Career Advancement: How to Move Up In Your Career

FT Contributor  | 

Advancing in your career is a signal of personal growth and success. Whether you’ve been in your role for a long time or you’re just starting out, it’s good to have an idea of how you want your career to progress.

Perhaps you want to own your own company one day, or you aspire to be the director of marketing for the firm where you currently work. Regardless of what your career goals are, the desire to advance is natural.

If you’ve been longing to move up in your career but haven’t had the knowledge or soft skills to do so, this guide will help. Here, you’ll learn actionable steps for setting and achieving your career goals.

What Is Career Advancement?

Career advancement is an upward achievement within your career. For example, you may advance from an entry-level position to one with more managerial responsibilities. Career advancement may also be a lateral move from one department to another, as long as you prefer the role and responsibilities in the new department.

Whether the advancement is from one company to another or within your current organization, advancements in your career come as a result of the experience you gain on the job. They’re not just handed to you for being with a company for a long period of time. Instead, these opportunities are given to people who have made relevant and meaningful contributions during their tenure.

In some cases, extra training or education may be required to advance in your career. For example, some companies will not allow an employee to hold a management position without having a master’s degree. Generally speaking, the more training, certificates, and relevant job experience you have, the more opportunities there will be for you to advance.

Job vs. Occupation vs. Career

Many people confuse jobs, occupations, and careers. Here’s a closer look at what each term entails:

  1. Jobs: These positions are often short-term and temporary, serving as a stepping stone to the occupation or career you want to pursue down the line. To advance, you should only take jobs that align with your overall career goals. Typically, you can obtain a job by applying online or in person. An in-person interview may or may not be required.
  2. Occupations: This broad term defines the type of job you have. For instance, if you’re interested in being a reporter for a local publication or an anchor for the news, your general occupation is that of a journalist.
  3. Careers: These positions are long-term positions that offer you a decent paycheck and the opportunity to expand the knowledge of your field. A career is more difficult to obtain than a job, requiring careful vetting of the company, at least one (if not many) in-person interviews with potential co-workers, managers, and other relevant personnel, as well as a professional business letter from you to the interviewer after the interview.

Importance of Career Advancement

Having a good idea of how you want your career to advance is useful for a number of reasons. Whether you’re looking to buy a home, start a family, or prepare for retirement, knowing the trajectory you want your career to take can help you make smart choices about the job offers you accept or deny.

Advancing in your career allows you to earn more money. Whether you do so with your current company or with another organization, advancement typically comes with a pay raise. While it’s not the end-all-be-all, earning a larger paycheck allows you more room for satisfaction in your life outside of work.

Career advancement will also help bolster your resume. When it comes time to apply for a promotion or make a move to another company, your relevant experience, skills, and improvement will demonstrate that you know what you’re doing and you’re willing to stick with a company for the long-haul.

With an understanding of how a particular career will allow you to advance, you’ll also avoid a surplus of unnecessary career changes from dead-end jobs or ones that don’t allow you to achieve your career goals.

Knowing how a particular career will enable you to advance can also give you a better idea of what to expect in terms of your workload. Before you take on a career with a company, do your research and ask plenty of questions during interviews about daily tasks and how difficult achieving work-life balance will be. Find out what the typical checkpoints are for someone who levels up in the company.

With a thorough understanding of what you can expect out of the career, you’ll be able to prevent yourself from experiencing burnout, or the fatigue that comes with overworking yourself.

How to Advance in Your Career

To advance in your career, you need to have a plan. There are certain steps you should take to demonstrate your worth and desire to grow professionally.  

  1. Define what success means to you: Success can look different to everyone, but when it comes to advancing in your own career, you need to determine what success looks like for you. Whether it’s a corner office in the C-suite or simply a larger paycheck, defining what success means to you will help you create an action plan for advancing in your career. To define your own success, consider the things you value the most. Is it your job title? The location of your office? The work you do? Knowing the end goal, you’ll be able to create a relevant action plan.
  2. Set clear goals: With your success in mind, you can create goals that will help you achieve that success. For each goal you create, remember to give it a timeline. This will hold you accountable for achieving that goal. To set goals, consider the five-year plan format. This outlines the goals you want to achieve over the course of five years, whether it’s taking a course to expand your job training or securing housing in a new city to start interviewing with your dream company.
  3. Dress the partHow you dress at work is a good indicator of how much you care about your job. If you want to be a manager, dress the way a manager would. Your outward appearance speaks volumes when it comes to how you want to advance in your career.
  4. Ask for feedback: If you’re happy with the company you currently work for and want to advance your career within that corporation, feedback is critical to your success. Schedule regular meetings with your managers to check-in and ensure you’re on the right track with their goals. You should also take that time to express your personal goals and how you would like to see your career advance. Sharing this will be meaningful for you and your employer to ensure you’re both on the same page.
  5. Tap into your network: If you’re not sure about the opportunities that are out there or you’re simply looking for someone to mentor you, asking your network is a great way to find out about what’s going on in your area of interest.

To advance in your career, careful career planning and an understanding of what you want to achieve are required.


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This post was updated December 10, 2019. It was originally published December 10, 2019.