Climbing the slippery pole – keep your career moving forward

If you want your career to progress then you have to be prepared to push it along! Embrace your current role and get all the experience, skills and knowledge it can offer you. However be mindful that your next step (and the one after) should be pointing you directly towards your career objective.

So, how do you ensure your career development stays on track and keeps up momentum, whilst doing a great job in your current position?

Think long term
It may be tempting to not think beyond the walls of your current role other than maybe a promotion sometime in the future, but this mindset will not get you beyond the next couple of rungs up the career ladder. You may soon find yourself bored, unmotivated and in a career that is stagnant. A few ideas to keep up the momentum for the long term include:

  • Make a plan of where you want your career to be in the next few months or years, and what you need to do in order to get there. Refer back to it regularly. Even if things don’t go entirely according to plan, it gives you a focus for what you consider important and a benchmark to measure your progress.
  • Whilst working hard in your current position, always keep an eye open for opportunities that will support your ultimate career goal, be it within your current company (such as courses on offer) or externally.
  • Take time to assess where you are in your career. Although this can so easily be lost while you’re focusing on your current job, if you want to progress it’s important to make the time. If you feel that peer pressure will make it happen for you, then speak with close friends or workmates and share a planning or reflection session together, and hold each other accountable for your individual goals.

Be strategic
Similar to a company creating a strategy and then works to it, you need to create your own career strategy:

  • Honestly review your skills. Where are you lacking? How do you remedy that?
  • Make yourself employable. Rather than pigeon-holing yourself with a narrow set of specialist skills, speak to recruiters in your chosen field to see what skills and attributes employers are looking for, and then set out to gain those skills in order become an attractive candidate within your sector.
  • Build your online and physical profile. That could mean attending or speaking at industry events (or contribute online) to build your personal brand. Be the one who is hunted rather the one who is hunting.

Rope in the boss
There is no point in secretly plotting and scheming your next career move, make sure your boss, your boss’s boss, or maybe colleagues are aware of your career aspirations. Who knows, they may see opportunities for you that benefit the company, and have access to all sorts of career-developing resources that would otherwise be out of reach, including:

  • Professional skills development
  • Education or training
  • Scholarships
  • Future positions up your career ladder within the company
  • Job shadowing and mentoring
  • Networking

Learning is an investment
If you think that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ applies to you, then it is time to change your attitude to self-development. No matter how old you are, you have to keep learning. Along with traditional courses and qualifications, online learning options include:

  • Watching online lectures or presentations and following the discussion afterwards.
  • Joining an online forum discussion on a topic that’s relevant to your career.
  • Making a point of reading relevant news, articles and papers and sharing that knowledge with people in your industry (another great opportunity to build profile btw).

Work to impress, always
Just because you’re working to your own strategic career plan doesn’t mean you can take your foot off the accelerator in your current job. In fact, you should be putting your foot down harder. Impressing your employer now should be in your long term strategic plan because the impression you make today will one day be an advantage – or, it might come back to haunt you.

  • Volunteer for challenging tasks
  • Be proactive, take initiative and work the extra hours to see a project through to completion
  • Actively ask for feedback and take that on board
  • Challenge the status quo if you feel it’s warranted – most upwardly-mobile people don’t just follow the crowd and chances are that your boss, or their boss, will notice initiative and thinking outside the box
  • Suggest courses, training or other opportunities that would benefit your boss (and you)
  • Absolutely be the best that you can be

Let me know if I can help!
Maarten Jonckers