achieve the results you aim for.
Your career goals are the combination of both motivations and strengths. They help you organize your activities, recognize and gather the resources you need, and monitor your progress.
The more precisely you understand your motivation(s), strengths, and goals, the more easily you will be able to advance your career in directions that satisfy and fulfill you.
2. Make the Most of Your Current Career Status
Career advancement begins where you are right now. You’ll find it’s far easier to take a step forward after you’ve solidified your current position, accomplished a good deal of what’s possible in the present, and made arrangements to leave the situation in good order when you move on.
Making the most of your current career status generally involves:
- Learning everything you can in your current position
- Establishing strong contacts with people around you, including those both up and down within the organization, as well as those in other organizations with whom you can interact
- Codifying what you know and what you do in your current position, so others can more readily take up where and when you leave off
- Perhaps even training your replacement, particularly if you’re currently in a leadership position
3. Scope Out the Path Ahead
Sometimes it’s appropriate to create your own path for career advancement. This gives you time and opportunity to plan your next steps so as to avoid dead-ends or unwanted repercussions. Other times, it’s better to track where, when, and how other people have moved on from positions like yours. Studying the career paths of those who have gone before you gives you many chances to learn from their successes and avoid the difficulties they may have encountered.
As you scan the opportunities ahead of you, start with a broad view of what you might possibly want (and be able) to do. Later, you can narrow down toward the most satisfying and most achievable of those opportunities.
4. Master the Details
As you make a plan to advance your career, be sure to consider the specifics of where, when, and how you want to move onward and upward. It’s not enough to say you want to start a business; you need to create a detailed plan for how you’ll operate that business. It’s not enough to strive for a promotion in your company; you must identify which promotion you want, and when you want it.
The more specifically you can aim for career advancement that will satisfy you, the better you’ll be able to identify and take the necessary steps to get there.
In addition, the more detailed your knowledge of the career advancement you’re seeking, the more likely you will be to identify real or potential negatives that may lie along that path. With a clear vision of where you’re going, you won’t be unhappily surprised when you get there.
To expand your knowledge of the career path you’re contemplating, immerse yourself in that world: conferences, news and industry developments, relevant technologies, job descriptions that outline key responsibilities in career positions you may occupy, and so forth.
5. Take Sensible Steps Forward
Monty Python created a funny sketch of an accountant who wanted to change careers and become a lion tamer. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be too large of a step forward for him.
With or without the laughs, there’s an important lesson there: trying to make too big a change can preclude the possibility of any change at all. As you plan your career advancement, recognize that you are more likely to achieve several sensible steps forward than a single giant leap.
The steps you plan should leverage your strengths and at least partially satisfy your motivation(s) to advance your career. It’s also important to recognize that from where you are at present you may not be able to see the whole path forward to where you want to be. But that’s OK. Each step forward changes your vantage point and allows you to see more of the path ahead, and how best to move farther toward your career advancement goal.
6. Cultivate Patience
In career advancement, as in so many other facets of life, slow and steady wins the race. The best way to realize your career advancement goals is not to make a headlong rush, but instead to develop a clear vision and maintain a steady drive forward.
Try not to feel discouraged because you seem “stuck” in your current position. Try not to lose heart by the need to plan and prepare to move head. Try not to give up when your first steps seem to produce too little progress.
If you keep striving, you can almost certainly move into an advanced career position that better fulfills your needs and desires, and offers an expanded level of personal satisfaction.