Having the right career advancement strategy can help you achieve your career goals

Does it ever seem like you're making little progress toward your career goals? Have you ever felt as though you're running in place, unable to achieve any level of real career advancement? If so, then you're not alone. In fact, most career-minded people experience those feelings at one point or another. There is good news, however, since there are affirmative steps that you can take to get your career moving in the right direction.

In this post, we'll explore the meaning of career advancement and explain why you should prioritize it in your own life. We'll also provide a step-by-step strategy that you can use to move toward your goals and look at ten insightful tips that can help you in your career efforts.

What is career advancement?

Career advancement is a critical component for any successful professional journey. But what does career advancement mean? Put in its simplest terms, the term describes the process of using your skills and experiences to achieve professional goals that move your career forward. Obviously, that type of advancement can come in the form of promotions that provide greater levels of responsibility and compensation within your existing company. But advancement can also involve:

  • Developing the skills and experiences needed to earn a place at a more prestigious firm

  • Earning status as an expert in your industry

  • Building the skills needed to start your own company

For example, career advancement might be as simple as moving from an entry-level position to a lower-level supervisory role. Further advancement might involve a promotion to a managerial position and eventual placement as a department head. It could even take the form of lateral movement to a job at a different company.

Why does career advancement matter?

If you have broad goals that you want to achieve in your work life - and you should - then you'll need a career advancement strategy to make steady progress toward those objectives. Otherwise, your ability to reach those goals will be subject to the whims of chance. Still, you may wonder why you even need career progression at all. As it turns out, there are some clear benefits that can be enjoyed by those who pursue steady career advancement:

  • Improved job satisfaction

  • Steady financial growth

  • The opportunity to experience new challenges

  • The ability to future-proof your career

  • Greater confidence and sense of self-worth

  • More control over your life

5 steps to advance your career

Like anything else worth pursuing in life, effective career advancement usually requires a well-conceived strategic plan. Sure, there's always the chance that you'll find yourself in the right place at the right time and receive a promotion that you never even considered pursuing, but that's unlikely at best. Instead, you need to take a more strategic approach to advancing your career by affirmatively pursuing your career goals. The following five-step approach can help you learn how to do that.

1. Define your professional goals

Before you do anything else, sit down and take stock of your goals. You need to figure out what success means to you and identify the short and long-term objectives you'll need to pursue to make that success a reality in your life. What motivates you? Where do you see yourself in five years, ten years, or twenty years down the road? What's your dream job?

Once you've answered those types of questions, you need to define clear objectives that you can meet to move your career forward. Do you want to earn a promotion? Then figure out which skills and experiences you'll need to qualify for that role, identify the steps you need to take to acquire those qualifications, and create an action plan to make it happen.

Try to use the SMART strategy as you create these goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed. For more information on how you can use this technique to create reasonable and achievable professional goals for your career advancement, read our post What is Professional Development and Why is it Important?

2. Communicate your needs

Of course, the process of creating goals and plans won't be enough to ensure that career advancement opportunities come your way. You'll also need to communicate your needs and desires to others, especially in the workplace. Once you identify where you want your career to go, it's important to discuss those objectives with superiors, human resources, and others who can help you along your journey. This is especially important if you're seeking advancement through promotion with your present employer.

By communicating your goals to potential gatekeepers, you can ensure that they are aware of your desire for more responsibility and challenges. You may even find mentors or others who will effectively become sponsors for your career growth. If nothing else, broadcasting your goals can be a great way to provide you with the visibility you need to be considered for advancement within any company.

3. Proactively seek out opportunities

You should also develop the habit of looking for career advancement opportunities. Obviously, you could just wait for opportunities to fall into your lap, but that passive approach to reaching your goals is unlikely to produce the type of results you want. The better approach is to proactively pursue advancement opportunities, both within your own company and elsewhere in your industry.

As you follow your plan and develop the skills you need for advancement, you should get into the habit of checking job postings on a regular basis. That includes open positions at your current employer, of course, but also opportunities at other firms. You may even want to consider the potential benefits of lateral moves within your company, especially if that move can provide additional experience you may need to earn a promotion.

4. Network, network, network

Few people achieve their career goals without outside help. In fact, having a strong network can be one of the most important steps you can take to advance your career. Your network should include professionals within your company, experts from various industry groups, and like-minded professionals you can connect with online. And don't just contact those people. Instead, focus on developing relationships that can provide mutual career advancement benefits to everyone involved.

