Climbing your career ladder

If you want your career to continue moving forward 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, but be mindful of your next step and the one after, pointing you directly towards your career ladder goal.  

So, how do you ensure your career development stays on track and keeps up momentum, while doing the job you have now well?

Think long term

It may be tempting to not think beyond the walls of your current role other than maybe a promotion somewhere in the future, but this is a mindset that won’t get you beyond the next couple of rungs up the career ladder. You may soon find yourself bored, unmotivated and stuck in a career that’s verging on stagnant. Some ideas to keep up the momentum for the long term include:

  • Make a timeline of where you want your career to be in the next few months or years, and 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.

  • Work hard in your current role, but also seek opportunities that will support your ultimate career goal, be it within your current job (such as courses on offer) or outside of it.

  • Make time to assess your career. This can so easily be lost while you’re focusing on your current busy role, but it’s very important. If you need peer pressure to make it happen, then grab some close friends or workmates and share a planning or reflection session together, and hold each other accountable to your individual goals.

Be strategic

In the same way that a company creates a strategy and then works to it, you can create your own career strategy:

  • Review your skills. Are you lacking in an area? Find a way to remedy that.

  • Make yourself employable. Rather than pigeon-holing yourself with a narrow set of specialist skills, look at job advertisements in your chosen field to see what skills and attributes employers are looking for, and gain those skills to stay current within your industry.

  • Put yourself out there online and lay the groundwork for future growth. That could mean attending or speaking at industry events (or online), building a professional online brand, or making your CV available to employers and recruiters online. Be the hunted not the hunter is a great place to start.

Rope in the boss

Rather than secretly plotting and scheming your next career move all alone in your cubicle, it may sometimes be appropriate to tell your boss, your boss’s boss, or even colleagues, of your employment 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

Treat learning as an investment

The saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ doesn’t apply in the modern workplace. No matter how old you are, there’s always more to learn.

Along with traditional courses and qualifications, online learning options include:

  • Watching an online lecture or presentation 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.

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’ll come back to haunt you.

  • Put your hand up for challenging tasks.

  • Be proactive, take initiative and work the extra hours to see a project through to completion.

  • 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).

  • Be the best that you can be – giving 100% every day.