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I wasn’t always fully aware of it but one of my biggest motivators at work since I’ve started my professional journey has been career progression.
To me, career progression is not merely about making more money, authority or status. As a life-long learner, career progression means that I am constantly growing and becoming a better version of myself.
Looking at the past 10 years, from when I started as a junior analyst to now heading up a finance team, I have stepped up 7 times (on average every 18 months) and my salary has grown on average by 15% annually.
Along the journey, I have learnt some powerful truths about career progression.
In this post, I share 17 actions I have taken in the last 10 years to boost my career progression. These tips are worth their weight in gold, so I hope you implement them today to achieve success in your career.
17 Powerful Actions You Can Take Today To Boost Career Progression
1. Clarify Your Vision
It starts with figuring out what you want out of your career. If you don’t have a vision, you can easily find yourself in a job you never wanted in the first place and setting things right could cost you a few years (having said that, everything in life is a learning opportunity, even the wrong job).
Start thinking now about who you want to be in 10 years. But don’t limit this to work. For your vision to stick, it must be holistic.
Where do you see yourself in life, at work, in your relationships? What does your perfect day look like?
Write it all down, make a vision board if it helps – visualisation is a powerful way to drive achievement.
2. Make Learning A Habit
Career progression doesn’t happen by chance. You need to challenge yourself to learn constantly.
Think about the hard (i.e. technical) skills required to progress in your field, but also, and most importantly when you reach management level, learn and practise soft skills such as communication, influence, negotiation etc…
Opportunities to learn are everywhere nowadays. Grab a book, listen to a podcast, read a blog, attend industry events, meet new people, register for webinars etc…
3. Grow Your Network
Research shows that 80% of jobs are filled through personal or professional connections. If there was ever a case for networking, this is it!
For years, I found networking difficult and uncomfortable. But I’ve since learnt that it is neither.
Networking just means you are open to making new connections without having a personal agenda, willing to help, and curious to learn from others’ experiences.
If you get into that mindset AND assume your fellow networkers have the same mindset, you will start looking at networking very differently. Not so much about you but the collective good.
4. Practice Your Speaking Skills
Career progression is very much about selling yourself.
If you want to make an impact, influence others and convince your boss that you are the natural choice when opportunities arise, strong communication skills will give you a huge advantage.
Practising your speaking skills is a continuous journey. There are things you can do today to improve, such as learning to tell better stories, joining your local Toastmasters club, working on your gravitas, using public speaking apps or learning to negotiate.
5. Get A Mentor
Having a professional mentor is perhaps the best thing you can do to boost your career progression.
A mentor can help you develop your technical knowledge, grow your management skills or work on your leadership mindset.
Don’t limit yourself to finding a mentor in your field within your company. Look for mentors in a different industry than yours or in a different profession. This will give you a true perspective.
And don’t settle for one either! I have several mentors and each one helps me navigate specific challenges.
Finding a mentor is not as hard as you think – through your company, your professional body, your network or simply reaching out on LinkedIn. You’ll be surprised by people’s willingness to help and share their wisdom.
6. Be A Mentor
Being a mentor is also a great way to broaden your horizons, develop leadership skills and reflect on your experience.
As a mentor, you will practise communication and listening skills crucial to your career progression. You will also benefit from engaging with someone who may see things differently than you, offering you a new perspective.
Mentoring others is also a great way to boost your confidence whilst making a real difference to people’s lives.
7. Build Your Personal Brand
Have you thought about your personal brand? How do you want people to see you?
Think about your ideal self. Who do you want to be and what do you want to be known for? Who can you emulate? What are their characteristics?
Once you’ve defined the specific characteristics of your personal brands, what steps can you take today to project those?
For example, one characteristic of my personal brand is approachability. It’s always in the back of my mind. I make a conscious effort to be welcoming and make others feel comfortable in all situations.
Once you’re clear on your ideal self, you can start building your personal brand. See it as a way to differentiate yourself from others, your competitive advantage.
8. Make Giving Back A Priority
Career progression is not really about being ambitious and competitive. Yes, ambition plays a role, but what will get you to the next level is your ability to create value and solve problems.
With that in mind, you should focus your attention on helping others and making your workplace (and the world) a better place.
Think about what you can do to support your colleagues in their day-to-day, how you can help them progress in their own careers and how you can spread positivity at work.
9. Be Honest
Although your personal brand is yours to build, in my opinion, honesty should be one of the defining traits.
Being known for being honest and authentic will go a long way in making you the perfect candidate for promotion.