Attend company events and introduce yourself to others. Proactively seek out and join professional groups, including trade organizations and online groups. Use social media like LinkedIn to make connections with potential mentors, share your experiences and insights, and participate in discussions about your profession and industry trends. Check out our post LinkedIn Networking: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections Online for more tips on how to use social media to effectively expand your network.

5. Never stop learning

You also need to commit to lifelong learning if you want to enjoy steady advancement in your career. Continuing education can take many forms, including learning new skills, developing existing abilities, and staying informed about changes and new trends in your industry. If you ever reach a point at which you begin to believe that you know everything you need to know to reach your career goals, think again. Your ability to continue to learn throughout your life and career will ultimately determine your success.

As you continue to learn, you should take steps to ensure that your supervisors are aware of your expanded capabilities. Ask for more responsibility and volunteer for tasks and projects that will allow you to make use of those new skills. That can provide you with the experience, achievements, and on-the-job skill enhancement that you need to push your continuing education efforts to their limits.

10 insightful tips for career advancement

In addition to that five-step strategy, there are a whole host of valuable tips that you can incorporate into your career advancement efforts. We've identified ten insightful suggestions that may help you to maximize the benefits you receive from your own personal advancement strategy.

1.     Never stop proving your worth

The worst thing you can do in any job is to overestimate your worth. Sure, you want to understand your value as an employee, but not to the extent that it causes you to become complacent or think that you're indispensable. You should always be focused on demonstrating your worth by giving your best effort each day.

2.     Create a personal brand

To succeed in any career advancement effort, you need to create a strong personal brand that defines you as an employee. Figure out your unique value proposition and decide how you want others to see you, then focus your efforts on making that ideal your brand. Align your social media and real-world brands to ensure that you present a consistent image to the world.

3.     Get a mentor

Mentorship is an invaluable tool for career progression. If possible, find someone who has more experience, superior skills, or just greater longevity in your field and seek their guidance and assistance in your own career. A great mentor can provide insights that can help you to avoid missteps and even speed up the pace of your own advancement.

4.     Stay abreast of technology

As you're developing skills, make sure that they include the latest technological trends. The last thing you want to do is slow your career progress by failing to learn about key technologies as they are reshaping the workforce.

5.     Refine your mindset

Ultimately, your own mindset can be your greatest asset - or your biggest obstacle to success. Focus on cultivating a personal growth mindset that can fuel your desire for self-improvement. Learn to think of yourself as a change agent committed to adding value wherever you go. This will drive you to proactively expand your knowledge base, vision, and overall business acumen.

6.     Find work-life balance

If your efforts to advance your career are not aligned with a healthy personal life, it can create stress that will impede your progress. To avoid that, make sure that you allocate sufficient time and energy to your home life and loved ones. That balanced approach can ensure that they'll provide a powerful support network as you advance your career.

7.     Take risks

By this, we don't mean that you should take unreasonable risks. Instead, learn how to embrace risk so that you don't settle into an unproductive comfort zone that inhibits your career journey. Learn how to take advantage of the lessons that failure sometimes provides. And remember, if you never take risks, you'll never achieve anything.

8.     Trust your instincts

Don't be afraid to trust your gut. While you should always approach decisions with a logical mindset, you should also recognize that your instincts can help to protect you from making bad choices. If an opportunity or a situation seems to be too good to be true, take the time to examine those instincts to see if they have any merit.

9.     Resist imposter syndrome

As you climb your career ladder, you may find yourself sometimes feeling as though you haven't earned your spot. If you ever start feeling as though you're an imposter - unqualified, inexperienced, or simply out of place - focus on your strengths and remind yourself that everyone feels like that at some point in their life.

10.  Learn to prioritize

Always remember to prioritize the right things as you move through your career. Learn skills as you need them, be patient, and try to focus on one goal at a time to keep your career advancement on schedule. If your priorities are in order and you stick to your plan, success is almost certain.

Make your own career advancement opportunities, one step at a time

The clearest path to career success is rarely the straightest. Instead, your career path is likely to be a winding trail filled with a host of unknown and unexpected obstacles. With the right career advancement strategy, however, you can successfully navigate that path and reach your ultimate career destination with a minimum of roadblocks and detours.

Want to make sure that your resume is ready to boost your career advancement efforts? Get a free resume review from our team of experts today!

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