One of the most popular blog articles that I have ever written was on career advancement strategies. One of the advantages of getting old is the ability to accumulate a lot of experiences and lessons. Since the 2019 article seemed to be appreciated and useful, I have written a new edition for 2020 with eleven additional lessons learned.
My Strategies for Career Advancement:
- Be an Expert - Create opportunities to be recognized by your employer’s leadership team. Become an expert in your field. Experts get recognized for their contributions by their communities, industries and employers. Be the person that has read more books, studied more industry reports, attended more training classes and networked with more experts. Become THE expert.
- Know your trends - Know your industry's trends. Know where your company fits in the industry, and where they rank against competition and why. Know how the trends will impact your customers and prospects. Talk about trends and their impact.
- Build a Network – As your network of contacts grows, so will your insights into more industries and businesses, trends, sales and career opportunities. Don’t be lazy and make excuses to not be on LinkedIn and other business oriented social media platforms. It’s important to your career.
- Keep in touch - The crazy jock sitting in the cubicle next to you today, will run a company you want to work for in 25 years. It is amazing how many kids I started my career working with who are now in senior executive roles. Those friendships open many doors, so don't forget to invest in your friendships.
- Ask Deeper Questions - Deeper knowledge often comes from learning the answers to deeper questions. Know why your leadership changed strategies and direction. Know why your company is increasing investment in product X. Know what skills makes a good sales person in your industry.
- Develop Content – Product, marketing and sales organizations are always desperate for more content - content that informs, educates, influences, advises and explains. If you contribute content that helps different departments achieve their objectives you will be a hero in the company. Don't wait to be asked - just do it.
- Be Enthusiastic – Be the person always eager to help, and always looking for new ways to succeed, improve and to meet team objectives with a positive attitude.
- Carry a Load – Step up and take responsibility for tasks and projects and follow through. The world needs people, and will promote people, that are willing to carry a load.
- Generate Leads – All for-profit companies want more qualified leads. If you bring qualified sales leads to your company via your network and industry contributions, they will be VERY impressed! Find ways to be active in your target markets. Attend industry events, meet potential customers, contribute to online discussion groups, publish “how to” articles, etc., all for the purpose of creating more opportunities for discussions.
- Say YES! - Don't make excuses. Seldom is career advancement possible without saying yes.
- Find and keep great content - Don't ever let good content get away and disappear. Capture it and store it. Use it in your presentations, use it in conversation, keep it at your fingertips. You can ride the coattails of great thought leaders by simply associating yourself with and sharing their brilliance.
- Understand Strategies – Purposefully look for and research ideas and strategies successfully applied in different industries, markets and geographies. Study a wide variety of use cases, and ask yourself how they could be abstracted and applied in your company. Genius is often the re-application of an existing idea or strategy in a new way.
- Understand Systems, Markets and Processes – In today’s fast changing world it is highly likely you will change jobs, industries and careers routinely. The best way to prepare for the unknown is to understand how organizations, industries, markets and companies operate. With this understanding you can quickly fit into new environments and roles.
- Innovate – Be the innovator not the resistor. New investments, growth and business expansions rarely come from traditional legacy environments, rather they come from the new and unproven. Be the person studying the latest technologies, trends and strategies. Find reasons to support new innovations, business models and strategies, not excuses to resist them.
- Share knowledge – Having a brain full of knowledge and expertise is wasted unless shared and applied. Be the person always willing to teach, mentor, contribute and apply.
- Develop yourself – Education and experience might initially open doors, but having the right tools are required to advance in your career. These tools include things like learning to write well, speak in public, write a business plan, create and manage a budget, organize and run a meeting, lead a team, and be the person in the room who knows how to utilize business tools, utilities and software solutions from companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Zoom, Webex, Slack, social media platforms, etc. Invest an appropriate amount of time to learn the tools that make you the professional you are.
- Quit! - Quitting is often the best way to make more money, and to get a great promotion. It's a fact of career life that once you're hired and in a role, your employer is demotivated to move you or to give you a significant increase in pay. Too often you are hired for a role at a certain salary and you will be left there as long as possible. It often requires action on your part to advance your career.
- Be Disciplined – Success is most often the result of purposeful, disciplined living and working. Purposeful means you make choices about what to sacrifice, and what to invest in in order to achieve a goal or objective. It also means identifying and practicing concepts, principals and rules that contribute to success like responsibility, commitment, dedication, hard/smart work, honesty, loyalty, cheerfulness, positive attitude, dependable, kind, ambitious, organized, etc.
- Build Self-Confidence – Confidence has a big impact on a career. Many a person chooses lesser roles and responsibilities, and lesser lifetime earnings because they lack confidence. How do you replace a lack of confidence with an abundance? You invest in knowledge, gain experience, develop your skills and collect the right tools. When you have all these things in your possession - confidence comes easy. Go get'em!
- Develop and Maintain a Personal Business Plan – Treat your career and money-making potential as a business. Make a personal business plan. Give it a name. Design a logo. Make investments in the business-of-you. Market yourself and your abilities like a product. Regularly develop new products. Know the markets that most need your products and are willing to pay the most for them. Develop a personal brand, and look for ways to enhance your brand and brand recognition.
- Own your career - Don't give away control of your own career. It is personal - you own it. Don't do things you don't want to do. If your career is going in the wrong direction, change it. Change your role, change jobs, change employers, change industries, change lifestyles, change locations.
- Career advancement fund - I have known many friends that hate their jobs, but can't leave or change because they have no "career advancement fund." This is a fund to tie them over between jobs. As I mentioned above, career advancement often requires quitting and making a change. Build up your career advancement fund so you can control your destiny. Imagine having 6 months worth of salary in your career advancement fund. Think about how much control and confidence that would give you to change and pursue a better role!
- Know your worth - Skills have a shelf-life to companies. Understand how long those skills will be in demand. Know what they are worth in your industry and others. Upgrade your skills when the shelf-life of your current skills are expiring. Re-tool and jump into developing new skills with higher value and a longer shelf-life.
- Live below your means - If any job will be enough to pay your expenses, then any job is available to you! Don't kill yourself trying to find a new job just to cover your ballooning expenses. Don't base your career choices on your lack of financial discipline.
- Ask the question - There is a special magical question you must always ask when negotiating for a new role. This question can often magically add thousands of dollars to your bank account, add weeks to your vacation, add zeros to the number of shares you are given, get additional moving expenses covered and even make hiring bonuses appear out of thin air. What is the magical career question? The question is, "Is that the best you can do?"
- Be Youthful – Explore, celebrate, cheer, invent, take risks, be curious and embrace change. Purge grumpiness, cynicism, skepticism, bitterness, pride, resentment and jealousy from your life and place of work – they are poison to the soul and career. It’s not age that disqualifies many older people, but poisoned souls. Take naps. Smile, teach, build, pioneer and charge ahead with enthusiasm!
I would love to get your feedback on these. Do you have additional career strategies that should be on this list?