By being honest, I mean that you are not afraid to share your truth with respect and with the greater good in mind. Don’t always agree with your boss. That’s not what they want. A good challenge can go a long way. Share your perspective. Focus on adding value.
RELATED: Why Honesty Is The Best Policy
10. Talk To Your Boss
I’ve heard it so many times – “I’ve been in this role for years and my boss hasn’t considered me for promotion”. Do they know you want a promotion? “Well, I haven’t really talked about it but…”
I have always been clear with my bosses about my career goals and it has worked in my favour.
You don’t have to tell them you “want their jobs”. But tell them where you see yourself in 3-5 years and why. They need to be aware of your ambitions to provide specific support and reach out to you when opportunities arise (they always do!).
Trust me, as a boss myself, it’s much better to have clarity over people’s career plans than having to guess. And good bosses will always support your professional development and help you step outside your comfort zone.
11. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
You can’t progress in your career if you only do things you’re good at. You just can’t. By definition, career progression is all about taking on new responsibilities and using new skills.
You know this feeling you get when you feel like you might be out of your depth? You need to actively be seeking it! This is your opportunity to grow.
What are you uncomfortable with at the moment? Is it something that could help you in your career? If so, brace yourself and step outside your comfort zone!
I remember years ago having to do a big presentation to a group of senior executives. As a junior not used to presentations, I thought “who am I to present in front of those people, my boss should be doing it, not me!”. I was tempted to decline the opportunity… But I didn’t. It was a very stressful experience and I didn’t deliver the best presentation. But it was a pivotal moment in my career. I survived. I received feedback. And I got better.
12. Seek Feedback
Have you noticed how many requests for feedback you receive when you buy a product or service? It’s no secret – feedback helps companies grow. And it’s the same for you.
Always ask for feedback at work – from your boss when you catch up, your peers after a presentation, or your clients once you’ve delivered the work.
Feedback will help you understand what others see as your strengths and weaknesses. Then it’s up to you to come up with a plan to develop your strengths and address your weaknesses.
Think of it in the context of your ideal self, or your personal brand. What weaknesses are in the way of who I want to be?
13. Keep Track Of Your Successes
I keep a track record of my successes for three reasons:
- I use it during my annual reviews to compare against my objectives – and build the case for a promotion (show, don’t tell!),
- It motivates me when I have a bad day at work and reminds me that I make a difference,
- It helps me deal with imposter syndrome by showing me the facts of my success and that I deserve to be in my role
14. Act Like You’re In Your Next Role
If you think about your next role, what skills and responsibilities are you likely to have?
To be the natural choice when opportunities arise, you need to act as if you’re in your next role. Not only are you showing others that you are the right fit, but you will also build your confidence as you prepare to hit the ground running.
Are you performing above and beyond your job spec? Are you over-delivering on your promises? Can you lead the team without formal authority? Are you anticipating the needs of the business?
15. Take Initiative
As you climb the career ladder, you’ll find that it’s less “doing what you’re told” and more “telling what to do”. You’ll have less and less guidance and will have to rely on taking initiative to deliver results.
This is something you can start practising today, no matter what role you’re in.
Think about the work you do, the processes, the team, the company’s objectives. Can you suggest improvements? New ways of doing things? Can you take the lead on a project?
Building a habit of taking initiative strengthens your personal brand and encourages you to be proactive rather than reactive at work.
16. Be Curious
In any situation at work, if you feel like you need clarification or just want to explore a topic, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It might feel like people will judge you but it’s quite the opposite.
No one expects you to know everything. So why wouldn’t you ask questions?
Staying silent will do you more harm than being curious, even if you think “you should know that”.
From my experience, when people ask questions, it means they are interested, engaged and willing to learn. Now, who wouldn’t want someone like that on their team?
17. Be Ready To Move
So maybe you find yourself in a dead-end job. Maybe career progression is not possible in your company. Or maybe you work for a difficult boss who isn’t supporting you.
There is something you should never forget in your career: you are always free to quit your job and try somewhere or something else.
Maybe that’s the step outside your comfort zone you need to take.
If you’re serious about career progression and willing to put in the hard work, don’t compromise. You owe it to yourself.
I’ve really enjoyed reflecting on these actions. They are like principles I’ve kept throughout the years to help me grow and they have had a huge impact on my career progression.
If you’re committed to progress at work, I suggest you keep track of each point and make sure you refer back to them every once in a while.
And don’t forget to reflect on the impact they’re making on your work life.
Which actions resonate the most with you? Which ones are you already doing and which ones will you apply next?
Let me know in the comments, and please share this post if you found it useful!