Career advancement–much less even finding a job–is no longer guaranteed, as we navigate an era in which there is no true job security. While some people are still stuck on the idea of the way things “should” be, others are taking the opportunity to run their careers like their own personal businesses. There’s no going back to the days of 30-year career trajectories at the same company, complete with pensions and a cushy retirement. Instead, learn to view your career path as an opportunity to make it exactly what you want it to be.
Figuring out how to advance your career on your own not only accelerates your progress, but builds in a layer of personal security. Once you know how to move up and get ahead, you’ll never want to go back to the traditional method of ‘Show up, work, and wait for someone to notice’ again. Not sure where to start? Here are 10 guaranteed ways to move up.
1. Find a Mentor
Having a mentor to help you rise through the ranks in your career is an invaluable asset. A mentor can help you refine your career approach, land new promotions, and find unadvertised positions. Spend time fostering your business relationships and identify someone you would like to approach about being a mentor.
As you work on getting to know each other, ask specific questions that show you’ve done your homework and respect their time. And remember, finding a mentor doesn’t have to be a fit for the life of your career. Rahul Varshneya of Arkenea LLC recommends looking for a mentor that can help you through a specific challenge, such as marketing or choosing a new career path.
2. Ask for More Responsibilities
There are few people who would say sitting around at their desk idly pushing papers is their dream career. But you also can’t expect to land thrilling new responsibilities without first going above and beyond with your current position. Thoroughly tackle each task and brainstorm what else can be done to make it better.
Offer to help a colleague wrap up their own project, or take on a task at work that no one wants, like organizing inventory. Once you’ve established that not only are you an asset in your current role, but you’re wasting your valuable talents, ask for more work.
3. Work at a Startup
There are few experiences in life that can rapidly accelerate your career more than working at a startup. Whether you’re interested in digital marketing or learning how to navigate the funding process, startups are hungry for new and ambitious talent, and will throw you more responsibilities than you’ll know what to do with.
Identify goals you want to accomplish while working at a startup, but stay flexible. It’s likely you’ll wear many different hats and be pulled in numerous directions as you figure out how to land on your feet. As your responsibilities and career start accelerating, keep notes on the new skills you’re learning and projects you’re exploring to update your resume and portfolio. Chances are you’ll miss something if you try to recreate the experience in hindsight and will fail to pull out relevant details that can impact your next career step.
4. Make Friends with VIPs
Seeking out the top players in your industry, whether seasoned executives or rising stars, can take your career far. But know the difference between blatant stalking and brown-nosing, and offer genuine feedback on a project you enjoyed or ask thought-provoking questions. It’s relatively easy to become memorable and well-liked the more you can show you’re an interesting, proactive worker who respects his superior’s opinion.
5. Stay Agile
Look up the meaning of agile, and you’ll find definitions ranging from “The ability to move quickly and easily” to “Dividing business tasks into short phases of work and reassessment.” Both are relevant to moving up in your career, whether you’re looking to quickly adapt to new challenges and pick up new skills, or to approach your career path as a series of different phases that push you towards your end goals.
6. Solve Problems
Being seen as the go-to problem solver around the company can make you irresistible, and a candidate ripe for quick advancement. Start with something small like streamlining work orders and creating a more efficient system, and graduate to training sessions for the staff or tackling a complicated project.
7. Take Accountability
Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and own up to your mistakes, shortcomings, and involvement in conflicts. By being transparent and staying accountable, you’re sending a message that a you’re trustworthy and competent employee who can handle big responsibilities. Meanwhile, taking the opposite approach and pointing fingers at everyone else when a project goes sour just pigeonholes you as the backstabber in the office.
8. Creatively Self-Promote
Promoting yourself doesn’t have to be completely shameless. Offer to organize an upcoming company meeting or write up notes from a morning meeting to send out by email. Make sure your job title is updated in your email signature before you hit send. Soon everyone in the office will know your name, title, and that you’re an engaged team member working in everyone’s best interest.
9. Be Helpful
Nothing makes you stand out faster in your career than being helpful. Prove you’re dedicated to your career and job by being helpful to those around you. But don’t wait for opportunities to fall in your lap. Regularly attend networking events and trade advice, offer to mentor a junior person in your industry, or volunteer your skills to help your community. Not only will you feel great being helpful, but you’ll also develop a lifelong habit of being generous that makes you irresistible to clients, bosses, and investors alike.
10. Keep Learning
No one is going to just hand you the reigns of a superstar career. Go after the position you want with passion and vigor, and above all else, keep learning. Whether you need a business coach or to take a leadership course or pursue an MBA, take the initiative to push yourself forward.