So you want to advance your career, but where do you start? Following are my top tips to success in advancing your career in a meaningful and sustainable way:
1) THE BEST PLACE TO START IS WITH A CAREER PLAN
A career plan is a written strategy which helps you realise and define your individual skills and interests and the steps from experience to training required to reach your goals.
There are few things as important as our career but most of us just leave it to chance and whim. Without focus and direction other than those imposed on us, we are leaving it all to the hands of others and are surprised it doesn’t turn out how we once dreamed it would. Take control and measure yourself against your progress. Work out what you are missing as you advance and make sure you get the tools, training and experience to get there.
This is not a “written in stone” document but just like you, should be organic and evolving to help you to meet whatever new career aspirations you might have. Without it you will never remember what you wanted, where you’ve truly been and where you want to go. The basics of a plan should list the career goal, the requirements, current skills and interests, and the plan to reach the goal.
2) SELF DEVELOPMENT
I cannot stress this enough. Yes, sure, you can lobby to get relevant corporate training and make sure you get yourself on the right courses paid for by your employer but no-one will take you seriously until you do yourself. This needs to be looked at in short, medium and long-term ways i.e. whilst keeping your chosen path, as well as your steps and goals in mind, you need to read quick articles (blogs, RSS feeds, Twitter, etc are good sources for these), more strategic articles (white papers, studies etc) and then of course (sorry!) courses (online, books etc).
They say information is power and they are right. You will not believe the confidence and value you will begin to be able to add at work and in your career community.
This is a do what it says on the tin kind of topic.
Just network. Where & Wherever people in your chosen profession hang out i.e. your work, conferences, trade shows, chambers, online groups (Twitter / LinkedIn). You will get many more opportunities and learnings from meeting and holding meaningful relationships with experts in your field, both in and out of work time.
4) PERSONAL BRAND DEVELOPMENT
A lot of this will come from the activity in 3) but it is important to first know what it is you want your brand to be i.e. what skills and attributes you want to be recognized for (this will tie back into your planning and development) and then the marketing or ‘influence’ of those abilities so that even when you’re not physically there you are able to impact managers and colleagues.
5) DON’T BE AN ISLAND
The above point does not mean be a one man/woman glory show. In fact quite the opposite as it refers to being a meaningful brand for other people to relate to / respect. Providing support, help, ideas, successes and generally contributing to the team and company is the best way for you to shine.
This needs to be considered in a truly 360 degree way. Make sure that you regularly interact with your management about your aspirations and plans and get their buy-in and help in getting there. If it is realistic and planned they will believe in it and help. Also, find a mentor in the company if you can. If you need help, speak to HR or the MD about creating such a system.
Life is about giving to receive. Support those around you and they will support you. If there is someone better than you in a certain area, work out what you have to give them and offer the exchange. Be a good team player – remember birthdays and special dates. Be reliable and care.
Finally, support those below you. You can rarely go up unless there are people closely following behind. You can help people grow with you and as well as benefiting from watching them develop you will realise the benefits of it being tied in with yours.
WORTH THE EFFORT
This might seem like a lot but like all things in life, those things in life worth achieving take effort. Also, again like most things, with a lot of the effort front loaded in planning and strategy, the execution should be more painless and enjoyable. After all, this is your chosen career path so it should be something you like? You will be doing the job day in day out for most of your life so you might as well make the extra effort to make it a rewarding and fulfilling time!