24 Career Advancement Tips to Help You Take Control of Your Professional Future

24 Career Advancement Tips to Help You ProgressThe other day a reader suggested that with roughly 34 years of work experience it might be a good idea for me to share career advancement tips.

While I never became the CEO of the banks with whom I was employed, I did manage teams of very knowledgeable and mature employees; my direct reports were not at entry level positions.

Here are 24 career advancement tips to help you take control of your professional future and to help you progress wisely down the proper career path.

Some of you who have been working for years may have experienced moments in your career where your level of excitement is far different from when you entered the corporate world. I can tell you from personal experience that there will be peaks and valleys in your career. Not everything will go smoothly. You could:

  • change jobs and employers a number of times
  • change careers (maybe even more than 2 or 3 times)
  • work with difficult people
  • report to difficult people (and/or their superior(s) may be difficult)

That’s life!

You will face challenges beyond your control. How you adapt to these challenges will determine whether you advance in your career and minimize the level of grief that can be brought about from unfortunate circumstances.

Here is a list of helpful tips to advance your career.

  1. Love what you do. Think of the countless hours out of your life you will spend working. You’ll never get those hours back. You had better love what you’re doing. If you don’t, your health, personal life, relationships, and time away from work will be negatively impacted. If you don’t notice how misery affects other areas of your life…other people will.
  1. A for-profit business is in business to make money. If you work for a non-profit, its purpose is to help a cause. Either way, the purpose is not to be a therapy center for its employees. The primary reason you were hired, unless nepotism played a role in your hiring, is because the organization thought you could help them. In that case, help them! Do your work and you get paid for the amount you mutually agreed upon. That is the deal!
  1. Never, ever forget business is business. Romance in the workplace is a verboten. Sure, some couples have met each other in the workplace and have had long-lasting relationships. I, however, suspect to the number of people who regret having developed a romantic relationship through work far outweighs the group that has made a relationship last long-term.
  1. Not everyone makes it to the top of the corporate pyramid. Some plateau in their career far earlier than other people. Sometimes it is by choice and other times it is not. If you do plateau for reasons other than your conscious decision, find out from your superior (and even the person to whom your superior reports) why and what you can do differently to re-energize your career.

If you do decide to solicit feedback from a level beyond your immediate boss, I suggest you inform your boss in advance of reaching out to their boss; don’t go behind your boss’ back. How would you feel if you had a direct report who scheduled a meeting your boss and you were unaware?

I know I had absolutely no objection if one of my direct reports wanted to meet by boss one-on-one; my team members would let me know in advance and my reaction was always positive.

If you have a boss who is likely to be offended if you have a one-on-one with their boss, then the situation is much more delicate. Each situation has a unique set of circumstances, and therefore, it is not appropriate for me to suggest via this post as to what course of action you should take.

You don’t want your boss to be surprised if their boss tells them about a meeting you have had or will be having.

  1. You were hired to do a job. Do it properly! The last thing you want is for clients, your co-workers, and you superiors to second guess everything you do. When you start, you will likely struggle. Get up to speed. Quickly!
  1. Make your boss proud to have you on their team. Exceed expectations and deliver work of a standard associated with the position you one day hope to occupy. Do your utmost to be more than just competent. Competent means you’re just average.
  1. Be proactive about your performance reviews. Meet your superior periodically throughout the year to solicit feedback on your progress, to identify new goals and growth opportunities, and to work on your long-term promotion plan. All too often, performance reviews are done once or maybe twice a year and because the HR Department says they are mandatory. Don’t let this happen.
  1. Keep your emotions in check. That doesn’t mean be a robot and have no emotions. It means be professional. Get emotional at work and people will notice….not in a good way. If you find you are getting emotional way too often at work because you don’t like working where you are, do yourself and everyone around you a favor. Move on but be professional in the manner in which you do so.
  1. Some of you are employed with a firm, or in an industry, which is frequently in the media in less than flattering terms. If you truly don’t like the perception the outside world has of your employer…move on! If you don’t, then stop complaining about how your employer is perceived.
  1. Organizations have their own culture and it is particularly important to understand what is expected of a good employee. I can’t think of any company that discourages teamwork, dedication, and hard work.
  1. Not all employees advance in their careers at the same rate. Look at those who get the recognition and who are experiencing success. Is there something they do that you should be doing? If they are doing something right, why not reach out to them for advice?
  1. Be presentable. This includes proper manners. If you need help in this regard, there are organizations that offer training. You probably won’t be able to change without proper external help/guidance/coaching.

