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Things You Will Need to Advance Your Career

11 Jan 2022

Author: Lote Steina

If you’ve opened this article chances are you have taken it upon yourself to strive for career advancement this year. I got good news for you! There is probably no better time than now to fulfill this ambition. 

The reason is that we are in the midst of what economists call “the great resignation”. Due to a number of factors, of which pandemic is the most important one, many people are quitting their jobs either to seek something better or to leave the workforce altogether (at least temporarily). 

While this is primarily a phenomenon in the US, other wealthy countries are not immune to this. This has left governments and businesses quite uneasy as these trends may have long term impacts on the global economic recovery as well as on businesses’ bottom lines. 

However, it is good news for you, dear reader, and all the workers around you. With employers desperate to keep their workers and competing to attract new talent, there will be plenty of opportunities to improve your work conditions and career. This is why The Economist has called 2022 “The Year of the Worker”

Alas, this doesn’t mean that things will automatically work out for you. While the conditions for career advancement may be good, you can be pretty sure that there will still be some competition out there. So best to be in the know of what will give you a leg up.

This article will help you understand what key skills, characteristics, and actions will help you to excel at your workplace and land that promotion or raise.

Qualities Your Boss Will Appreciate

These days universities churn out graduates like a conveyor belt. There are plenty of finance, economics, marketing etc. majors out there for a business to have their fill and more. There has to be something more to you to make you stand out in the crowd.

In general terms, if you have passed the test and have been hired, there are just two things that will matter to your boss:

  • Ability to present and defend your viewpoint in writing and in discussion.
  • Ability to get things done right and within the deadline.

Our system is somewhat rigged towards university graduates for the simple reason that universities are supposed to teach you these two principles. Therefore, employers have a statistically higher chance of getting the right person if they hire from the university graduate pool.

While these are the two most important qualities, an employer will appreciate, there are other things to bear in mind:

  • Be flexible/adaptive. For any business to be successful in this changing world, it has to adapt a lot. Otherwise, it will be competed out of existence. To be in your employer’s good graces, embrace change, take on new tasks and responsibilities, and be open to new ways of thinking and doing things.
  • Be confident. Unlike arrogance, confidence stems from a well-founded belief in your skill and ability. Be confident about what you can do and it will radiate outwards and inspire your team members as well as leadership. If your confidence leads to positive results, it’s a sure way of getting to the top.
  • Be sociable. We all know that it’s not just the best workers who climb the ladder. It is also those who listen and engage with others. Work is work, but it is also so much more. We spend a good chunk of our lives there, so open up, reveal your personality, learn about others, and show that you care.

Network, Network, Network

Being sociable is actually really important. There are few professional skills as important as being able to hold an interesting conversation with anyone anywhere at any time. The more people you talk to both in general (but especially in professional settings), the more valuable contacts you get.

While this may not seem like much, these small acquaintances can pay off in the long run. When you are looking for a job, new business opportunities, possible partnerships for yourself or your business, acquaintances and friends may open a lot of doors and new opportunities. 

While networking can’t exactly be planned, you can do your best to make it happen as often as possible. Stop and talk with your colleagues or have lunch together with them, your direct supervisor, or friends from other institutions/businesses. Attend non-virtual conferences and seminars related to your professional field and chat with other attendees. Maybe organize a special networking event at your place or at a restaurant.

The networking aspect can be harder for those working remotely, but with a little effort, virtual chat rooms can be set up. Call your colleagues and business associates simply to chat, not only when you need something from them.

Regardless of where and how you work, maintain active social media presence. Like them or hate them, that is where information moves around and reaches the right ears. Connect with potential partners, keep your profiles slick and tidy, and engage with others online.

Show Initiative

There are two kinds of people at work. Those who do the least they reasonably can and those who show they care and put in the work. While slackers may get more (negative) attention, those who get things done get appreciation points. 

Here are a couple of ways you can show you care and get some outsized results:

  • Sign up for projects everyone else avoids. These tasks may be hard or tedious, but they show the supervisors and bosses that you care about the business. Plus, it will set you apart from your coworkers.
  • Take on horizontal projects. Horizontal projects are those that involve other departments in your organization. This will allow you to diversify your skill set, network with new people, and shine in other settings.
  • Offer new ideas. Do your research. Find out new approaches or software, learn best practices from other businesses, or just come up with a way to improve processes at your work. Present your ideas and implement change. This will not just impress your management, but will be a good addition to your CV.
  • Put in some extra hours. In general, I’m not a fan of working more than usual, but there are cases when they might pay off. While those extra hours may not be the most productive ones, someone will notice your commitment.

Learn New Skills

There used to be a time when you could wrap up your education (whether high school or university), get some on-the-job-training, and spend your entire life without too much extra training or schooling.

Those days are gone. With technology developing and new organizational and management practices popping up constantly, it is almost impossible to maintain your competitive edge without continuously putting in the work. Just think about what a typical workday and workplace looked like ten years ago and what it looks like now in your profession. While the underlying principles and expected results may stay the same, the paths to get there will probably be miles apart from one another.

The good thing is that it has never been easier to learn new skills. Employers tend to recognize the importance of continuous learning and often provide these opportunities to their employees. If not, the internet is full of wonderful services (Coursera, Skillshare, Brilliant) which offer fascinating courses either for free or for relatively low fees (compared to what you get in return).

We actually did a whole blog post on lifelong learning. Be sure to check it out!

Get a Side Gig

If you have learnt a new skill or have some spare time to use your existing skills on a side project or two, do it! We also did an article on side gigs, but in the context of career advancement there are three important benefits to doing additional work:

  • You show your boss you can juggle two jobs and achieve good results in both with ease. After all, time management skills are essential for an aspiring leader.
  • You meet new people who might come in handy later. Yet again - never forget the importance of networking.
  • You may learn new skills. This could make you a more attractive employee or a future leader.

Ask for Feedback

Let’s finish off with one of the easiest steps you could take – ask for feedback. Understanding what you are doing right and what could be improved will help you improve your own performance, but also show that you care enough to ask and work on yourself for the benefit of others.

In this blog post, I’ve described a number of ways you can make yourself stand out in the crowd. The reason why I finished with feedback is to encourage those who are not able to do all of the aforementioned things to still strive for better things! 

What really matters in the end is showing that you care about a business, a goal, or a project! Respect and appreciation will follow. So make 2022 the year of growth!

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Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!
Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!