There is an overwhelming amount of advice out there for job seekers, but what about advice for those looking to advance in their current jobs? Back when the economy tanked and so many people were suddenly looking for work, the focus on career advancement took a backseat to finding a job. Now that the economy is stabilizing, it makes sense to also focus on how to succeed once you land the job.
What I know for sure is that feeling stagnant in your career will never get you excited about it (and will never motivate you to go above and beyond the call of duty). Making progress, however, will reignite that spark that probably landed you the job in the first place, and will motivate you to move forward in a more dynamic and positive way. With that in mind, I offer you five steps you can take to advance your career.
1. Write it down
Create a career mission to help clearly define where you are, where you’re headed and what it takes to do your job well. Although this might seem like common sense, the actual exercise of writing these things down will keep you from drifting away from your future goals. Refer to this exercise whenever you feel like you might be getting stuck, and use it as motivation to reset, recharge and get back on track toward achieving your goals.
2. Define expectations
If you’re not 100 percent clear on how you’re currently being measured in your role and what you are trying to achieve, I recommend taking time to speak with your manager, team and clients to map out exactly what they expect from you and how they are assessing your work. Once you know what goals you’re expected to meet, you can use them as a guide to create your personal career goals.
3. Be a problem solver
If you become known as a problem solver at work, people will soon start to pick you for important projects. The ability to anticipate and solve problems creatively is rare and will undoubtedly lead to new (and bigger!) opportunities.
4. Build your social capital
Look at your colleagues in positions above you and you’ll probably notice that they are sociable with others in the office, engage in others’ work in a positive way, and even unknowingly have other employees endorsing their work. Follow their lead! Build a mentor relationship with someone you admire, enjoyed working with, or just want to know more about. Being a hermit at work is not going to put your name at the top of the promotion list.
5. Act like a leader
Leaders make an impact and so should you. Professional look and demeanor are a given, but you can also make an impact by becoming an expert. Start by learning as much as you can about your industry and how your company works, and build up your knowledge in your own functional area. There’s merit to becoming a “T-shaped” person – having the ability to collaborate across disciplines and knowledge areas while also developing a depth of skills and expertise in a single field. Demonstrate your knowledge by weighing in on issues and asking questions during meetings to show your superiors that you care.
6. Learn, work, play
Make it a priority to master the art of combining education, career, and leisure throughout your life. Not only is it more enjoyable overall, but the combination makes for a dynamic, well-rounded and relatable person. My best managers have always had a life outside of work, and encouraged me to have one as well. Although it won’t always be a perfect balance, make an effort to actively balance the three now.
Are you ready to take the next step in your career? Explore GA’s classes and workshops–from web development and user experience design, to business fundamentals, to data science, to product management and digital marketing.
Lauren McGoodwin is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief for Career Contessa, a collection of informational interviews with women across a variety of occupations that provide career inspiration, direction and information.