Maybe all you need are some very slight modifications to your behavior. In that case, check out “etiquette training and business etiquette” videos on YouTube. In other cases, you may need a whole lot of help and YouTube videos just won’t cut it. Perform an internet search on “etiquette training and business etiquette” and see if there is a course offered in your area. You probably won’t change just after one session. After all, the habits you have developed may have been developed over several years!

  1. Do not dress like a slob. This does not mean spend a fortune on your wardrobe. It means wear clothes that are presentable in a business environment (i.e. style, clean, etc.). If you need serious help in this regard see my suggestion in the previous point.
  1. Relationships are vital. Treat everyone with respect. Think about how you would like to be treated. Don’t just do this from the standpoint that the person with whom you are interacting may one day be your boss, employer, or a client!
  1. Your reputation is vitally important. Here are some wonderful quotes by which you should try to lead your life.
  • Live in such a way that if anyone should speak badly of you, no one would believe it. – Unknown
  • Reputation is made in a moment. Character is built in a lifetime. – Unknown
  • The nicest feeling in the world is to do a good deed anonymously and have somebody find out. – Oscar Wilde
  • Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. – Abraham Lincoln
  • If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself. – Dwight Lyman Moody
  • It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. – Warren Buffett
  1. Remain humble. Let your work and work ethic speak on your behalf. Nobody wants to hear you tell them how good you are.
  1. Establish profitable relationships but don’t make these relationships one sided. Business networking is invaluable in that it provides the opportunity to increase your visibility in your field, help you make connections that will help in your career advancement, and gain valuable information.

Having said this, networking is not meeting somebody once and rarely staying in touch. Networking is work! You need to make an effort to stay in touch.

In my opinion, someone who excels at networking helps others and does not only seek help from others. If, for example, you meet two individuals who do not know each other but you think they could each benefit from getting to know each other, then why would you NOT introduce them to each other?

  1. Don’t be a “slacker”. Set high standards. Meet them and I don’t mean just once in awhile but all the time. Slack off once or twice and that is probably when someone important will notice.
  1. Set “stretch” goals. You should have “short-term”, “mid-term”, and “long-term” goals that are not goals you can achieve in you sleep. Write down these goals and look at them…often. Ask yourself if what you are doing, or are about to do, will help you get closer to attaining these goals.
  1. Learn new skills. Read textbooks, industry journals, and topical articles! Being in a constant learning mode is the key to unlocking opportunities in today’s competitive job market.

There are countless of people in this world who would walk miles to go somewhere safe where they can be educated. If you are reading this, the internet has a wealth of valuable information available to you at your fingertips.

  1. Loyalty is vital. I suggest the ranking of your loyalty be in the following order: to yourself, to your boss, and to your organization.
  1. Find a mentor who takes an active interest in your development and will help you transform your potential into success. This means developing a professional and personal relationship with an experienced colleague who is an expert in their field and who can have a profound impact on your career.

Try not to make your relationship a one-way street. Ask your mentor if there is anything you can do for them. In addition, please send at least a “Thank You” note or short email after each meeting with you mentor. Show them that you appreciate them having taken valuable time out of their day, no matter how briefly, to help you.

  1. If work is your life and life is your work, you have a very serious problem. I am aware of people who work together and socialize after work and on weekends. In essence, they spend most of their 168 hours/week with the same I don’t know about you but if there is a falling out within the group I imagine things become really awkward. My suggestion, build a life outside work!
  1. Not every work environment is perfect. At the same time, it is remotely possible the problem could be with the person you see when you look in the mirror.

Final Thought

Change in the workplace is constant. It is imperative you be willing to change. Resist change and you risk becoming redundant.

Implement the career advancement tips in this post and you might just find a promotion could happen for you sooner rather than later.

Finally, have a sense of humor. Lighten up!  Nobody wants to work with a Debbie or Donnie Downer.

1 thought on “24 Career Advancement Tips to Help You Take Control of Your Professional Future”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Charles. I particular have tried finding a mentor and briefly found one, but did not find that it results were not as I would have hoped. I will have to reflect more on that point. Writing goals down short/medium/long is important too. I agree. I never use to believe in that however now subscribe to the mantra “what gets measured, gets done”!

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