If you read career advice often enough, you’ll start to see patterns. Writers and speakers find new ways to say the same old things: network, take risks, take more risks, keep learning, be curious and find opportunities to stand out. The problem is that most people are so buried in their day-to-day work that they don’t have time or energy to think about how they can advance their career beyond the 9-to-5 grind. If you’re stuck in a rut and ready for a bigger impact with your current job—or looking for a new one—advancement might seem like an unreachable goal. After all, who has the time or money for training programs or side projects? Here are ten ideas that will help you get past your current limitations and give you the edge you need to advance your career.
Make the most of your current job
Even if you’ve been at the same job for years, you’re still gaining experience and building your reputation. Your job is where you prove your skills and learn what you’re good at. Use your current job to build your skills and reputation so that you can apply those things to your next job. Keep track of your accomplishments so you can list them on your resume and in interviews. Make connections with your coworkers and manager so that you have relationships that can help you down the road. If you’re feeling stuck in your current job, you might need some time to recharge.
Take some time to think about how you can make a more meaningful contribution to your company and team. You don’t have to find a new job to do exciting things and feel satisfied. Try new projects and initiatives that interest you. You may be surprised at what you discover about yourself.
Networking doesn’t happen once and then you’re done. It’s a continuous process that can always be growing and changing. Use social media and your personal network of friends and family to reach out to people in your industry. Join professional associations and attend events where you can meet people in person. Ask your manager and colleagues if there are people you should be speaking to at your company. Make connections at your gym and neighbourhood so that you have people outside work to keep you accountable and help you grow. Networking is a two-way street—give as much as you take. Be generous with your time, advice and connections. You never know who can help you advance your career. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, either—just keep in touch with people and stay engaged. Stay in the loop and be open to new opportunities.
Take small risks and make small sacrifices to learn
Taking risks is crucial to advancing your career. You have to be willing to try new things and put yourself out there. But you don’t have to quit your job to do it. You can make small sacrifices to test yourself. For example, you might take on a project that stretches your skills or requires you work outside your comfort zone. You might volunteer to lead a project or event at work or in your community. You might take a course that challenges you and helps you learn new skills.
Taking small risks and making small sacrifices will help you build confidence and strengthen your reputation. They’ll also help you feel more fulfilled at work and more prepared for the next step. Don’t be afraid to fail. Everyone fails sometimes and it’s usually not a sign of failure. It’s just a sign that you’re challenging yourself and moving out of your comfort zone. Learn from each failure and try something new.
Be ambitious in the short term and long term
Some people say that you shouldn’t talk about career advancement and salary in your interview or on the job. But increasing your salary is a legitimate way to increase your impact and career satisfaction. Take charge of your compensation by researching salaries, talking to friends and colleagues, and finding out what you’re worth. Negotiate your salary and benefits as soon as you know you’re getting an offer. It’s also important to be ambitious in the long term. What do you want to do with your career? What industries do you want to explore? How do you want to change the world? These are long-term questions that involve lots of research and lots of patience. But they’re worth thinking about.
Find ways to stand out
It’s a competitive world out there. You won’t get noticed if you blend into the crowd. So find ways to stand out. Find projects and initiatives that are interesting and unusual. If you’re in a normal nine-to-five job, find ways to take on more responsibility and leadership. Get involved in your community and volunteer for projects. Keep an eye out for new opportunities that interest you and that you think you could do well.
Advanced Career Tip: It’s easier to advance your career when you have a strong brand around yourself. So take some time to develop a personal brand that represents who you are and what you want to do in the world. Write down your strengths and weaknesses and how they relate to your career goals. Think about the messages you want to send with your skills, passions and interests. It’s easier to stand out when you have a clear message to send.
Learn something new every day
The world is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to stay on top of all the new opportunities and challenges. You have to keep learning or you’ll get left behind. Make it a goal to learn something new every day. It doesn’t have to be a big, time-consuming project. It could be something as simple as reading a few pages from an inspiring book or listening to a podcast. The more you learn, the less you feel like you’re treading water.
You’ll feel more confident and excited about your career and life. Plus, it will make you more interesting to others. People will want to talk to you because you have something new to share. There are lots of ways to learn something new every day. You can join a book club, read lots of articles online, listen to podcasts, share what you’re learning with friends and colleagues, and find other ways to make sure you’re staying on top of your field. You don’t have to do something big every day. It can be as simple as reading a new article or taking a short online course.
Be flexible: Change your mind, change your career path, change jobs
Sometimes the best way to advance your career is to pivot completely. If you’re unhappy with your current direction, it might be time to take control of your career and change direction. You don’t have to be stuck in one field your whole life. You can change your mind when you realise that something isn’t right for you anymore. It’s also important to keep an open mind about different industries and opportunities. You can usually find a way to apply your current skills, even if you’re in a completely different industry. You can also use your current job as a way to explore new opportunities. Many people change careers by switching jobs. You don’t necessarily have to have one job for 20 years. You can take advantage of new opportunities that come up at work and switch jobs when it makes sense.
Even if you’re at the bottom of the totem pole at work, you can still advance your career by being ambitious, flexible and invested in your work. You can get noticed for the work you’re doing and apply for new opportunities. You can use your current job to build skills and relationships that can help you advance your career. You can make the most of your current job, network, take risks and make sacrifices, be ambitious in both the short and long term, find ways to stand out and learn something new every day. These ten ideas will help you advance your career beyond the 9-to-5 grind and to the next level.